Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I decided to pick up Warbreaker, because I had read several of Brandon Sanderson’s other works including the Mistborn trilogy, Legion, and The Emperor’s Soul, and I really enjoyed them all. In each of those works, I was incredibly impressed with Sanderson’s world building and magic systems.
I found the same was true in Warbreaker. The magic system was probably the novel’s greatest virtue. It was complex, strange, and fascinating. Basically, every person is born with a breath, but can accumulate more to do interesting magic, such as animating a rope, clothing, or a corpse to do one’s bidding. There’s a lot more to it that than and learning about the intricacies of the system was perhaps my favorite part of the book. It’s clear that Sanderson has quite a talent for developing unique magic systems.
The world was also pretty interesting, though not terribly complex. I liked how history played a role in the story. I actually would have liked Sanderson to tie in the history a little more. It ends up being fairly important, but Sanderson never truly gives a good history lesson. Instead, he chose to deliver it in bits and pieces so, even at the end of the novel, it wasn’t completely clear how everything fit together.
I also thought it was interesting how gods played an integral role in society and were even part of the government. The only thing I didn’t like was that it was a little difficult to figure out how the magic of the gods worked. Sanderson never really laid it all out and sometimes I would wonder how a god was able to do something or why they couldn’t.
And that leads me into my biggest issue with the novel. I did not care for the storytelling. I’ve enjoyed Sanderson’s writing in all of my previous experiences, but I felt like he simply was not at his best in Warbreaker. The story was not terribly complex and yet it felt like many details were left out until the very end and then just explained in a rush.
The other complaint that I had was regarding the characters. They just seemed kind of flat to me, kind of two dimensional. The motives of characters like Denth and Vasher were not well explored and many of the others lacked the substance necessary for me to really connect with them. I actually think this novel should have followed Vasher. He was by far the most interesting character in my mind and he just didn’t get enough attention. His story was just screaming to be told.
I also listened to this on audiobook and, frankly, I did not particularly care for the narrator. I don’t know that I would say that he was bad, but I didn’t think his style was a great fit for the novel. My only real complaint was the voice he used for Lightsong. I’m not sure how Lightsong was meant to sound, but I have it feeling that “surfer dude” was not it. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the novel more if I had actually read Warbreaker myself, but I can say for sure that the narration did not heighten my experience, as it has with other novels.
Overall, I thought Warbreaker was pretty good. It’s not Sanderson’s finest, but it still has some upsides. If Sanderson writes a sequel, there’s a chance I would read it.