Warbreaker is a typical Sanderson novel. Which translates into it being awesome!
Brandon Sanderson loves to come up with worlds with unique twists and magics. In Warbreaker, that unique quirk is colors. Colors provide the fuel for the magic, colors are central to religions. There’s much more than just that, but I’d rather not spoil it. Finding out more about how the magic works is so much fun, I’ll tell you that!
The story’s setting is the Hallandren city of T’telir. I hate that name, BTW. T’telir? How on earth am I supposed to pronounce that? I though fantasy was past the random apostrophes! Oh well, moving on.
So, the story is set in T’telir, and I loved the setting, awful name notwithstanding. On the surface, everything is perfect. The city is prosperous and safe. It’s bright and colorful and cheerful. It is ruled over by the Returned, who are the city’s benevolent gods. But things are subtly… off. Weird. Unsettling. There’s secret beneath the surface. There’s scheming and politics and intrigue. And it is handled really well.
The main protagonists are two sisters, Vivenna and Siri. Siri is sent off as the god-king’s bride by her father in an attempt to placate the Hallandren kingdom. Vivenna is here to rescue her. There’s also a bunch of interesting side characters, notably Lightsong the Bold – Returned, and god of bravery.
Now, Sanderson often gets flak for his weak characters, but I think he’s done a great job this time. Vivenna in particular was a really great character. Her struggles – emotional, spiritual and physical, felt very immediate and I found myself growing to like her more and more, as she turned from an uptight, judgemental princess to a proud yet accepting person.
The story, of course, is excellent. There’s surprises and twists and mysteries and revelations galore. Maybe not as hard hitting as the Mistborn trilogy, but then Warbreaker is a stand-alone. And definitely better than Elantris. So there’s that. For once, I was able to guess some of the twists beforehand, and it was so satisfying.
One issue that some may feel, however, is that there’s too little action. Until almost the very end, the story focuses more on internal conflicts of the characters and the politics and intrigue. Which I was okay with. Not every book needs to have all it’s pages bloody. But the action, when it comes, is really nail-biting and superbly done.
And the ending is quite good. It doesn’t tie everything up quite so neatly, which I personally didn’t like, but it did feel more natural, since the characters themselves aren’t fully aware of the nature of the things and magic happening around them. And luckily it leaves more scope for further books in the series. Brandon Sanderson has indeed confirmed a sequel – Nightblood, though there’s no idea when it’ll be written.
All in all, a great book, and nice starting point into the Cosmere (Brandon’s big, overarching universe). If you’re still on the fence though, the eBook is available for free from the author’s site (including drafts), so go grab it!
In summary – great worldbuilding and plot, good characters, action is a bit less, made up for by the climax, which packs quite a punch.