Warbreaker, Part 1 of 3 by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am pretty sure I’ve never read Sanderson before. I’ve just not historically been that much of fantasy guy. I’ve read more fantasy in the past few years than I have in the preceeding decades. However, I do know the name and I know he’s supposed to be very good. So when they had a Sanderson Humble Bundle a month or so ago, I jumped on it. The bundle contained a bunch of audiobooks and a couple days ago I finally had listened to all my podcasts. So I loaded up the first Warbreaker audiobook by GraphicAudio.
Before I get to the story itself, let me mention that this audiobook is AWESOME. It is more like a radio play than an audiobook – complete with multiple voice actors, background music, and sound effects. Everyone involved is somewhere from good to very good and it’s a great listen. I heartily recommend listening to Warbreaker in this version if you’re going to listen rather than read.
Now to the story itself. In some ways it is a standard set of fantasy tropes. There’s the trope of the princess married off to a country extremely foreign and with different customs and religions. There’s also the trope of the super badass warrior with a special weapon (including the trope I’ve seen more often in Anime/Manga of his weapon being sentient). There’s the trope of being the youngest in a noble family and the “first world problems” that come with being royalty, but not the first-born. There’s even the trope of Those Guys (aka Rosencratz and Guildenstern). But it’s the way Sanderson pieces it together that makes it so great.
The book opens on our badass warrior (the only bad thing about fantasy names, audiobooks, and my brain is that I can’t really remember anyone’s name save a couple of them) in a prison. Sanderson uses this intro chapter to introduce us to the “breath-based” magic system in this world. People have “breaths” analogous to the Judeo-Christan concept of the “breath of life” that they can give to others. Some people, called animators, collect these breaths and use them to create golems. The more magical the golem, the more breath needed to animate the golem. It then shifts to a royal family ruling in exile, mostly focusing on the youngest of four children, Siri (I think?). I should have caught the hints in the narrative when they kept mentioning how useless the youngest daughter felt. She ends up being sent to marry the usurper government’s king in place of her oldest sister. The usurpers want this to legitimize their rule. We then alternate between her point of view and a “returned god” named Light Song (I think?). It also involves a great pair of mercenaries who fulfill the comic relief role of Those Guys. Their dialog is awesome and are the biggest reason I just wanted to keep listening. Any scene with them is just so great.
I don’t want to spoil anything else in case, like me, you’re getting to this old story for the first time. I will mention in the spoiler tag (view spoiler)[once they mentioned that the God King was a returned still-born and when he kept being completely silent during the “sex” times, I knew something was going to be up. I thought it was going to be that he was emotionally or mentally stunted because he was a returned baby. Nope, it was that they’d cut out his tongue and isolated him so the priest class could control him, but I was glad I’d figured something was up. (hide spoiler)]
So far I’m only 1/3 through the whole story, but I’m very much into this story and can’t wait until I start listening to the next part.