I really struggled with myself over whether to go with 3.5 or 4.0 stars on this one - 3.5 somehow seems to be too few, while 4.0 seems to be too much. I finally settled on 3.5 because I felt that this book, while great, had a few glaring issues, which I think are more accurately reflected by the 3.5 star value.
Warbreaker takes place in a city of gods, the city of T'Telir, which is the capital of the kingdom of Hallandren. Siri, who is a princess from the kingdom of Idris, has been sent to Hallandren to wed its God King (Susebron). Despite the marriage, tensions of war are brewing between Hallandren and Idris, as the two kingdoms are like oil and water, with a lot of religious/political/historical factors dividing them. Meanwhile, Vivenna (Siri's sister) goes to Hallandren to try and rescue Siri from her fate.
Now, let's talk about the world-building. Those of you familiar with Sanderson's works will know that the man always shines in world-building, and Warbreaker is no exception. The book features a complex magic system, as well as a fascinating religious structure (both of which are closely intertwined to each other). Politics, religion, history, life in the city, and everything else you could need or want to know were comprehensively detailed throughout the story. By the way, I thought that one of the coolest (and strangest) things about this world was the sentient, talking sword, Nightblood. It makes me insanely happy that the sequel to this book (which we probably won't see for like, 5 years at least, with all the projects Sanderson has lined up) is called Nightblood.
Speaking of, the book sets itself up wonderfully for a sequel, while at the same time tying up most of its loose ends. I always appreciate when an author does this - that is, leaves me wanting more, without making me dependent on it for closure.
The book also had some amazing characters, my absolute favorite being one of the "Returned" gods of T'Telir, Lightsong. [He might take the crown from Kelsier (from the Mistborn series) as being my all-time favorite Sanderson character, but really, it's so hard to choose!] The main reason that Lightsong is so beloved by readers is his witty sense of humor, which Sanderson pens wonderfully.
“I swear, my dear. Sometimes our conversations remind me of a broken sword."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Sharp as hell," Lightsong said, "but lacking a point.”
(Hmmm... sounds kind of like my reviews! Well, at least the "lacking a point" part.)
Lightsong's story arc, though, is also brilliantly done, and was (in my opinion) the only story arc in the book to be handled completely perfectly.
So yes, there were a lot of really spiffy things about Warbreaker, and predominantly it was a great book, but, let's face it - this book also had a lot of issues.
One being, the characters. Wait, what?!? But I just said earlier that the characters were amazing! What I actually said, though, was that there were some amazing characters. At the same time, I thought there were some not-so-great characters. Susebron (the God King), for example - I felt that so much more could have been done with his character, but he was basically a snoozefest. I also found myself PO'd with Siri, who started off with so much potential, but didn't turn into the kickass female character that I wanted her to be. Instead, she seemed much more concerned about her own happiness than about the happiness and wellbeing of her people (*both* of her peoples, actually, since she was both a Queen of Hallandren and a Princess of Idris). I mean, that's only human of course, but there was no "growth" out of this way of thinking or internal agonizing about it - this just bugged me, and I expected more from her.
Furthermore, I felt that Warbreaker had a relatively weak over-arching plot. All the Sanderson books I've read (with the exception of The Well of Ascension, maybe) have had strong, clear plotlines. In Warbreaker, though, it just felt like a bunch of stuff was happening, without there being a clear sense of what the "main story" was.
And, finally, here is my biggest gripe about Warbreaker: I had to read the annotations to understand and/or find out things that I think should have been explained more clearly (or in some cases, explained at all) *in the book* itself. While I absolutely love that Sanderson provides chapter-by-chapter annotations for his books, I don't think that the reader should need to read them in order to grasp everything.
There were also some questions I had that didn't seem to be explained by the book *or* the annotations.
Overall, there just seemed to be a lot of gaping holes in Warbreaker. While this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story, as I still thoroughly liked it, the holes left me from really, truly, loving it like I do with most of the other Sanderson works that I have read.
(Random Note: Way to pick the blandest cover for this book in existence, Booklikes! Normally that wouldn't bother me, but that cover is like the complete antithesis to the spirit of this book!)