Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson

The cover art for Warbreaker

Warbreaker is a fantasy novel where magic comes from perception ("breath") and color. A person can give part of their perception away to others. Someone who has bought the perception of many others will see the world as supremely beautiful. Magic happens when people give their perception to inanimate objects.

Perception is also a central theme in the book, which presents many differing opinions on each event.  Is the separatist kingdom a group of rebels, or are they just trying to defend their heritage?  Are bright colors holy or sacreligious?  Are the gods holy or a corrupt political institution?  In addition to differing perceptions about events, there is also an exploration of self perception.  Through mercenaries, Sanderson explores cognitive dissonance.  Through a god who doesn't believe that he's a god, Sanderson explores notions of duty.  Sanderson also presents an interesting corollary to the notion that everyone is the hero in their own story -- how do you know you aren't on the wrong side?

The social commentary also revolves around the theme of perception.  The commentary about economic class comes as a person's description of how homelessness changes their self perception.  The commentary about concentrated power comes as a person's description of how being deified changes their personality.

One thing I didn't fully appreciate about the focus on perception is that it opens the door for Sanderson to throw plot twist after plot twist at his readers.  Totally rude.  I also didn't like that this book seemed very much like a typical fantasy novel in terms of violence being the solution to many of the problems (unlike Elantris).  The book was fairly good overall, though.