Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Review: WARBREAKER by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

See my updated 2021 reread review here

In my continual effort to read every Sanderson work, I picked up Warbreaker knowing more or less these two things about the story: it involves color magic, and it’s a prequel of sorts to the Stormlight Archive.

Those statements are both true and false at the same time.

I believe Sanderson himself said that Warbreaker is a prequel to The Way of Kings because it gives the backstory about a certain character in that series. Although, I’ve talked to a couple people who have read both books and they told me that you don’t need to read one before the other for either to make sense, that neither spoils the other, and that it’s less the character that’s important but a certain object that shows up in both books that’s important. I’m planning to read the Stormlight Archive next year (I’m putting it off until the end because I’m truly intimidated by it), so I wanted to read Warbreaker first.

Second, although colors are involved in the magic, I wouldn’t say this book has a color-based magic system. (See Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series for a true color-based magic system!) Instead, the magic here is based on Breaths. Each person is born with one Breath, and you can give your breath away at any point if you choose. You need a certain number of Breaths to be able to do different commands and essentially gain abilities because you’ve reached a certain heightening that allows for such things. Some of the abilities allow you to see colors more distinctly and see auras, so I think that is where the book gets partially mislabeled as having color magic.

I enjoyed Warbreaker quite a bit, although it reminds me a lot of Elantris. I think the politics and the gods and the voice of the writing are all similar while still maintaining different plotlines. I also think this is a natural comparison to make because Brandon himself even said that Warbreaker was inspired by Elantris and that “both take the same concept, then run different directions with it.” In Elantris, people become gods but we don’t get to see what happens to them after that. In Warbreaker, we get to see what happens to them after they become gods, and we also see a god who doesn’t even believe in his own religion. Siri reminded me a lot of Sarene in the beginning of this story, and they are similar because both are required to marry someone they don’t know and don’t want to marry, but there are very different outcomes for them. I liked the plot of Warbreaker better, but I liked the overall story in Elantris better, if that makes any sense, but both were excellent books from Sanderson.

Warbreaker reads like a standalone, yet Sanderson has said he’s planning to write a sequel eventually. I am curious if the sequel ever comes to fruition if it will take place before or after the Stormlight Archive since Warbreaker takes place before that series. I’m wondering if he’s going to finish TSA first and then write Warbreaker’s sequel after as a way to come full circle with the story. I don’t know. Regardless, I would love to read more about these characters and the magic of Breaths, so I’ll read any future books set in this world.

I loved the political intrigue mixed with the religions of the world and the underlying mystery all wrapped up in this well-crafted colorful fantasy world. I’m surprised at how many unexpected directions this book went in; I didn’t see many events coming, and I love being shocked and surprised in my books.

I also thought this book had so many great characters. Siri was probably my favorite, and I can’t believe how much Susebron grew on me by the end. Though if we’re being honest, the actual best character is the magical talking sword. Yep.

I wish this book had a map because I’d love to see all the land and regions and cities mentioned in the story. That’s my biggest complaint (which really is such a minor thing) because I think all fantasy books need maps!

Lastly, I was happy to see Hoid in this book. It wouldn’t be a Cosmere story if we didn’t get an appearance from Hoid somewhere. Hoid said that he learned to tell stories “in a distant place where two lands meet and gods have died.” I’m trying to figure out if I should know where he’s referring to, but I don’t think we know yet, seeing as we still haven’t gotten Hoid’s origin story. I love how Sanderson includes so many connections between his books and worlds in the Cosmere.

Warbreaker was another great addition to my list of amazing fantasy books, and I would definitely recommend it to my fantasy friends out there. Even though it had many noticeable similarities to another of Sanderson’s works, Elantris, it was still a unique story in itself. I listened to this book on audio and I would love to reread it in physical form someday because it’s definitely worth a reread and I want to soak in all the details with my eyes. I’ll probably do that in ten years when the sequel comes out. Or sooner, because I’m going to miss these characters.

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