Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Brandon Sanderson’s novel, Warbreaker
So yes, I’ve gone on a bit of a Sanderson kick recently, with the excuse of wanting to derive maximum enjoyment and satisfaction from my first (and likely subsequent second) read of Rhythm of War. I would have left Warbreaker out of that, and settled for just the other three books in the Stormlight Archive, plus Arcanum Unbound, except that I am fairly certain that the peculiar black sword that appears in Oathbringer is tied to a certain sword in Warbreaker. Plus, it has been quite awhile since I’ve read this novel, and it’s worth rereading every now and then.
One of the things that first got me interested in reading Sanderson books (aside from my dad’s recommendation) was that he had stand-alone novels. This might seem unintuitive, considering his attempt to create an epic that spans multiple worlds and series within the Cosmere, and his tendency to write books that routinely clock in at 400,000+ words, but it’s true: I think that Sanderson writes more, and better, stand-alone fantasy novels than any other modern fantasy author of whom I can think. In fantasy, series have become the way to go, so it’s refreshing to find a good, sturdy, contained novel that does not require, or even ask for, a sequel.
I’ve often given this book as a gift to people as a kind of gateway to Sanderson. Since it’s only a single book, they’re not committing to a whole series, but they still get a good taste for what his writing is like. Interestingly, many of the people to whom I have given the book have interpreted it as a romance novel, and expressed surprise that I would recommend such a piece. I suppose there are elements of the romance genre here, but I don’t see Warbreaker as a romance. Though only one book, it really is epic fantasy, with a unique world, magic system, and large stakes. It also takes a fascinating look at politicking, religion, and the fraught ground where those two meet. As with many of Sanderson’s best books, this one explores big questions while still holding true to being about the story.
In this most recent readthrough, I actually read the book on Sanderson’s website, where it is freely available, and read it along with his annotations. He hasn’t done this for all of his books, but there are quite a few available, including for Mistborn, Elantris, and Warbreaker. These are of passing interest as a reader, and are fascinating as a writer, providing insight into the writing, and especially the revising, processes. Indeed, reading the annotations in time with the book was part of why I decided to reread Warbreaker rather than just getting right into Rhythm of War. I highly recommend giving Warbreaker a try soon.