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Warbreaker Cover.jpeg
by Dan dos Santos
Setting Nalthis, Cosmere
Released June 9, 2009
Publisher Tor
ISBN 0-7653-1177-1

Warbreaker is a Cosmere novel by Brandon Sanderson, which is available for purchase in bookstores or for free download from his website.[1]


Warbreaker tells the story of two sister princesses, Vivenna and Siri, of the country Idris. Vivenna has been raised her entire life to marry the God King of the rival nation of Hallandren, in the hopes that this marriage will forestall Hallandren's invasion of Idris, which they have been threatening for years. For reasons of political expediency, as well as the personal preferences of the King of Idris, Siri is sent, unprepared, in Vivenna's stead. Vivenna, feeling her life to be devoid of purpose after Siri is sent in her place, follows her to Hallandren in hopes of rescuing her. Both Siri and Vivenna then become involved in intrigues intended to cause war between their home nation of Idris and Hallandren, and attempt to prevent the war from happening separately: Siri from within the government and Vivenna by cooperation with the underground.

At the same time, the novel tells the story of one of the Returned members of the royal court, Lightsong, and his search for the truth behind the Hallandren religion, as well as that of his own identity. The fourth story that the book follows is that of Vasher, a mysterious character with a talking sword named Nightblood and an impressive mastery of BioChromatic Breaths.

The book is set in the Cosmere on the Shardworld of Nalthis, home to the Shard Endowment. It is told from Vasher's, Siri's, Vivenna's, and Lightsong's points of view.


is the main character of the book. She is the youngest princess of the small country Idris, and is known for being rebellious and colorful, rather than attempting to detract attention from herself as the Idrian doctrine of Austrism requires. On the day of Vivenna's twenty-second birthday, when Vivenna is required to be sent to Hallandren, their father decides to send Siri in her place. Siri's ability to adapt and love for bright colors allows her to learn to enjoy Hallandren in a way that Vivenna would never have been able to. This, in turn, allows her to befriend the God King and Lightsong, as well as help defeat a plot to cause a war between Hallandren and Idris.
Vivenna is Siri's sister, and the eldest child of the king of Idris. She is the perfect daughter: responsible, caring, and completely devoted to Austre. There is a contract with Hallandren that requires her to be sent to marry the God King and bear him a child(which will be still-born and become the next God King) on her twenty-second birthday. However, when the time comes for her to go, the king is unable to relinquish her, and takes advantage of the loose wording of the contract(it states only that "the Princess must be sent on Vivenna's twenty-second birthday") to send Siri in her place. Due to this, Vivenna goes through a brief depression, in which she feels like her only reason for living has been taken by Siri. She soon decides to go rescue Siri, however, and falls in with the mercenaries Denth and Tonk Fah, whom she hires to help rescue her sister.
Lightsong is the Returned god of bravery in the Hallandren court of gods. He has no memory of his life before being Returned, and his only connection to his past life is through Llarimar, his high priest, who is forbidden from speaking of it. Because he is skeptical of the idea the he is a god and he wishes to stop the people of Hallandren from putting their faith in him, he acts outwardly foolish. This, however, does not seem to have an affect on how people view him, as they claim he must have died incredibly bravely to be returned. He is good friends with the goddess Blushweaver, and eventually they end up working together.
Vasher's past and motivations are largely shrouded in mystery until the end of the book, when he reveals that he is one of the Five Scholars of Nalthis. He is presented as the villain until the middle of the book, when it is revealed that he is working against a war between Idris and Hallandren. He is quiet and unwilling to talk about his past, but there is something about him which makes Vivenna trust him. He is in possession of the sword Nightblood, as well as large amounts of BioChromatic Breath.


Warbreaker is set in the cosmere on the Shardworld of Nalthis.

Magic System[edit]

The system of magic on Nalthis is reliant on the presence of color and verbal Commands given by the magic user. Magic users are known as Awakeners and their power comes from the number of BioChromatic Breaths they have stored. A Breath can be thought of as a soul, or as the manifestation of the 'sixth sense'. Once robbed of the Breath, a person is called a Drab. Drabs find it difficult to perceive color and do not experience the 'sixth sense' or the odd sensation resulting from someone watching one unobserved. The more Breaths a person obtains, the more dramatic their abilities become. There are ten levels or 'Heightenings' of this magic.

Any amount of Breath allows Awakening: the ability to, through specific Commands, call inanimate objects to life by investing Breath in them and draining the color from another object (Awakeners usually carry a few pieces of coloured cloth, such as handkerchiefs, for this purpose). Commands must be done in the Awakener's native language, and be spoken clearly without mumbling, otherwise it will not work. The closer the object's resemblance to a human (anthropomorphic shape), the easier it is to Awaken. This is due to the fact that Breath is akin to a human 'soul,' so even if an object does not physically look anything like a human, it will try to look like one (usually this manifests in Awakened objects appearing to have and use muscles, even though they don't actually need them). Objects of a greater size require more Breath, as do objects directed to carry out complicated Commands. More complicated Commands also need to be properly visualized, although this is more a skill thing and does not require a certain amount of Breath. Breath can be regained from objects by the person who invested them, with the Command "Your Breath to mine." Breath can also be given from one person to another, with the Command "My Breath to yours; my life become yours." This transfers a person's entire wealth of Breath from that person to the other, but other than that is it just like all other Awakenings.

