Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published: Gollancz, Dec 2011
My rating: 4.5/5
The Blurb says: "WARBREAKER is the story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of them has to marry, a lesser god, and an immortal trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of years ago.
Theirs is a world in which those who die in glory return as gods to live confined to a panteon in Hallandren's capital city. A world transformed by BioChromatic magic, a power based on an essence known as breath. Using magic is arduous: breath can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.
But the rewards are great: by using breath and drawing upon the colour in everyday objects, all manner of miracles and mischief can be performed.
Brandon Sanderson proves again that he is a master of what Tolkien called 'secondary creation,' the invention of whole worlds, complete with magics and myths all their own"
WHAT I THOUGHT
So I went to my best book buddy who is a major massive fantasy fan and asked her for the best books in my introduction to the genre. Her response: anything by Brandon Sanderson; he is the one true king of fantasy. Armed with this knowledge I took a trip to Waterstones. I hadn't read any reviews before choosing WARBREAKER, it was just the only standalone my local Waterstones had in at the time and I wasn't ready to commit myself to a series on my first outing.
This was my first real, proper, grown up fantasy book and I really don't know what I was expecting. I kind of hated the blurb; I wasn't a fan of the tone of it and it didn't at all do the book justice. It was an intricately crafted world, so wonderfully thought through and whole. The idea of a religion with physical gods who can be visited and petitioned is, to me, a novel one and provides an interesting comment on the question of faith in our world. The magic is so different to anything I've read before and a really interesting premise - breath can not only give life to inanimate objects and heighten your senses, it is the very sustenance of their gods. It is a magic so powerful their own God King cannot be trusted to wield it without sanction. It is impeccably well thought through and testament to this is the Ars Arcanum at the back of the book; it is a complex system and rather than detract from the story in order to explain it, there is a breakdown at the back of how it works.
As far as the characters go, they were all wonderfully wrought. Vivenna was, unfortunately, a product of her circumstances and I really wasn't a fan but you cannot fault Sanderson's consistency. She is the consequence of a sheltered upbringing; having been brought up to marry the God King, she was educated in her duties and her religion, she was very much raised in a culture of us vs. them and she struggled to shake these teachings when she travelled to Hallendren. Siri on the other hand was not raised with the burden of this duty and her freedom and naïveté ended up being to her advantage. The mercenaries Denth and Tonk Fah give a stellar performance and I found myself being drawn in by their wit and, what appears to be, their harrowing honesty. Vasher is so beautifully mysterious he is a stark contrast to the apparent openness of the mercenaries. Lightsong as a character was constantly questioning the religion for which he was a deity; an interesting comment on religion in our world. Siri's interactions with the God King are always short lived and I found myself racing through the sections just so I could see more of them. The God King himself shatters all possible expectations of one with that name.
I found myself very much involved in the story. With most books, I feel really smart and crafty when I figure out when someone's not who they think they are before the book does; but with this I really didn't want to (although, if I'd been smart (which I was not), the blurb kind of gives a little of that away). I wanted to be surprised. I didn't want to miss anything.
I've given this book 4.5/5 and that's mostly because I'm always very hesitant to give anything top marks. I have next to nothing bad to say about this book. I can't really even hold it against him that I didn't like Vivenna because everything about her was so necessary to the story and entirely consistent with her character. I also can't begrudge him the brevity and haste of Siri and the God King's arch because the book is already 656 pages long! Perhaps it's because the Amazon reviews suggested that this was not Sanderson's best and if this is true, I should reserve my 5/5 rating.
WARBREAKER is an expertly crafted story in a world of a very different kind of magic with unexpected twists and captivating characters. I really understand how Sanderson got his reputation. Standalone books feel so rare these days that I actually just really enjoyed having a full story arch in one book. This is definitely one I'd recommend, I can't think of a better way to have introduced myself to the genre.
Next on my Brandon Sanderson list: the MISTBORN series. I'm excited.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, I'd love to hear your views :)
Naomi Joy x