Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review - Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

Title:  Warbreaker
Author:  Brandon Sanderson
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 princesses

In Brandon Sanderson's standalone fantasy epic Warbreaker, we are treated to action, adventure, romance, and a large helping of political intrigue.  Warbreaker may seem like standard fantasy fare from a distance, but there are many elements that set it apart from the rest of the genre.

Warbreaker tells the tale of a strong militaristic nation called Hallendren and a small peaceful agricultural country called Idris.  Many years before this tale takes place, a great conflict led to Idris being exiled and a peace treaty being formed:  The ruler of Idris was to send his daughter to wed the terrible king of Hallendren once she came of age.  The time has come, and two princesses of Idris find themselves in the bustling metropolis of Hallendren - where colors, magic, and terrible plots abound.

With Warbreaker, Sanderson again shows off is fantasy chops.  He crafts a truly unique magical system for this novel that centers on making inanimate things come alive by using one's own life force.  Above all of this is the pantheon of Hallendren gods and goddesses:  individuals who have died and were reborn into divine beings.  There is a lot of magic in Warbreaker, but it all comes across as a neatly contained package.  The way that the system works makes sense, and there is predictability in its abilities and limitations (limitations being a good thing in this case - these powerful beings are not perfect).

Sanderson also seems to have a ball with the colorful world he has created.  Unlike his previous standalone, Hallendren is depicted as a wild city of color and pleasure.  There is an "anything goes" mentality to the capital city that contrasts greatly with the stark practicality of the princesses of Idris.  The colorful scenes make the descriptions in the novel a lot of fun to read.

Balancing out the beautiful scenery are the characters of Warbreaker.  At the center of it all are the two princesses.  Through a sudden change of plans, it is the brash outspoken girl who winds up married to the king and the polite and courteous one who is forced to wander the streets and try to rescue her sister.  Throughout the novel, the development of these characters is astounding and refreshing.  There are also two humorous mercenaries, a god who only wants to goof off, and a mysterious assassin that wields a black sword.

At the heart of Warbreaker are the political games that one expects from Sanderson, and although there are many action sequences, the intrigue of politics is obviously where the author shines.  Twists and turns abound - some expected, some not.  The story will definitely leave you guessing.

There are, of course, some ways in which the novel comes up short.  First, the pacing is a bit off in places.  The first two thirds of the novel feels very slow and deliberate, while the last third feels quite rushed.  It is as though Sanderson started out writing Warbreaker as a series, but then decided half way through to wrap things up in one volume instead.  I also would have liked a little more time to have been spent on certain characters' back stories.

Negativity aside, Warbreaker is a great read, whether you are a fan of fantasy or political dramas.  Definitely worth the read!

4.5 out of 5 princesses!

P.S.  Make sure you check out Brandon Sanderson's official website.  You can even download a PDF of the entire novel!


  1. Do you think it would have served the story better if it had been a series rather than a standalone? Or should the pacing have been more consistent?

  2. In my opinion, I think the things that were problematic for me could be solved just by adding a few more pages to the end of the book (50-100). This would alleviate the cramped feeling of the conclusion while making room for some back story.

  3. I was pretty unaware of Brandon Sanderson until recently, this past winter and only have just put him together with this book. Funny because I saw a youtube video this past winter of the artist creating this cover and did not put the two and two together.
    A very cool video.

    So, I am reading the Wot Series, and keep hearing about people wanting to see how Sanderson fares with finishing this series. I am curious now too. And then I see he will be appearing at my local B&N in September, so I looked him up and became very interested in Warbreaker especially since I am liking Elantris. Anyway, to finish my long-winded comment...I am very curious about this author on the whole and this book flames it more because the youtube video was intriguing to me. gah...a bunch of nothing out of brain right now, hopefully you can sift through this to see find my thought process.

    For the book itself, good to know your thoughts. Good to know about the pacing but ultimately you did like the read. I will for sure give this one a read.