My fellow reviewers have sufficiently covered all of the important elements of Warbreaker (indeed, Bill Capossere’s review was nearly as long as the book) so I will briefly report my own reaction and then mention Recorded Books‘ version.
I really enjoyed Warbreaker for all the reasons that Bill Capossere and Kelly Lasiter did: Unique world and magic system, interesting twisty plot, agreeable humor, and great characters. I was slightly annoyed with Vivenna’s use of the word “ostentatious” and her constant concern about modest clothing (this reminded me a lot of The Wheel of Time), but I looked forward to the transformation of her character that was obviously coming.
There are two things that I really like about Brandon Sanderson’s writing in general, and Warbreaker is no exception:
- His magic systems. I’ve read all of his work now, and in each case he’s developed a wonderfully thoughtful, unique, and internally valid magic system.
- He’s funny. So many authors try to be funny, but I find few of them to be actually funny. Brandon Sanderson is funny.
This brings me to the audiobook. (Listen to sample). At first I was put out by James Yaegashi’s slow pace which at times sounded like he was reading to first graders (I know how big this book is, so I thought “this is going to take forever!”), but it turns out that his reading really highlighted Sanderson’s humorous dialogue.
Yaegashi’s voices for the mercenaries Denth and Tonk Fah really brought out that “comic duo” feel and worked charmingly with their hilarious black humor. His voice for Nightblood (the sentient sword — probably a nod to Elric’s Stormbringer) was suitably creepy, demented, and naïvely zealous at the same time — perfect. The following scene is one I played back several times because Yaegashi’s rendition made me laugh (keep in mind that up to this point nearly all of Nightblood’s thoughts, speech, and actions have seemed remorselessly evil and unnecessarily bloody):
[Vasher] reached into a pouch at his belt, pulling out the object within: a dead squirrel.
Yuck, Nightblood said with a sniff.
(This renders better on audio than print, I realize now, but I guess that’s my point.)
Also entertaining was Yaegashi’s voice for Lightsong, the god who doesn’t believe in himself (actually, his priest preaches to him!) and who strives to be as lazy and useless as possible. Yaegashi chose to use upspeak for Lightsong’s voice, and the effect is amusing because it reinforces the impression that even his stupid jokes are purposeful.
“Lightsong,” Lifeblesser said with his tactlessly honest voice, “You really need to take more of an interest in politics. It can be very diverting. Why, if you only knew the secrets to which I’m privy!”
“My dear Lifeblesser,” Lightsong replied, “Please trust me when I say that I have no desire to know any secrets which involve you and a privy.”
Yaegashi’s voices actually contributed to my surprise at a couple of the plot twists which involved characters doing uncharacteristic things.
Warbreaker is a terrific book and would be nearly flawless in my eyes if not for Sanderson’s just slightly superfluous writing style. For example, the “Yuck” quote above would work better this way:
[Vasher] reached into a pouch at his belt and pulled out a dead squirrel.
Yuck, Nightblood sniffed.
I’m sure I’m unusual, but these things pop out at me — probably because of all of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, Omit Needless Words is the one I find myself constantly working on with students. So, I can’t help but notice needless words in all of Brandon Sanderson’s works (though they’re getting better!) and this is the main reason I can’t consider him to be the Perfect Fantasy Author. However, though style is slightly lacking, substance is not — Brandon Sanderson writes great worlds and great characters. He is a Nearly Perfect Fantasy Author and is near the top of my must-read list.