Brandon Sanderson might be the reigning king of unadapted fantasy literature. The majority of his books take place within an interconnected universe referred to as ‘The Cosmere.’ It’s like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where each of the stories are currently separate, but clearly building to some sort of connected confrontation at some point down the line. Warbreaker is an odd book to start your Cosmere journey with, but for my money, it exemplifies Sanderson at his best without you having to be bogged down by committing to his larger Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series.’
Warbreaker follows two Idrian princesses on the planet of Nalthis, Vivenna and Siri. Vivenna was drafted through a treaty before she was born to marry the God King of rival nation Hallendren. However, the King sends his other daughter Siri to honour the treaty. Vivenna then travels to Hallendren in hope of saving Siri from the God King, kicking the main thrust of the narrative into gear.
Warbreaker hasn’t got a complicated plot, it’s a fairly standard setup to a fantasy story. Where Sanderson shines, as he always does, is in his magic system of BioChromatic Breath. Every Nalthian is born with one breath, though a person may ‘choose’ to transfer that Breath to another person. When accumulated in large quantities, Breath can be used to commit all manner of magical feats. Their world is one in which those who die in glory may return as gods to live confined to a pantheon in Hallendren, but need Breath to keep themselves alive, requiring them to take the soul from their citizens one subject at a time. This conceit makes for extremely involved explorations of religion, power and politics, all within a very colourful fantastical landscape.
Full disclosure, I love Brandon Sanderson. The way he blends fun narrative conceits and intricate science based magic systems, along with his brilliantly engaging characters always makes for a fun read. If you enjoy Sanderson, you must treat yourself and read his main Stormlight Archive series. However, if you’re burnt out on him, but still want that large world high magic vibe then I would recommend Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series.