Warbreaker - a jam packed book full of surprises

  • Posted on: 28 April 2020
  • By: Sevhina

Warbreaker Book CoverGiven that this is Brandon Sanderson it is no suprise that the world and magic of Warbreaker are both unique. However, he wanted this book to be the opposite of what he did in the Mistborn trilogy so it is messy, chaotic, and full of surprises. There are four distinct point of view characters. Siri, the unwanted princess who is sent to marry a king that was born dead. Vivenna, the responsible princess who prepared for that marriage and thinks she can rescue her sister by inciting a rebellion. Susebron, the God King, who was stillborn and Returned, hides his self-doubt under an indolent and irreverent attitude. And finally, there is the enigma Vasher, the mysterious man with an unknown agenda but amazing skill in the magic called Awakening. In the city of T'Telir the enemy is well hidden, no one is what they seem, and accepted knowledge is often the opposite of truth.

In this world everyone is born with a single biochromatic Breath. It can be freely given to another and those who accumulate Breaths gain various advantages including the ability to Awaken inanimate materials and command them to perform simple tasks. Without Breath the world is drab and lifeless but many willingly offer their Breath to keep the Returned alive. The Returned are those who died and came back containing a single powerful Breath. No one knows exactly how or why they Return but those who worship them and offer their Breath to keep them alive believe the Returned see hints of the future. One such Returned, Susbron, rules over the Council of the Gods and he contains such a vast amount of Breath that colors are prismatic in his presence.

There is tension between Hallendren, ruled by Susebron, and Idris whose royal family once ruled Hallendren before they were overthrown by Warbreaker and his Lifeless (undead) armies three hundred years ago. To buy a bit more peace between them Idris sends their youngest princess Siri to marry the God King. Idrians value austerity and lack of colors because they think it prevents Awakening. Siri is the frivolous and irresponsible type but she will have to become more like her sensible sister Vivenna in order to use her new position to prevent war. Vivenna finds herself adrift since her whole life has been spent preparing to marry the God King so she goes to Hallendren determined to save Siri from this fate worse than death. She ends up hiring mercenaries and trying to incite rebellion against the gods instead. 

Also lurking on the streets of Hallendren's capital city, T'Telir, is the man called Vasher and his sentient Awakened sword Nightblood. Nightblood was designed to slay evil doers, and it does, but its understanding of evil can be peculiar so it is often more burden than help. Although infrequent, his point of view is often very enlightening. In the prologue he is shown to be an unusually skilled Awakener with an agenda that opposes the priesthood. About halfway through the book his storyline crosses that of Vivenna and he freely admits that he is just using her to further his own plans.

There are so many plots, secrets, misunderstandings, and counter plots that the most surprising thing about Warbreaker is that it is all contained in a single book. For that reason it's a fun book to guess what is going to happen next and see if you are right. The style is much less polished than his other works and has the feel of a first book by a promising new author rather than the fifth. This is a Cosmere world so if you have read his other works you may have seen cameos of some of these characters. The sword Nightblood has a role in Oathbringer, the third book of the Stormlight Archives. I have the 2008 ebook with Sanderson's annotated notes and I enjoyed going through the annotations because much is revealed about what the characters don't see happening as well as more about how Awakening works. There are also a lot of details about his writing process in general and how it differed for Warbreaker. The audiobook version is narrated by Alyssa Bresnhan and is well reviewed on Audible.