First edition cover
|Cover artist||Dan Dos Santos|
|June 9, 2009 (first edition, hardback)|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback), audiobook, e-book|
|Pages||592 pp (first edition, hardback)|
|ISBN||978-0-7653-2030-8 (first edition, hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3619.A533 W37 2009|
Sanderson released several rewrites of Warbreaker under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US), one chapter at a time. The entire novel, including older drafts, is available in digital format from Sanderson's website. Warbreaker has been well received by reviewers.
Warbreaker tells the story of two Idrian princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna was contracted through treaty to marry the God King of rival nation Hallandren. Instead, Siri is sent to meet the treaty.
Vivenna follows to Hallandren in hopes of saving Siri from her fate. Upon arriving in Hallandren, Vivenna meets up with Lemex, one of her father's spies in the city, but he has taken ill and dies shortly thereafter—though not before bequeathing his BioChromatic Breath to her.
Vivenna then joins up with Denth and Tonk Fah, mercenaries that were under Lemex's employ, and together they begin making guerilla attacks against Hallandren's supply depots and convoys that will hopefully give the Idrians an advantage in the seemingly inevitable war.
Siri, after spending many terrified nights waiting for the God King to procreate with her, finds that he is not actually the menacing, frightening God that she thought, but has actually had his tongue cut out by his priests, making him nothing more than a figurehead. Siri teaches the God King to communicate by writing, and over time they fall in love. However, Siri believes that the priests are secretly plotting to kill her and the God King if she produces an heir.
Back in the city, Vivenna discovers that Denth and Tonk Fah are not working for her but against her, and she barely escapes their custody with her life.
After living destitute in the Idrian slums of Hallandren for weeks, Vivenna is taken in by Vasher, a mysterious man who can use his BioChromatic Breath to Awaken objects with a skill surpassing that of most others. Together, Vivenna and Vasher work to undo the damage done by Denth and avert the war Denth was trying to instigate.
Vivenna convinces Vasher to try and save her sister Siri from the God King's palace. However, Vasher is captured and tortured by Denth, who is revealed to have been working for the God King's Pahn Kahl priests, who are trying to incite war between the Idrians and Hallendren so they can take the city for themselves.
The Pahn Kahl priests capture Siri and throw the God King in the dungeon. The priests, having gained the Commands to control the city's undead Lifeless army, send them to attack the Idrians and start the war.
However, one of the city's Returned gods, Lightsong, also imprisoned in the dungeon, sacrifices himself by giving the God King his BioChromatic Breath. This heals the king, giving him his tongue back and allowing him access to his godly cache of BioChromatic power. The God King uses his magic to save Siri from the Pahn Kahl priests just as she is about to be sacrificed.
Meanwhile, Vivenna uses her own BioChromatic powers to break into the God King's palace and frees Vasher, who kills Denth.
Vivenna and Siri are reunited. However, even with the God King's near unlimited power, the Lifeless army cannot be stopped. Vasher then reveals that he is actually one of the Five Scholars—those who originally discovered the Commands for using BioChromatic Breath—and bestows upon the God King the code to awaken the city's secret army of nearly indestructible Lifeless soldiers, which have been hidden in plain sight throughout the city as statues.
The book uses a system of magic, "Awakening", which allows mages to bring life to objects as well as provide benefits directly to the mages while they hold "BioChromatic Breath", the source of their power, such as perfect pitch, perfect color recognition, perfect life recognition, and agelessness. Use of Awakening drains the colors from surrounding objects and the less colorful an object is, the more difficult it is to apply Awakening to it. The system has been praised as a unique and original magical system.
According to Sanderson, "Warbreaker's substructure is that of reversals." In the early chapters Sanderson begins to show a swap in the roles and attitudes of the main characters Siri and Vivenna. Through the contrast between the Hallandren and Idrian civilizations, a few major themes are displayed. One is the misunderstandings that can occur between two cultures, and the biases that can result from these. This is in part shown by the mistreatment of Idrian workers, who are thought to be boring, untrustworthy, and stuffy. Another is how two cultures may interpret history differently—the Hallandrens think of the Idrians as rebels, while the Idrians think of themselves as the rightful rulers.
Orson Scott Card said that he initially found some aspects of the magic system disappointing because he felt it was too far-fetched to obtain magical power from color. He did not mind it as much when it turned out that the draining of color was a symptom of magic use rather than the source of the power. He stated that "As with all good fantasy fiction, the story isn't about the magic; that's just the rule set within which the real story takes place. That story is absolutely up to Sanderson's very high standard, with political intrigue, carefully differentiated cultures and believable human motivations."
Michael Moorcock also praised Warbreaker saying, "Brandon Sanderson has written a heroic fantasy depending on originality of character and plot. His "heroines and heroes are outstanding – especially Vasher, the Warbreaker, whose special relationship with his sentient sword is both sardonic and sinister. The mysteries of life after death, of identity and destiny, the politics of magic, are unveiled through three-dimensional characters." He finished, "Not only has Sanderson drawn a freshly imagined world and its society, he has also given us a plot full of unexpected twists and turns ... Anyone looking for a different and refreshing fantasy novel will be delighted by this exceptional tale of magic, mystery and the politics of divinity. Warbreaker might even take your breath away."
SFFWorld called the book "well-wrought, intelligent, and at times, surprising – one might say a conspiracy novel with slight hints of 1984 wrapped in a wonderful fantasy package."
Sanderson has discussed the possibility of writing another book in the same world as Warbreaker. It would not be a sequel (in the strictest definition of the term) as the first book was written as a stand-alone novel. Sanderson has not stated anything about possible location, events, or characters involved. A possible name for the second book is Nightblood, which refers to the living sword Nightblood that is carried by Vasher, one of Warbreaker's main characters.
- "Warbreaker Rights and Downloads". BrandonSanderson.com. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
- "Barnes & Noble".
- Orson Scott Card (June 25, 2009). "The Proposal, Warbreaker, Cups, Yogurt". Uncle Orson Reviews Everything. Rhinotimes. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
- "Book Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson". Blog Critics. August 20, 2009. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
- Sanderson, Brandon. Warbreaker. New York: Tor, 2009. pg. 589 June 6, 2010 <http://www.brandonsanderson.com/drafts/warbreaker/Warbreaker_hardcover_1st_ed.pdf>.
- Brandon Sanderson. "Warbreaker Annotations, Chapter 2". Retrieved February 14, 2011.
- "Brandon Sanderson Blog: Baffled Editor". Brandon Sanderson. May 12, 2009. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
- "Q & A with Brandon Sanderson." GoodReads.com. June 6, 2010 <http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/264132-q-a-with-brandon-sanderson>.
- "GraphicAudio". Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- "Recorded Books". Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- Warbreaker – Official website
- Warbreaker title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Warbreaker at the Internet Book List