Author: Brandon Sanderson
Rating: 4/5 stars
Characters: My favorite element in Sanderson’s works are always his characters. They are dynamic, interesting, and you can tell they’ve been developed over a long period of time. For novels written in third person, there is surprisingly a great deal of in-depth personal exploration that usually only comes with first person novels. He somehow managed to give us that fantasy feel while sharing that inner dialog that always makes me feel more invested into the characters’ futures.
After reading Mistborn, I’d always wondered why it was the characters were my favorite element. The magic systems and overall story were strong enough to contend in their own right, but when recommending the series to customers, I always talk about how enjoyable the characters were to read about – even the unlikable ones. After reading Warbreaker and the annotations after each chapter, the author clued me in as to why this is: his characters take action. Inner thoughts and development are indeed good for a story and they let you infer motives and tendencies, but many authors send their characters through inner struggles through most of the book before they finally overcome them to make something happen. Sanderson gives you that inner turmoil, but makes his characters act on them regardless of hangups. That, (along with their obviously well-developed personalities) is why I rave so much about them.
Pacing: ironically, although the characters were making decisions and advancing their own personal stories, it was a rather slow read. This was deliberate on the author’s part, as he mentioned in his annotations that he likes slower-moving books, but it still drug in a couple of places for me. That said, I was never bored. And as odd as it sounds, as soon as I began reading the annotations at the end of each chapter, the story really took off. Perhaps it was because my level of investment into the story had just increased, but likely it was because it gave me a lot more to think about, whether it be storyline or the writing behind it. I also don’t remember a single scene that didn’t either advance plot or reveal character, so overall I think it was a success.
World Building: Anyone who has ever seen my house (or for that matter, ever spent a bit of time with me) knows how much I love color. The idea that there is a world and magic system totally devoted to and focused around color makes me immensely happy. Sanderson always managed to subtly draw my attention back to the vibrant shades and hues that run rampant in this world. It was a delightful contrast to the drab settings I normally picture while reading fantasy, making the story that much more exotic and vibrant. Needless to say, the visual elements the author described in Warbreaker were highly evoking and I appreciated the picture he painted. (there’s your bad pun for the review… you knew it was coming.)
In any of Sanderson’s works you can tell he spends a lot of extra time developing his worlds. From the semi-tropical settings to the viable yet opposing religious systems, it was all very well-conceived. The ideas were excellent and thorough, but the most notable element was the way the author wove this information into the story. Creating a totally new world in fantasy is difficult to do without “info-dumping” on your reader, and I am in awe at how seamlessly he managed to convey loads of information about this place up-front without drawing attention away from the story. Many subtle drop-in details were used, but most of the information we found out through conversations and behaviors of the characters. As this is something I struggle with in my own writing, I found it very helpful to see it done so well.
Writing: While the book contained an excellent example of world building, it also had many other elements of writing that I found insightful. In fact, for any budding authors out there, I highly recommend studying this book to improve your craft. The epub version of this novel (available through bn.com) contain the author’s annotated notes after every chapter. They not only provided extra information on the story as a whole (making it that much more rich and vibrant) but also let us have an inside look at the developmental process that goes into writing a good fantasy novel. Sanderson even provides several suggestions and tips for making a good story even stronger. It was really interesting to read a passage then get the author’s first-hand account of what moods he was going for, what characters he hoped to highlight, and how the scene advanced the plot.
While not everybody approaches writing in the same way, it’s helpful to see inside someone else’s creative process to get a feel of how much work goes into developing a great story. This brings me to my final point: writing, at least good writing, is a lot of hard work. Sanderson, who is by all accounts setting himself up a legacy in this genre went through several drafts and considered thousands of feedback notes before settling on this final product. I admire that constant strive for perfection and I also realize that good fantasy takes hard work, dedication, and time, even for the professionals. If you are working on a novel, don’t let endless hours of rewriting and editing discourage you – your work will show and it will only get stronger.
Overall, this pick was a great read, and one that I’m especially grateful was chosen. I not only enjoyed it, but found inspiration to advance my own novel. I am eager to pick up The Way of Kings next, as at least a dozen people have told me it’s their favorite Sanderson.
Other Books You Might Like:
- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
- A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
- Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass
- Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke
- Legends of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron
Now Let’s Discuss!
I had a lot of fun composing this review, but I’m most looking forward to hearing what YOU think:
- What are your overall impressions/ratings of the book?
- What were your favorite elements?
- Who was your favorite character?
- Did you predict the plot twists before they happened?
I’ve loved Brandon Sanderson’s work since I finished reading the Mistborn Trilogy. I have yet to read Alloy of Law, Warbreaker or any of his other novels, including the Wheel of Time novels he took over. However, I’m halfway through Elantris, his first published novel, and as soon I get through that and Warbreaker I’ll post again with answers to your blog queries.
You’ll have to let me know how you liked Elantris, it’s been on my list for ages!