Warbreaker is probably the Sanderson book I hear the least about, so I was a little wary going into it, and kept telling myself not to expect anything too special. I don’t know if it was the forced lack of expectations, or perhaps I just need to have more faith in Sanderson’s writing, but I ended up absolutely loving this book, and genuinely don’t understand why it’s not talked about as often as his other work. Who knows if he’ll ever get around to writing the sequel, but I truly hope he does. I need more from these characters, this world, and this fascinating magic system!
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Pub. 2009 | 652 pages | Fantasy
This is the story of two sisters who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, a lesser god, and an immortal trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.
Theirs is a world in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital city. A world transformed by BioChromatic magic, a power based on an essence known as Breath. Using magic is arduous: Breath can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.
But the rewards are great: by using Breath and drawing upon the colour in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be performed.
Though a sequel to this book has been mentioned, I do think it was initially written as a standalone, and that’s very apparent in the way that Sanderson wraps things up in this book. If you’re wary about going into it because of the fact that a sequel may never happen, don’t worry. Warbreaker is a fantastic standalone fantasy, and a second book would just be a bonus at this point.
This book is set in a world that’s on the brink of war. The only thing preventing it is a peace treaty created twenty years ago that promises an Idrian princess will marry the God King of Hallandren and give him an heir. However, even that peace treaty may not be enough to stop Hallandren declaring war, and the Idrian princesses are used as unwitting pawns in this centuries old feud.
It’s always difficult to summarise Brandon Sanderson’s work because his books tend to be more focused on the magic, the world, the politics, and the religion, that it is in an actual plot. That’s not to say that there isn’t a plot – and an interesting one at that – but I think Sanderson is more known for the various elements of his worlds and his deep magic systems. I won’t lie and say this is a fast-paced fantasy with plenty of action and thrills, but the way Sanderson gradually builds the tension throughout the book, ensuring that each character has a significant impact on the story and developing each of their distinctive voices individually… it was wonderful.
All of Sanderson’s characters are unique, and this is something that’s consistent through the books I’ve read. They each have their own strengths to hone and their own weaknesses to overcome. They’re all flawed. And they’re all significant. Everything about their interactions with each other and their world just feels so natural, and even the romance aspects of this book felt genuine. I’m not going to talk about the characters individually because, honestly, I could gush for hours, but just know that this is a very character driven book and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll find yourself invested in each of their stories in no time.
I think the main thing Sanderson is known for is his unique magic systems, and Warbreaker is no exception. A basic explanation of the magic in this book is that people use their BioChromatic breath to draw colour from something in order to animate objects. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that, but if I start detailing the complexities of this magic system, we’d be here all day. Something I will never understand, however, is how Sanderson creates such vivid and intricate magic systems without making them overwhelming to new readers. There’s just something so accessible about his writing, and if you’re someone who’s looking to read more adult fantasy, I’d say Brandon Sanderson is an excellent place to start no matter which of his books you pick up first.
Overall, Warbreaker is a wonderful standalone fantasy with the potential to be so much more. The characters, the magic, the world… everything was just so intricately developed and utterly unique. Even though I still have several Sanderson books left to read, I think it’s safe to say that he’s one of my absolute favourite authors and if you haven’t yet read any of his books, you should give them a go. You won’t be disappointed!