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Warbreaker, Part 1
Brandon Sanderson
Multi-cast performance
GraphicAudio, 6 hours

Warbreaker, Part 1
Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson was born in 1975 in Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1994, he enrolled at Brigham Young University as a Biochemistry major. From 1995-1997 he took time away from his studies to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Upon his return, he became an English major. It was in 2003, while Brandon was in the middle of a graduate program at BYU, that he got a call from an editor at Tor who wanted to buy one of his books. In December of 2007, Harriet Rigney chose him to complete A Memory of Light, book twelve in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Brandon Sanderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Warbreaker
SF Site Review: The Mistborn Trilogy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Ivy Reisner

This book is very easy to underestimate. It is a mature, perfectly realized work of high political fantasy driven by a complex, engaging plot and populated by characters that are not divided in any facile way between the camps of good and evil. The not-as-useless-as-she-thought princess Siri is sent to the not-as-horrible-as-people-say country of Halladren to be wed to the not-as-evil-as-advertised god king. She must learn to find her own angle in a world where everything is a lie wrapped in a veil of propaganda, if she is going to survive.

The story is populated by compelling, fully realized characters. There is Vivenna, trained in the ways of Halladren and shocked when she arrives in the city by its boisterous nature. There is Siri, thrown unprepared except by her strong personality into the very heart of Halladren's court. The two interpret what they see and experience in different, contradictory ways, with each set of understandings true to the character.

There is the reluctant god, Lightsong, whose unspoken visions of war paint a different vision of the outcome than anyone expects. His shining humor is played perfectly against the serious, steady nature of his high priest, Llarimar. There is the god king Susebron, whom we only come to know in stages as the story progresses. Finally, there is the mysterious Vasher, an awakener with a strange and deadly intelligent sword.

The magic system in this book is unique. Everyone is born with one breath, sometimes called a soul. People traffic in breaths, selling them for enormous fortunes. Awakeners possess many breaths, and use them to enchant, or awaken items to perform tasks for them. Some awaken corpses, building armies of beings called the lifeless. The returned, those who are worshipped as gods because they died and came back to life, require one breath a week in order to survive. They can give their breath only once, to heal another, and they are unique in that they will die, if they give that breath away.

Breath is connected to color. The more breath one has, the more they influence color, making it deeper or more vibrant. An awakener requires color in order to perform his magic. Those who have many breaths can distinguish perfect hues. In Idris, color is banished as much as possible as being tempting for awakeners, who will use its power. In Halladren, color is vibrant, the people dressing in loud, bright garments. The god Austre is considered the Lord of Colors. The word "colors" is used as an epithet throughout the story. The members of the royal family have the unique attribute that their hair changes color in response to their emotions, though they do retain some measure of control over it.

The history of the nations of Idris and Halladren echo into the story, but both sides tell the story differently. They were one country that was torn apart by civil war. Idris, smaller, weaker, but the seat of the historic monarchy, sits in the high mountains while Halladren, ruled by a god king and his court stands as local hegemony. In order to secure their position, the rulers of Halladren twenty years ago negotiated a treaty with Idris that demanded Idris send a princess of the royal line to wed the god king. Now, in hopes of staving off a civil war, the king of Idris sends, not his promised eldest daughter, Vivenna, who was groomed her whole life for this task, but his youngest, most headstrong daughter, Siri.

The cultures have long since separated. Idris is quiet and modest. The people of Idris worship Austre, who is against all things ostentatious. It is the height of good form in Idris to avoid attracting too much attention to oneself. In Halladren, the very goal is to garner as much attention as possible. The people are loud and garish. The people of Idris are mortified by the use of awakeners, the commerce in breath, and the very presence of the lifeless. All of these are common in Halladren, and those with many breaths are respected as people of importance.

It's a tale of good versus good. The peoples of Idris and of Halladren compromise their principles and values in order to survive. The members of the court of Halladren only want what's best for their people, but they are in disagreement as to what that is. Some see Idris as a threat, militarily, politically, or economically, to Halladren, and that drives them to call for war. Every side has skeletons they'd rather keep hidden in the closet.

The production value of this book is amazing. The music is appropriate and beautiful. The voice acting is fabulous. The only thing that took a little getting used to was the dragged chair sound effect used to move into and out of interior monologue.

Fair warning -- this book is divided into three parts and if you buy part one you will want part two at hand.

Copyright © 2010 Ivy Reisner

Ivy Reisner is a writer, an obsessive knitter, and a podcaster. Find her at

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