Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson 2009)


This is another work of Brandon Sanderson, and since I have yet to read any of the Stormlight Archive series, this is probably going to the last I’ll review for a while. Warbreaker is just what you expect from a Brandon Sanderson novel, a magic heavy fantasy novel with a large side helping of politics. The novel follows not one but two princesses, sisters Vivenna and Siri. The plot kicks off when Siri takes Vivenna’s place as the bride to the God King of Hallendran, Susebron. Siri is forced to deal with the politics in the strange land of Hallendran, where people brought to life by the resident Biochromatic magic are praised as gods. Meanwhile Vivenna ventures into the capital in an attempt to rescue her sister from a fate which was meant to be her own.

The first thing I notice is the similarities between Siri and Sanderson’s other female protagonists, but more so between Siri and the protagonist of Elantris, Sarene. Not only do they both fit into the same spunky princess archetype, but they both have exactly the same story arc. They’re both trapped in less than ideal marriage circumstances in a foreign land where a lot of people either have no cause to trust her  or will quite willingly stab her in the back in a moment’s notice. Sarene had a bit of a saving grace in that she seemed to get the grips with the politics, but Siri seemed to spend more time falling in love with the God King Susebron than actually doing anything useful.

Vivenna seems like a stronger character at first, but she gradually becomes frustratingly useless as things seem to turn worse for her. Her own personal story arc had a few good twists but afterwards I seemed to lose interest in her a bit in favour of the Siri’s plotline. I found Siri a rather boring character as a whole, so this says a lot about Vivenna’s story arc at this point. The other point of view characters were interesting enough, though the anti-hero Vasher seemed the most interesting. His badassery comes at a price however, since I felt Vivenna depended on him a bit too much after he came into her story arc and one could argue he is the reason Vivenna came across as so bland towards the end of the book. The returned god Lightsong was probably my favourite character though, since there were some good twists in his own personal arc which I really enjoyed. He gradually came into the main plot in his own strange way. However, I felt his sacrifice was a bit of a wrong move since he was a likeable character and I couldn’t help but feel that his character arc was unresolved in some way as a result.

The magic system is interesting as always, and I understood it far better than the one in Elantris. In essence people use a power known as awakening, which can be used to bring objects to life. The source of their power is a form of energy known as Biochromatic Breath, which can be obtained from other people. Depending on how much Biochromatic Breath one has, the effects can range from perfect pitch all the way to agelessness. Anybody can use biochromatic breath, but certain people upon death can return to life as returned, whom are praised as gods in Hallendran. In a clever twist, the gods are in no way stronger than ordinary humans. Most of their abilities are from holding large amounts of breath, and would be the same even if they were mortal. In fact, the so called gods are weaker, since they need a constant supply of breath in order to survive. Learning that the humans and the returned are actually on equal footing in terms of potential was one of the most clever parts of the novel and it really sold it for me.

Overall I felt the novel was a bit weak, especially towards the end. The main bad guy wasn’t anyone special, to the point where I barely noticed them before the reveal. There were a few good antagonists here, but they mean nothing if the big bad isn’t up to scratch if you ask me. Couple this in with my previous complaints about both Siri and Vivenna, and you get a fairly average novel. I’d probably put it on the same level as Elantris, since I honestly cannot decide if one is better or worse than the other. The magic system is a bit better however, and certainly easier to understand. It might be worth reading just for that alone, though this book is nothing special to those who are familiar with Brandon Sanderson and his works.

SCORE: 3.5/5