Monday, March 16, 2015

Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson)

Brandon Sanderson
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: BioChroma, the power of Breath, can work amazing wonders or great terrors, feeding on colors - from dyed cloth to blood - to animate unliving objects. Infuse a rope with Breath, and it will pull you up a wall. Infuse a dead body, and it becomes Lifeless, an unthinking soldier that knows no pain and needs no food. Everyone is born with one Breath, and the more one gathers, the more power one has... if one ignores the cost to those who give up their one Breath to live as dull Drabs. In the jungle domain of Hallandren, on the shores of the vast Inland Sea, both color and Breath are worshipped, A court of gods - those who have spontaneously Returned from death, bereft of memories but gifted with powerful Breath - rules in the capital of T'Telir, beneath a God-King whose power and Breaths are beyond counting.
Now, old treaties demand a bride for the Hallandren God-King, the only Returned capable of siring an heir.. and that bride must come from the mountain kingdom of Idris, where bartering Breath is considered akin to dealing in souls.
All her life, Princess Vivenna was raised to fulfill the treaty, studying the ways of the sinfully ostentatious Hallandren people and their Returned-worshipping cult. But then her father sent her young sister, the irresponsible and utterly untutored Siri, in her stead. Not only will the naive girl be eaten alive in the Court of the Gods, but she's liable to get herself killed; tensions between Hallandren and Idris have always run high, but lately they're nearly at a boil, and any Idrian royalty in T'Telir is bound to be a useful hostage at best or a target at worst. As Siri struggles to adapt to life in court - surrounded by hordes of suspicious priests and indolent, scheming Returned "gods" - Vivenna slips away to rescue her... and finds herself caught up in a web of lies and danger in the streets of a city more overwhelming and complicated than any of her tutors could have prepared her for.
Lightsong the Bold is considered a god of bravery, but he doesn't feel particularly brave, or divine. Ever since the day he Returned, he has devoted himself to debunking his own divinity, deliberately doing as little as possible to fulfill his minimal duties at court and cultivating a reputation for glib flippancy. But when the new Vessel, the Idrian princess destined to bear the God-King Susebron's child, arrives, he is drawn, against his will, into the machinations of his fellows, driven by dreams of war and death consuming T'Telir.
Danger is coming to Hallandren and Idris, the threat of a conflict more deadly and more riddled with Breath-infused atrocities than even the great, world-shaking Manywar. And it seems that nobody, not royalty nor the gods Themselves, can stop it.

REVIEW: Once again, Sanderson delivers a unique, interesting magic system, building a world around the power of color and populating it with a cast of intriguing, if not always likeable, characters. The storyline grows a little convoluted, though I suspect that part of my occasional confusion was due to unintended breaks in reading the book; I wound up having to set it aside for days at a time, and it took a while after picking it up again to immerse in the world once more. My main complaint is that the ending felt too abrupt and neat, given the many threads that came together in the finale - especially as it edged into theological territory. Part of me suspects that this was intended to be a longer book, possibly a series, but that it was unnaturally cropped for unknown reasons, the rough edges given a quick polish. I also wasn't sure I totally bought one of the character's transformations by the end. Still, I enjoyed the story on the whole, and I loved the concept of BioChroma.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Kiln People (David Brin) - My Review
Stoneheart (Charlie Fletcher) - My Review
Mistborn: The Final Empire (Brandon Sanderson) - My Review

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