a review by Nalini Haynes
Warbreaker is a stand-alone novel with at least one Easter egg for Sanderson’s loyal fans (see my interview with Brandon Sanderson in this issue). Based in the same universe as the Mistborn trilogy but on another planet, Warbreaker has different magic and religious systems.
Vivenna and Siri are sisters, princesses of the Idris people, their family former rulers of Hallandran, a country whose passes to the north are controlled by Idris. The king brokered a treaty with Hallandran many years ago stipulating that he would provide a royal bride to the Hallandran God King by Vivenna’s twenty-second birthday. As the date approached, the king agonised over his decision, then sent his least favourite daughter – Siri – to fulfil the terms of the treaty. Vivenna had spent her entire life training to take up this duty; feeling useless in Idris, Vivenna set off to Hallandran in Siri’s wake to rescue her.
Siri is the ‘wild child’ who avoided her lessons and enjoyed life as much as possible in a country that espoused self-abnegation. Faced with being forced to marry the God King, Siri was terrified: she had been raised on tales of his depravity. Ill-equipped due to lack of training in skills and a poor education, especially concerning politics and court behaviour, Siri began her real training in the court of Hallandran after her wedding.
Both Siri and Vivenna endure challenges to their faith, their entire belief systems, that force them to change and grow as people. I particularly enjoyed the journey Vivenna embarked upon as she was the most fixed and ideologically determined of the two, enduring major cultural clashes resulting in existential and philosophical searchings. Siri, with the less established belief system, had less to unlearn but much to learn in her time in court. This is a coming of age story for both sisters that can be relevant to persons of any age.
Sanderson again creates a unique world with a number of culturally-appropriate mythologies and religious systems underscoring his theme of religious tolerance. Another important theme remains unnamed as it would be too much of a spoiler in my opinion.
No cheating; Sanderson provides the seeds of the climatic resolution early on but only for the observant. If you don’t see the twist at the end of the book coming, go back and read it again; it’s the author’s reward for not cheating, instead planning the conclusion from the outset.
While Alloy of Law showcases Sanderson’s world-building talents, I personally think Warbreaker is the better novel of the two, equal to the first two novels in the Mistborn trilogy. Warbreaker is highly recommended for Sanderson’s fans and fans of action/fantasy with romance as a garnish.