Monday, January 13, 2014


Warbreaker is a well-written, entertaining fantasy novel. It deals with the conflict between two entities, Hallandra, the current ruler of the kingdom, and Idria, an "exile" province, home of the kingdom's former rulers.

It follows the threads of four main characters that gradually become intertwined. Vivenna is the oldest daughter of the king of Idrian. She had been brought up to be the bride of the god-king of Hallandra. However, at the last minute, her father decided to send her younger sister instead. Vivenna then decides to venture into the city to "rescue" her sister. She meets up with some mercenaries who she thinks are her friends. She escapes, and has to live on the streets before meeting up with Vasher.

Siri is the happy-go-lucky youngest daughter of the Idrian king. She lived her life pretty much ignored by everyone else. She did not pay much attention to her studies, and nobody seemed to mind. She, however, was chosen to become the bride of the god king Susebron. She initially tries to behave "as she should." and is intimidated by the king. However, she finally decides to act more herself, and falls in love with the king.

Lightsong is one of the playboy gods of Hallandra. In Hallandra, the gods are "returned". They are people that come back to life after dying doing something noble. However, in coming back, they lose all memory of their previous life. (Though they maintain all innate skills and talents.) They live as pampered royalty for as long as they desire. As returned, they have the power to heal one person of any infirmity. After this, they die, to be eventually be replaced by another returned. Lightsong, however, doesn't really believe this religion (in spite of being a returned.) He is constantly self-depracating and is trying to find out what he was in a previous life. He gets along well with others, including Siri.

Vasher is shown as a mysterious man. We are not sure whether he is good or evil. However, he is greatly feared by many (including Vivenna's mercenaries.) He has a "living" sword that helps him fight battles.

There are constant twists as characters try to figure out what is going on and who the "enemy" really is. Perceived "friends" turn out to be enemies. While we might initially subscribe malicious ulterior motives to certain characters. It turns, out, they truly do have everyone's best interest in mind. They just go about it in a different way than would be expected. The difficulty in discerning good from evil is further brought about with the animate sword, "Nightblood". It is instructed to "destroy evil". What is evil? Will it destroy things that are in fact, good?

The characters also grow to learn the difference between appearance and character. The differences in cultural norms and values cause characters to jump to immediate judgement about others. However, after time, they learn that these cultural differences are not nearly as important as the internal beliefs.

The book has a "different" magic system that works well with the plot. The princesses have the power to rapidly grow their hair. The hair also changes color based on their emotions. People are all born with one "breath". They can willingly give the breath to somebody else. With breaths, people can gain special powers (as well as be seen as nobility.) Some powers include sensing others as well as animating non-living objects. (The closer the object is in shape or makeup to a man, the easier it is to animate.) The gods are fed a breath each week to help keep them alive. The poor often sell their breaths in order to survive. Somebody can give their breaths to others, but it is an "all or none" action.

Sanderson wrote Warbreaker in a "public" manner, and has the has the full text available online, as well annotations of all the chapters.

I don't care much for Robert Jordan and Tolkein, but I love Sanderson's fantasy. He has a style that is much less pompous than other fantasy writers. His characters are "real people", even if they do have silly names. The world is brought about through plot-advancing action and character development, rather than simple exposition. He is just a good writer.

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