Warbreaker

  - Brandon Sanderson

Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson, is a great read.

Sanderson is a fantastic author. While I don't believe Warbreaker is his best - that honor goes to his Mistborn trilogy, in my opinion, though I loved Elantris as well - it is still one damn good read. It's complex, interesting, fun.

Warbreaker coverThe book abounds with flawed but likable anti-heroes. Foremost among them: the god Lightsong, the god that doesn't believe in himself and doesn't believe in religion. He doesn't even like himself. Lightsong yearns for meaning but strives for sloth; he has a sharp eye and sharper tongue. He is naive and innocent, cynical and wise.

Self-indulgent, self-despising individuals are hard to like, and Lightsong had to grow on me. He's brilliantly, laugh-out-loud funny. That helped. But I didn't really like him until he started to grow on himself. He does.

This one initially superficial caricature delivers unexpected pathos in the end.

Another small quibble - one that reveals more about my shallow self, perhaps; you may find it irrelevant - I couldn't figure out who the book was about. Who's the main character?

I need to hang my expectations on someone; god forbid I pick the wrong hero to cheer for and Sanderson kills him off. This can happen - Sanderson doesn't cheap out. His are not the books where everyone lives happily ever after. Some die. And actually, that's not all bad. Heroes are allowed to die. But they're not allowed to betray us, by becoming irrelevant in the end. Or worthless, despisable. We invest too much, emotionally, in the heroes we pick.

So, yes, I want a main character I can love or hate, hang my expectations on. But I couldn't tell who the novel was about.

Lightsong? Great character. My favorite, in the end. My hero; the most three-dimensional of the lot. But not the hero.

Vasher? I don't think so. Clearly powerful. Alone. From the start, an intriguing blend of cold brutality and empathy. Good hero material. But until the end, you don't know who he is or what he stands for, and I wasn't going to commit to him.

Nightblood is a clever and clueless sentient sword with a highly developed but twisted sense of morality. Talking swords - little dicey. Still, I enjoyed it; Nightblood's more a well-honed character than some fantasy cliché.

Nightblood makes sense within Warbreaker's world of Hallandren. This world has a very well-developed magical system that has breath as its source of power, a soul-like quality all are born with. It's like that magical spark that kids have - brightens and colors everything - and that adults often lose. In Hallandren, breath can be surrendered - to enhance another's powers, to animate the inanimate, to make the inanimate sentient, or to feed a god.

Or the God-King. Susebron, the villain of the piece. Was he to become the hero? Or impetuous, high-tempered Siri, forced to marry him? Or virtuous Vivenna, who abandoned her people and her faith to save her sister from the tyrant?

I liked all these characters. I liked the story. And having read it twice, I still can't decide who the hero was.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. The story is about all of them. And it's about bigger themes, like meaning, and redemption.

Warbreaker finishes big. It's a satisfying read. Recommended.

 
Rating: 7.6


 

Paul's Top Ten

  1. Lord of the Rings
    J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Name of the Wind
    Patrick Rothfuss
  3. The Deed of Paksenarrion
    Elizabeth Moon
  4. Ysabel
    Guy Gavriel Kay
  5. Malazan Book of the Fallen
    Steven Erikson
  6. Mistborn Trilogy
    Brandon Sanderson
  7. The Magicians
    Lev Grossman
  8. Harry Potter series
    J.K. Rowling
  9. Black Company novels
    Glen Cook
  10. The Magic of Recluce/The Death of Chaos
    L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

The Full List:
Fantasy Novels Ranked and Rated

 

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Paul's Fantasy Favorites Main

My Robert Jordan Compendium:
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My Tolkien Page

 

 


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