Book reviews are something I’ve wanted to provide on this blog for a while now, but I was so busy during the semester that I didn’t have time to read a single book for leisure (though one of the books I was required to read for class was “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, which I am going out of my way to recommend to you). The two main goals I set for myself for this Christmas break, then, was to read as many books as I could while I had the opportunity to do so (after all, who knows what next semester will bring?) and to do as much writing as possible. I’m slacking on the latter goal, but I’m off to a good start with the former. The first book I would like to share with you is Brandon Sanderson’s “Warbreaker.”
“Epic fantasy heavyweight Sanderson (the Mistborn series) pens a powerful stand-alone tale of unpredictable loyalties, dark intrigue and dangerous magic. To keep a treaty made long ago, the king of Idris must send his daughter to marry Susebron, the God King of Hallandren. Loath to part with his eldest daughter, Vivenna, King Dedelin instead sends his youngest daughter, tomboyish 17-year-old Siri, who struggles to make sense of the schemers and spies in Susebron’s court. Hoping to rescue her sister, Vivenna joins a group of Idrian operatives with questionable motives. As Vivenna comes to terms with her magical abilities, resurrected hero Lightsong questions the role of the undead Returned Gods, who command Hallandren’s mighty army of zombie soldiers. Sanderson melds complex, believable characters, a marvelous world and thoughtful, ironic humor into an extraordinary and highly entertaining story.” Courtesy of Publisher’s Weekly
This book stands out to me for two reasons: 1.) This is the first full-blown fantasy novel I’ve ever read. 2.) You can actually read this book right now for free without leaving your computer.
Prior to “Warbreaker,” my only glimpse into the world of fantasy came from the Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter series – both the books and the movies. This isn’t a knock at the Harry Potter series, but I personally don’t consider it to fit into the category of a die-hard fantasy series. I’d consider it to be more of a tamer fantasy that is accessible to general audiences. IE: some of it is grounded in the real world and not all of the characters have ridiculous, unpronounceable names (the mark of a true fantasy for one as ignorant to the genre as I am). So I wasn’t sure what to expect or what I was getting myself into when I started reading “Warbreaker.”
I learned of the book due to a podcast I’ve been listening to for several months now. It’s called Writing Excuses and it deals with topics that aspiring writers would be concerned with. If you are interested in writing, I’d definitely recommend checking it out at http://www.writingexcuses.com. They’ve handled all sorts of topics and genres during the three seasons’ worth of podcasts they’ve produced. One of the hosts is Brandon Sanderson. I often find his advice to be useful and I admire a lot of what he has to say. After hearing him talk about the books he’s written, I decided to check one out. I wasn’t looking to get into a whole series, so I looked at his two stand alone novels: “Elantris” and “Warbreaker.” The decision came down to this: “Warbreaker” was not only the shorter of the two, but it was available on his website. For free.
I’d never before heard of an author offering this concept. What he did was, as he was writing “Warbreaker,” Sanderson posted drafts of the book online for his readers to see. He did this until the book was published and visitors to his site still have the option of downloading old drafts, comparison drafts (what I found the most interesting – they’re drafts that show edits and comparisons from the first draft to the final draft), and even the same final copy that you would see if you purchased the hardcover first edition (even down to images, fonts, graphics, etc.) He goes into more detail about his decision to do this over at his site, but the main one that stood out to me was this (and I’m paraphrasing here): You might think that posting an entire book for free online would hurt his book sales. However, readers can already get books for free anyway by visiting their local library. Interesting way of looking at it. If you don’t want to rush out and buy the book, you can check it out at http://www.brandonsanderson.com/book/Warbreaker.
I, however, bought a copy. (I didn’t want to read nearly 600 pages on my computer screen. ) And I feel it was worth it. Like I said, I wasn’t a fantasy fan before this, and truthfully this hasn’t made me want to jump on the bandwagon just yet. It did make me more interested in the genre, though, and I would like to find some more books like this one someday. I thought it was a great book. It’s definitely one I couldn’t put down. If it weren’t for work and school and holidays and whatnot, I think I would’ve finished this book in a couple of days. I did have some qualms with it, but most of them were just little stylistic things that weren’t my cup of tea due to my lack of fantasy experience.
The only things that really bugged me were these: (No spoilers to be found here, I promise)
(A.) The book is told from multiple viewpoints (which is a technique I always love for some reason). There are basically three interweaving points of view here. The only problem for me was that the point of view I found most interesting and believed to be the heart of the story was the one that seemed to get the least focus. I was most interested in Siri, while Sanderson seemed more interested in telling about Vivenna.
(B.) The book ends a little abruptly. It’s not one that ends suddenly out of nowhere. Everything is tied up nicely, it just seems that they are also wrapped up rather quickly.
Those two agitations aside, I thought it was a really well written book. And I definitely recommend that you check it out somehow, whether you buy it, read it online, or a little of both.