It’s not unexpected that I enjoyed reading Warbreaker again after not having done so for a couple of years. I think this was the third time, possibly fourth time I’ve read the book, and it holds up as being just as good this time as it was the times before.
Warbreaker came about in an interesting way. Brandon Sanderson offered the book up to anyone who was interested as he was writing it. He posted the first draft on his blog and then as he made edits and other changes he updated the version available. If you were lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of the project you would have been able to see the novel shift and grow over time into what it is today. Every time I read this book I think about how awesome it would have been to be a part of that.
Known for his imaginative and unique magic systems, Brandon Sanderson developed one for Warbreaker that is even more unique than most he dreams up. In Warbreaker, each person in society has one Breath that they can keep for life, or if they find it necessary, they can bestow it upon someone else. By gathering up extra Breaths, a person gains things like the ability to see perfect color, have perfect pitch, or Awaken inanimate objects. Awakening an object pulls the Breath from a person and absorbs the color of a nearby object they are touching to power the spell. It’s all very interesting, and one wouldn’t think absorbing color and breathing out your “essence” would create a workable underpinning for a magic system.
Sanderson makes it work though, and as the book progresses the finer points of the system come to light piece by piece. The most impressive and intriguing piece of the magic system is how a main character, Vasher, is in possession of a sword named Nightblood that was apparently imbued with sentience using this magic. Nightblood is a terrifying and amazing character in his own right, full of sarcasm, mystery, and an awful lot of anger inside. Very little is explained about the origins of Nightblood, and Brandon Sanderson has said previously he’d like to do a second book that talks more about the sword, which I can only hope will eventually happen some day.
Most of the story revolves around two sisters, Vivenna and Siri, as they try to make their way through the various trouble they wind up dealing with. Siri was sent to be the wife of the God King instead of her sister, and Vivenna is determined to save her from that fate. Along the way both of them discover a lot of things about the society they live in that they were completely unaware of previously. There are a lot of factions at work in the city ruled over by a pantheon of gods, and some of them are not even aware the others exist. There are some very interesting politics involved with this story.
My favorite character of the book, and who I think really is the main character despite most of the screen time going to Siri and Vivenna, is Lightsong, one of the Returned gods who lives in the city. His development and story arc is the most interesting out of all the characters in the book, and his actions towards the end are the most heartwarming and genuine by a long shot. His ultimate fate made me a little sad as it means seeing him again in another book is rather unlikely.
Warbreaker is a little different compared to Sanderson’s other novels, but it’s still a high quality story with vibrant characters and an interesting magic system. As a fan of Brandon Sanderson, you won’t have any trouble enjoying Warbreaker, but if you’ve never read a Sanderson book before you should probably start with one of his others to get a handle on his style and flair before you pick this one up.