Do any of you know people who shy away from fantasy because of all those multi-volume epics that are just so freaking long? Are you perhaps one of those people? I have to admit that I personally love multi-volume epics, in spite of the wait between installments – if they’re written well. But they do get overwhelming sometimes, and it’s refreshing to come across a good standalone fantasy novel.
Warbreaker is the novel Brandon Sanderson was finishing the last few edits on when he was first contacted about finishing The Wheel of Time, and we are now finally approaching its scheduled release date. It won't come out until next week – but since Brandon Sanderson posted this book on his website as he was writing and revising it, I’ve already read it. So I can actually give you an informed recommendation! Aren’t you pleased?
The last version of Warbreaker available online lacks the final copyedit, but it’s complete enough for me to be able to say that Brandon Sanderson has definitely improved since the start of his published career. I’ve enjoyed every single book of his I’ve read (umm… that would be all of them), but you can really see the progress he’s made.
Let me just take a moment to comment on how pompous I feel talking like that, especially considering how far I have to go with my own writing, and the fact that I have yet to figure out how to piece together an entire book. But I’m trying to be as specific as I can about why I think Warbreaker is such an excellent book. After all, the whole point of recommending it is to get you to read it. :)
Anyway, much as I love Brandon Sanderson’s other books, there are some issues with them that I think Warbreaker improves on. The first thing I noticed about Elantris was that the writing was a little rough (understandable, since that was his first published novel). Eventually I got so caught up in the story that I stopped noticing the rough spots, but they were still there. Also, out of the three point of view characters, only one went through any kind of significant development.
Mistborn was better in terms of both writing and character development – and many other areas, too. Still, there were parts that felt a little awkwardly cobbled together. I think it still worked, and there were so many wonderful plot twists… it’s a great trilogy.
Now, Warbreaker… this is a book that brings all of its separate elements together into an amazing whole. There are four viewpoint characters in four different situations, each with their own problems and goals.
Siri is a princess of Idris, sent to marry the immortal and terrifyingly powerful God King of Hallandren. It’s a last-minute change to an arrangement that has been in place for years: Siri’s eldest sister, Vivenna, is the one who has prepared her whole life for this marriage.
Vivenna, feeling bereft of purpose and place, takes the first improper action of her life when she decides to go after Siri to Hallandren and save her little sister from the fate that should have been hers.
Lightsong is one of the Returned – immortals worshipped as deities in Hallandren. The problem is, he doesn’t believe in his own religion.
And then there’s Vasher. Vasher’s a loner. He doesn’t share his goals with anyone, let alone his plans. And he carries around this very strange, very scary sword.
I kind of love the exchanges between Vasher and this sentient weapon. They tend to go something like this:
NIGHTBLOOD: Let’s destroy evil!
VASHER: You don’t know what evil is.
NIGHTBLOOD: What about those guys over there? They look pretty evil to me.
VASHER: Shut up or I’ll put you back in the bag.
NIGHTBLOOD: No! I need fresh air! And sunshine!
VASHER: You are a sword.
The pieces of the story come together perfectly, and the whole they create is all the more impressive for having come at it from four different angles. The character development that was lacking in Elantris is very much present here, in all of the main characters. In fact, I think this book contains my favorite Brandon Sanderson character ever. The world is as full of depth as you would want in a longer epic. And Brandon Sanderson’s trademark of creating extraordinary, innovative magic in each of his books continues in this one.
Warbreaker is hitting bookstores on Tuesday, June 9, and I cannot wait to bring a copy home with me.