Review: Warbreaker (Warbreaker, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Warbreaker
Series: Warbreaker, #1
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books / Self-published
Publication Date: 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Rating: ☕☕☕☕☕ (5/5)
Content Warning: highlight to view {anticipation of assault, forced marriage, torture, violence, death}


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.
(via Goodreads)


“My life to yours. My Breath become yours.”

Another really great read from Brandon Sanderson! Warbreaker, set in another world (Nalthis) inside the Cosmere Universe, tells the story of the world where color is, essentially, power. Told through multiple POVs, it tells the story of two sister princesses, gods, and immortal beings. Wrapping this story is a power known as BioChromatic magic using an essence called “breath” which, with a given number in a person, can grant a person several abilities, one of which is “awakening”, which draws color in everyday objects and using it to command another. This is probably one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve ever read – and also one of the most scientific, in its approach. There are several laws to the magic system that are in place and were known by constant experimentation, mainly most of it discovered by the “Five Scholars”. The fact that they are even referred to as “scholars” put a different angle to this, which was pretty fascinating to me. I know that there are a lot of back stories for this (reading Sanderson so far, I wouldn’t expect any less) so I won’t really mind to delving more into the history in the second book (Nightblood).

I honestly can’t tell if Sanderson’s books are character-driven or plot-driven because he is so good at balancing both. You make him care with the characters so much. The world-building is insane. And the plot (coupled by impeccable timing of scenes in his writing) deliver such an explosion because of the twist and turns of his story. Warbreaker is the same. I have to admit: I was so used to reading the Stormlight Archive work that, for a bit (around earlier in the book), it’s hard to imagine that Warbreaker is a Brandon Sanderson book. There is an unmistakable difference between Brandon Sanderson’s writing in Warbreaker versus his writing in (his apparent magnum opus) The Stormlight Archive. That is not to say that Warbreaker is not good – it is still so much better than some of its counterparts – but it just goes to show that Brandon is in a whole new level in writing TSA.

“You are a god. To me, at least. It doesn’t matter how easily you can be killed, how much Breath you have, or how you look. It has to do with who you are and what you mean.”

Personally, the highlight of this book was Lightsong (and Llarimar!). I know that this is part of a series so the plot and everything that comes with it has a sense of continuity to move past this book but his story is rounded out in this first book in a very satisfying way. I loved his journey in finding his purpose and his relationship with Llarimar would be one that I would treasure the most. Surprisingly, I didn’t really care much for Vivenna throughout the book but she was so crucial to how the narrative unfolded and presented that it’s hard to ignore her POV chapters. I loved Siri‘s chapters though, and, as a character, it was such a joy to read in her perspective especially how she navigated the foreign court and how her relationship with Susebron, the God King, progressed. Perhaps one of the most mysterious characters, if not THE most mysterious of all, is Vasher. I won’t say much but that revelation back in the Epilogue really blew my brains out. I can’t wait to explore his character more in the next book (I hope so).

This book also touched on themes of religion with Lightsong being a “Returned” (“a regular man who died in a heroic way, and was therefore brought back to life by the magic to rule as a god“), and not believing in his own religion – which is a *mood* but definitely something really fascinating to explore and read through. There’s also this one quote from a character, Jewel: “You don’t have to believe in my miracles. You can call them accidents or coincidences, if you must. But don’t pity me for my faith. And don’t presume that you’re better, just because you believe something different.” – which I find stuck in my head even now.


“Every man is a hero of his own story.”

All in all, Warbreaker is a really great read. Admittedly, it was kind of a shock to the system since I’ve only been reading Stormlight Archive books before this but, after a while, the shock fades and I was able to adjust. Character-driven AND plot-driven, this is a (relatively lol) short offering that showed a different side of Brandon Sanderson’s writing. It was funny most times but also full of heart AND still provides the rich world-building that is his signature. Definitely recommended reading! (I had the annotated version of the book and I feel like I need to re-read my copy sometime in the future along with the annotations because I think it would provide a unique view of the story and the book.) 💛


  • In retrospect, it would’ve been nicer (I guess) to have read this before I delved into Words of Radiance as characters from Warbreaker popping up unexpectedly in WoR would’ve had more impact and would’ve created a better reading experience. But it is still all good. I heard there would be major characters from WB that would pop up in Oathbringer so I’m excited for that.
  • This is a book that Brandon Sanderson wrote when he got engaged and got married so that proved a great influence in how he sees this world. And in this world, he sees color – and I think that’s pretty beautiful. ( ͡o ꒳ ͡o )
  • Warbreaker is set to have a sequel, Nightblood, but the sequel is not to be expected until Stormlight 5 and Wax and Wayne 4 is done. This could be read as a standalone, though, so you can still enjoy it – with a *little* bit of cliffhanger in the epilogue, but it is manageable. 😅
  • Brandon Sanderson gave this book a Creative Commons License and you can download it, as well as several versions of the book as he was writing it to offer help to aspiring novelists for the editing process for a book and for those who want to try out his books. You can download them here.


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“It was strange, how easily and quickly protection could cause destruction. Sometimes, Vasher wondered if the two weren’t really the same thing. Protect a flower, destroy pests who wanted to feed on it. Protect a building, destroy the plants that could have grown in the soil. Protect a man. Live with the destruction he creates.”

“They say a man doesn’t know himself until he faces death for the first time. . . I don’t know about that. It seems to me that the person you are when you’re about to die isn’t as important as the person you are during the rest of your life. Why should a few moments matter more than an entire lifetime?

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About the Author

The only author to make the short list for the David Gemmell Legend Award six times in four years, Brandon won that award in 2011 for The Way of Kings. The Emperor’s Soul won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella. He has appeared on the New York Times Best-Seller List multiple times, with five novels hitting the #1 spot.

Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Find me elsewhere: Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | YouTube

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭 and currently based in Belfast. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at .

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