by Brandon Sanderson
Edited by Moshe Feder
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765320308
Date: 09 June 2009 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Brandon Sanderson has created an interesting world where power resides with those who can manipulate things and Awaken them, giving them a semblance of life. Those who desire such power must take it from others by drawing an essence from them called Breath. Donors must give it voluntarily. However, doing so, leaves the donor alive, but with dulled senses.
Politics and religion dominate this novel. Various factions vie either to cause war or to avoid it. The mysterious Vasher works to thwart various efforts, but which ones? His motives and powers remain unclear. Lightsong, god of bravery as a Returned, questions his role and function. The Returned, those who died, but come back as gods, have one function, to save the life of one worthy individual by giving up their own.
In this world, the kingdoms of Hallandren and Idris vie for control or survival. A God king rules Hallandren. The royal family of Idris once ruled it, but fled it long ago. The people of Idris do not believe in taking breaths or using the powers they provide. They reject most uses of it, but use Awakeners on occasion. The royals have one distinguishing feature; the color of their hair reflects their emotions.
The three princesses of Idris serve their country in different ways. Vivenna, the eldest, has trained since birth to become the bride of the God king and fulfill the treaty between the two countries. Fafen, the middle sister, has dedicated her life as a monk of Austre. Siri, the youngest has no role and rebels against authority, so when her father decrees she, and not the perfect Vivenna, must marry the God king, she responds in shocked surprise. Not going would mean war.
Vivenna and Siri grow and change in ways they never imagined as they overcome obstacles to saving their country. Vivenna wants to rescue Siri and replace her. Siri struggles as the queen of Hallandren, but with no power to accomplish anything. Intrigues surround her.
Lightsong prefers to stay above the forces decreeing war, but others insist he must choose sides. He controls a quarter of Hallandren's army of Lifeless soldiers. These creatures are awakened dead men. Strong, they need no food and ignore wounds. Using such abominations against Idris guarantees its defeat.
Sanderson leaves a few loose ends and some inconsistencies. He provides a fascinating world and plenty of scope for future novels.