Monday, December 11, 2017

Warbreaker Book Review

by The Wanderer 

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Cosmere
Pages: 669

In T'Telir the capital of the Hallandren The God King and the Returned rule over the people. All powerful and containing the magic of Breath, a magic that can sustain agelessness, and gives it's users the ability to create awakenings, he prepares to fight the Idrian's, the original family that ruled over Hallandren three centuries past. But looking to prevent war, The God King drafted an agreement to marry the Idrian king's daughter after she passed the age of twenty, and now that time has come.

The Idrian King doesn't want to send his oldest daughter Vivenna, who's been trained for this role since birth. So instead he sends his youngest, Siri, in her place. Vivenna, who now feels displaced in the world decides to travel to T'Telir to rescue her, while Siri must try to survive in a culture she was never prepared to survive in.

This is the last Cosmere novel I have to read before I'm officially caught up with everything Cosmere, and then I can read the rest as they get published over the next twenty years or so. I also regret having read Words of Radiance before reading this, as I think I would have had a bigger reaction to the ending than I originally did. 

Warbreaker introduces another well crafted Brandon Sanderson magic system. By fantasy novel standards this is a top notch fantasy system, but by Brandon Sanderson standards, as in I believe Brandon Sanderson creates the best magic systems in the genre, this isn't my favorite. But like all of his Cosmere magic systems, there is a logical flow to its development, and the logical development of the magic system is always intrinsically linked to the development of the plot, and Warbreaker is no exception. 

The idea to Breath is each breath equals a person's soul, and certain people can story many breaths. As more breaths by a person are stored they gain magical abilities like being able to see colors, being able to see whether other people have Breaths stored up, or being able to develop perfect pitch. Awakeners are people who have stored Breaths but use them to awaken other objects ... or people. The Awakener can lose their Breaths while performing this magic, but it does grant them a lot of magical abilities.

Warbreaker really seems to focus on dichotomies and opposites. The Idrians and Hallandren's despite once being one in the same have become cultural opposites, now telling two completely different stories about the war that drove them apart. The sisters Siri and Vivenna despite being from the same family have opposite interests and personalities.  Lightsong, one of the Returned in T'Telir is granted the status of a God, but doesn't believe in the religion that granted him that status. Nightblood is a sword that says it wants to fight evil, but it leaves corpses everywhere.

This set of ideas and themes coupled with Sanderson's usual strengths of making a forward moving action oriented plot, a well thought out world, and of course a brilliant magic system are enough to make Warbreaker a fun and entertaining novel. But there are writing subjects and styles that Sanderson is noted for not doing well and this type of story unfortunately has to make a lot of use of those in order to work. Two of the main culprits are sex and dialogue. 

Sex will of course play a large role in the Siri and God King story line, and of course so will dialogue which is essential to setting up sex scenes. But good dialogue is also essential for writing good political intrigue, which again is what most of Warbreaker is relying on in order to set the plot in motion. It's these areas that feel very clumsy and awkwardly written. Fortunately they're predominantly featured in the first half of the story, but I found myself being taken out of it a lot. I guess my point is ... stick with it, especially if prose and dialogue aren't really you're thing to begin with.

Warbreaker is definitely a must read for anyone reading all of the Cosmere novels, and I would definitely recommend reading it before reading Words of Radiance. Sanderson has stated there might be sequels in the distant future, I would definitely be interested in seeing what else could be achieved with Awakening, and following up with all the characters that were just introduced.

Score: 8.5

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