Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

UK book cover of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

After I finished reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series (click for my review), I knew I was absolutely going to pick up some of this other books. But which!? Every time I was in a bookshop, they either had the entire second Mistborn series (which doesn’t really appeal) or the second/third books of the other series, which weren’t really much good on their own. Eventually I stumbled across Warbreaker or, as I can never remember the name of it, what has now become known (admittedly only by me’ as ‘Battle Purple.’

Plot summary: Warbreaker is the
story of two sisters, who happen to be princesses, the God King one of
them has to marry, the lesser god who doesn’t like his job, and the
immortal who’s still trying to undo the mistakes he made hundreds of
years ago.

Their world is one in which those who die in glory
return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallandren’s capital
city and where a power known as BioChromatic magic is based on an
essence known as breath that can only be collected one unit at a time from individual people.

By using breath
and drawing upon the color in everyday objects, all manner of miracles
and mischief can be accomplished. It will take considerable quantities
of each to resolve all the challenges facing Vivenna and Siri,
princesses of Idris; Susebron the God King; Lightsong, reluctant god of
bravery, and mysterious Vasher, the Warbreaker.

Damn it, I actually typed ‘battle purple’ into GoodReads to obtain the above summary. Shockingly, Warbreaker did not appear in my search results.

I loved this book. I possibly even prefer it to the Mistborn series, although I admit that my view may just be skewed by how much I disliked the ending. See my review for details, but just thinking about it is irritating me all over again.

Warbreaker has a completely different system of magic than the Mistborn books – instead of drawing power from previously ingested metals, those with the requisite ability are able to pull colour out of fabric to instruct inanimate objects to do their bidding. It’s slightly more complicated than that (involving the creation of Lifeless soldiers, the amount of power being dependent on how many Breaths a person has, etc etc), but that’s the gist. It was an interesting concept that is explained in wonderful detail, but not so much as to become overwhelming. My favourite thing about Brandon Sanderson’s books is how intricate and evolved the magic systems he creates are. I have no idea where his ideas come from or how much time they take to flesh out, but they’re amazing.

I particularly appreciated that when The Person In Question obtains new magical ability, she is not suddenly an expert, contrary to the Mistborn series and honestly 85% of all fantasy novels I’ve ever read. That Person is a bit crap with magic to begin with and it honestly takes them a while to get to grips with it. I see that as normal and it adds a little realism to the whole concept. Nothing annoys me more than YES, I HAVE POWERS AND SUDDENLY I AM THE MOST POWERFUL MISTBORN PERSON EVER. It’s done well and it was notable for it. 

I really enjoy the tone of Brandon Sanderson’s writing. It has a Proper Fantasy Sound – it’s slightly formal with lengthy descriptions and lots of dialogue, but offset by some pithy conversations and unique magical systems. It’s really engrossing and the books are  difficult to put down. He’s very, very skilled, no doubt about it.

However, if you read my Mistborn review, you’ll know that my primary issue with those books was the characterisation. The characters just didn’t feel real and had a habit of altering their personalities to fit whatever attribute was required of them at that time. Luckily, Warbreaker is much less guilty of that particular fault. Siri, one of the two protagonists, is quite likeable but, more importantly, is fairly consistent throughout. She’s independent, but not obnoxiously so, and her decisions rang true to what I would reasonably expect from somebody with herpersonality.

Vivenna, Siri’s sister, is a tad more irritating. She’s quite preachy and holier-than-thou. I understand that she’s meant to be those things, but it grated occasionally. The writing isn’t quite as consistent with Vivenna – as in the Mistborn series, she does occasionally change on a whim to do whatever the plot requires, regardless as to whether it made sense or not. It’s fine though and honestly, I probably only noticed it because I was looking out for it.

There was only one time where this chronic fault really got to me. There’s a twist mid-way through the book, and it made so little sense with regard to what we had known of the characters’ mannerisms and personalities, that I kept waiting for it to twist back in a sort of double bluff. It didn’t, and it left me confused and irritated. If you’ve read Warbreaker and know what I’m rambling about, please talk to me about this!

Other than that, I loved Warbreaker. I can’t tell if this is a standalone or part of a series, as the ending could have it going either way. If it’s a series, then I will definitely read the next book, but if not, it was rounded off with an interesting conclusion and I’m happy with that too.

I’d really recommend this book, regardless of whether you’ve read Brandon Sanderson previously or not. The plot is interesting, the tone is lovely and the magic system is engrossing. One day I’ll get over my irritation with the characterisation and these books will be perfect!

Read my review of the Mistborn series here.  


  1. Jean says:

    I really liked Warbreaker, so I'm glad you enjoyed it! As far as I can tell, Sanderson's favorite thing is to come up with new and intricate magic systems, the odder the better.

    1. admin says:

      Oh really!? You're the first person I've come across who's read it!

      I know, it seems to be. He's so good at it though! I wish he'd hurry up and write a sequel to The Rithmatist, I loved that.

  2. Jean says:

    I liked the Rithmatist too (what a weirdo magic system that was!). I think he likes starting new series, but is easily distracted. However, he did finally do another Alcatraz installment, so maybe he's catching up with himself.

    And, I can think of a friend who adores Warbreaker, but she lives in Utah, where Sanderson is very popular. So, go to Utah? (I can only imagine what reaction an English lawyer would have to that sentence….)

    1. admin says:

      Another Alcatraz installment? What's that? I'm sort of new to his books, so feel free to recommend!

      Haha, moving to Utah would certainly be… interesting. Think I'll give it a miss for now 😉

    2. Jean says:

      Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is a middle-grade series (age 9+) where Sanderson *really* lets himself get silly. It's pretty good, but I'll admit to being biased since I'm a librarian.

      You don't have to MOVE to Utah — just visit. Great skiing! A zillion fantasy writers! Hiking!

    3. admin says:

      Ahhh, I've just popped over to Amazon to have a look and I do recognise those covers actually! I might see if my own library has them.

      Oh well, that sounds infinitely more reasonable. Go hiking and talk about books, and then go home with a sigh of relief and take comfort in my profession :p

  3. Glad you liked this book despite some of the issues you found. Fantasy used to be my preferred genre until very recently but I haven't been able to get through a fantasy book in a while and I suspect it's because of some of the issues you mentioned

    1. admin says:

      Yeah, they definitely have some chronic faults. I go through phases regarding fantasy books too though – sometimes I want to read nothing else, but other times I can't bear the idea of reading fantasy!

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