What can I say? I really, really enjoyed this. Brandon Sanderson proves once again that he is the master of worldbuilding. It is no easy task to create a whole world complete with a well-developed magic system, different cultures, opposing religions and political intrigue – not to mention brilliant three-dimensional, complex characters to boot! AND all in one standalone novel.
Siri is the rebellious, youngest daughter of the King of Idris who is sent to marry the infamous God-King of Hallandren in her elder sister, Vivenna’s, place. Without the years of training and education that her sister had, Siri soon finds herself knee deep in secret Hallandren politics and discovers that not is all as she was lead to believe… It soon becomes apparent that her actions have huge consequences for both her homeland and her new subjects. Meanwhile the usually calm and logical Vivenna is outraged that she was overlooked for the duty she had been prepared her whole life for, so she travels to Hallandren, a country full of people whose beliefs and culture she despises, under the guise of rescuing her little sister. In reality, she just wants to have a purpose again. We also follow the story of Lightsong, a man who died heroically and in return came back to life as a powerful Hallandren God, who uses humour and sarcasm to pretend he is lazy and ungodly. He refuses to believe he is a God and as he cannot leave the Court of Gods, he makes it his mission to ignore his duties and too befriend the new Queen and investigate a murder. And then we have Vasher. A mysterious man with a powerful sword who intends to save Hallandren from a war that seems more and more inevitable.
Yet again Sanderson has created realistic characters that almost burst from the page. Told from four different perspectives, you really feel immersed in the story and each character’s thought process. You understand the motives behind their actions yet also see the bigger picture. This allows you to care for them, to worry about their plans and cheer them on. With each character we learn something new, an extra little piece of history or culture that helps build this world in our mind, yet never enough to be able to predict the twists and turns Sanderson throws at us. I love that I can’t guess where the story is going, it keeps me reading yet makes me nervous. That I feel nervous about the outcome shows that he’s doing something right. I really cared about the characters. The writing doesn’t feel rushed nor is the worldbuilding too descriptive or slow, and the ending is satisfying yet simultaneously leaves the characters open for a sequel. Warbreaker was originally written as a standalone but there have been rumblings that a second book will be released in the next few years. It’s nice to look forward to a sequel without needing it ASAP because the first ended in a cliffhanger. I just need to keep reading about this world.
As always with Brandon Sanderson we have a unique magic system that takes your breath away. Awakeners use Breath (you are born with one but can collect more upon others’ death and/or buy more) and colour to bring objects to life. The closer the object is to human form, eg. A coat/a statue/human figurine, the less breaths it takes to awaken. So it is in an Awakeners favour to collect as many as possible. Once brought to life these objects can understand simple commands such as ‘protect me’ and ‘grab’, with the commands getting more complicated for those with more experience/more Breaths. It is really interesting and plays a pivotal yet subtle role in the story. It doesn’t dominate the plot in the same way Allomancy does in the Mistborn series but it certainly has an intriguing part to play. Both Siri and Vivenna also have the ‘Royal Locks’; hair that changes colour to reflect their emotions and can grow on demand. I really love that idea and wish I had that talent myself…
I cannot recommend this highly enough. It’s really refreshing to read a standalone fantasy novel that covers all the bases. They’re not that common and this is excellent. Brandon Sanderson has certainly mastered his art.