The following is a list--pulled mostly from the Ars Arcanum of Warbreaker--of the Heightenings, the approximate number of Breaths required to attain them, and known abilities they grant:

  • First - 50 Breaths - Aura Recognition (The ability to determine how many Breaths another person has)
  • Second - 200 Breaths - Perfect Pitch (The ability to determine musical notes)
  • Third - 600 Breaths - Perfect Color Recognition (Similar to Perfect Pitch, but with the ability to determine precise hues and harmonies of colors)
  • Fourth - 1,000 Breaths - Perfect Life Sense
  • Fifth - 2,000 Breaths - Agelessness (Also, immunity to some toxins and most physical ailments, although death is still possible from outside influences)
  • Sixth - 3,500 Breaths - Instinctive Awakening (Ability to use basic Awakening Commands without training or practice. Difficult Commands become easier to practice and discover)
  • Seventh - 5,000 Breaths - Breath Recognition (Similar to Aura recognition, but for objects that have been invested with Breath)
  • Eighth - 10,000 Breaths - Command Breaking (Ability to override Commands of another Awakener's Awakened object)
  • Ninth - 20,000 Breaths - Greater Awakening (Ability to Awaken stone and steel, though it takes large amounts of Breath and specialized Commands)
  • Tenth - 50,000 Breaths - Audible Command (Ability to Awaken objects the Awakener is not physically touching) , Color Distortion (Creates colors from a white object by bending the light around it), Perfect Invocation (Awakener is able to draw more color when Awakening leaving objects white rather than grey)

Specialized forms of this magic that are pertinent to Warbreaker include the Lifeless and the Returned. The Lifeless are reanimated human bodies that require only one Breath to Awaken. They are sustained with a specialized liquid called ichor-alcohol. Lifeless feel little or no pain and are able to follow a series of complex Commands given after Awakening.

The Returned are the gods of the Hallandren religion. They are people who are said to have died in such an exemplary manner as to be given the chance to return to this world from the afterlife. They lose their memories during the return trip but are guided by their own inherent prophetic powers. The Returned must consume one Breath every week or they die. They each contain a single powerful Breath that alone allows them to reach Fifth Heightening; granting them, among other things, agelessness. The Returned also may spend this one Breath once in their lives to perform a miracle and ending their own lives. These Breaths are often referred to as "Deific Breaths"

The God King is believed to be an especially powerful Returned, who consumes many breaths a week. It is considered a privilege by the citizens of Hallandren to donate their Breath to one of the Returned, even though it leaves them as a Drab.

It is important to note that all use of Breath in order to Awaken is considered heresy in Idris.


Warbreaker was inspired by what Brandon wishes he had been able to include in Elantris. In Elantris, regular people are transformed into gods, but we never get to see how they adapt to their new lives. This is the premise and inspiration for Warbreaker.[1]

Warbreaker was also released for free online as it was written, allowing readers to see the rough drafts and deleted scenes years before it was published. Brandon did this despite discouragement from his teams and agent at Tor.[1]

Publication History[edit]

  • WARBREAKER (Tor, Summer 2009)
  • Audio rights (unabridged) to Recorded Books
  • Audio rights (dramatic abridgment) to Graphic Audio
  • Chinese rights (complex, Taiwan) to Gaea
  • Czech rights to Talpress
  • German rights to Heyne
  • Italian rights to Fanucci
  • Polish rights to MAG
  • Spanish rights to Ediciones B
  • UK rights to Gollancz
  • French rights to Calmann-Levy
  • Bulgarian rights to Bard[2]


  • Chosen by Library Journal as one of the 5 best SF&F novels of 2009
  • Chosen by Barnes & Noble as one of the 5 best SF&F novels of 2009
  • Chosen by The Onion A.V. Club as a Best of 2009
  • Nominated for the 2010 David Gemmell Legend Award
  • Nominated for 2009 Romantic Times Award, Best Epic Fantasy
  • An ALA Top Five Fantasy of 2009
  • 24 on NY Times hardcover list[2]


Warbreaker was inspired by Dadradah, one of the religions that Sazed preached about, which focused on worshipping art.[3]

Brandon's editor told him that his next story after Elantris and Mistborn had to have some color to it, since those stories were both dark, so he replied that he would then write about a color based magic system. [4]

Cover Art Gallery[edit]


  1. a b c Warbreaker Portal
    Brandon's website - Dec, 2007
  2. a b Awful Agent page
  3. Annotation for The Well of Ascension 50
  4. In Warbreaker how did you come up with the idea of using colors for magic?
    17th Shard forums - 2014-12-19
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