Recycling Sanderson's Way

Like all of Brandon Sanderson's books, Warbreaker is exceptional. I'll admit to mixed feelings about it, but it is nevertheless a really good story. As always, we get a cast of varied characters, each with their own baggage and biases setting out to take on a world infused with a magic system unlike any other ever written.

I suppose my biggest problem with it is that it felt like Sanderson was recycling elements from his other major works here. He gives an explanation for two of these similarities - godlike men and a princess traveling to an arranged marriage - on his website, stating that he wanted to explore how things would work if the godlike state of the Elantrians were reversed and uncorrupted. The inclusion of the foreign princess plot line was included similarly: "In Elantris, Sarene arrives to discover her fiancé is dead and gone. In Warbreaker, however, I wanted to show what happened if the bride didn't get to dodge this uncomfortable situation, but actually had to marry the man she'd been promised to." Having read about this before starting the book I was able to get behind the concept of Sanderson re-working plot elements from previous work to see what would happen. I even enjoyed the exercise, having read and thoroughly enjoyed Elantris, and everything was fine and dandy until some scenes and character actions took on the feel of some of the things in Mistborn. By the end I felt almost that this was Sanderson taking aspects of his other books and throwing them back into the pot to see what would happen. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing -- the story works really well on its own and is independent of his other work -- the originality of the book suffered because of it.

Setting that aside, though, there is a lot to really enjoy about Warbreaker. Sanderson has always written women very effectively and he continues to do so here. The two main protagonists are princesses from the rebel kingdom of Idris. An agreement between their homeland and the sovereign nation of Hallandren will require one of them to travel to the Court of Gods and wed the God King. Siri is chosen, to Vivenna's consternation, and thus begins a series of events which will see the build up to a war that Idris cannot survive. Through Siri, we follow the events within the Hallandren court as the politics of the theocracy attempt to use her as a pawn to agitate the people's sentiment. Likewise we witness the machinations of the factions outside of the palace through Vivenna's experiences when she arrives to save her sister from what she views to be rape by the monster who calls himself the God King. Each discovers that nothing they have been taught has prepared them for the truth of this city and the viscous turmoil within. Their separate struggles against the growing call for war is the making of them -- though it very nearly breaks them both.

I also really liked having the annotations regarding each individual chapter at the end. I always love it when I can hear about what an author was thinking and trying to accomplish as he writes a story, and Sanderson has given us extensive insight into not only this world and these characters but his own personal writing process. It was a unique experience that I cannot thank him enough for.

Though this book represents some conflict for me as a reader, I genuinely liked it and will definitely be reading it again. Sanderson left the ending wide open for a sequel and he mentioned the possibility several times in the annotations, so I will cross my fingers and hope to anticipate that next publication. Bravo!

P.S. Brandon Sanderson provides a lot of great information on how he came to write Warbreaker and his feelings about it on his website: