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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#53 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and Vasher Meet with the Idrian Workers

Now we get to see the other part of what Vasher has been doing all this time—the part that I couldn't show you earlier, since it would have made it too obvious that he had good intentions. (And that, in turn, might have spoiled the surprise that Denth was manipulating Vivenna.) He's been trying very hard to convince the Idrians not to get themselves into trouble. He's been only mildly successful.

Vivenna listening here has some things to work through. Some alpha readers had difficulty with how easily she started helping Vasher, so I've reworked that in the final draft. Hopefully you now see her struggle and her reasoning.

What she sees here is something real. She notices that most of Hallandren doesn't care about Idris or the Idrians. When I lived in Korea, I sensed a lot of resentment from the Koreans toward the Japanese. The Japanese had done some pretty terrible things to the Koreans during the various wars throughout the history of the two countries, and the anger the Koreans felt was quite well justified. The thing is, most Japanese I meet are surprised to hear how much resentment there is. It's kind of like Americans are sometimes surprised to hear how much dislike there is for them in Mexico.

When you're the bigger country, the one who historically won conflicts and wars, you often don't much notice the people you've stepped on along the way. While the smaller country may create a rivalry with you, you may not even realize that you have a rival. This is what happened with Hallandren and Idris. While some people push for war, the general populace doesn't even think about Idris—except as that poor group of people up in the highlands who sell them wool and do jobs they, the Hallandren, don't want to do.

This can be very frustrating for someone from the smaller country, like Vivenna, when confronted not with anger, but with indifference, about your feelings.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#54 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Five

Vivenna Awakes, Bound by Vasher

This chapter—with what happens in the latter part of it—is the most dangerous in the book. Dangerous to me as an author, I mean. I love good plot twists, but I worry about leaving them without proper foreshadowing. I've never done something as drastic as I have in this book, having a group of sympathetic characters turn out to be working for the wrong side. I hope it succeeds, but I know that if it doesn't, readers will be very mad. Nothing is sloppier than a book with unearned changes in character motivation.

But we're not there quite yet. Before that we have the first real interaction between Vivenna and Vasher. He gives her what he likes to think of as the Nightblood test. One nice thing about having a sword that "cannot tempt the hearts of those who are pure" is that when someone like Vivenna touches it, she gets sick. I didn't want Nightblood to come across as a "one ring" knockoff. He doesn't turn people's hearts or corrupt them. However, in order to be able to do his job and fulfill his Command, he needs the ability to determine who is good and who is evil.

This, of course, isn't an easy thing to determine. In fact, I don't think it's a black or white issue for most people. When Nightblood was created, the Breaths infused in him did their best to interpret their Command. What they decided was evil was someone who would try to take the sword and use it for evil purposes, selling it, manipulating and extorting others, that sort of thing. Someone who wouldn't want the sword for those reasons was determined to be good. If they touch the weapon, they feel sick. If others touch the weapon, their desire to kill and destroy with it is enhanced greatly.

Nightblood himself, unfortunately, doesn't quite understand what good and evil are. (This is mentioned later in the text.) However, he knows that his master can determine who is good and who is evil—using the sword's power to make people sick, or through other means. So, he pretty much just lets whoever is holding him decide what is evil. And if the one holding the sword determines—deep within their heart—that they are evil themselves, then they will end up killing themselves with the sword.

Vivenna passes the test, which surprises Vasher. He thought that she'd be the type who would use Nightblood to kill and destroy. (He doesn't have a high opinion of her, obviously. Of course, that's partially because he's let his temper dictate what he thinks.)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#55 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Escapes

One of my big worries about the Vivenna sections is that she'll come off as too weak as a character. That's a particular danger once we reach these late middle sections, where it's revealed how much she's been manipulated. Remember that when you're reading the Vivenna sections, if she comes off weak compared to Siri, consider their relative circumstances.

Vivenna is put through a lot more in this book than Siri is. Why? Well, I felt that as a character, she had a lot more room to grow. In order to do that, however, she needed to have everything knocked out from underneath her. That happens primarily in this chapter and the next few.

But she is not helpless. Even while she's numbed by the capture and betrayals, she manages to effect not one, but two escapes. She handles herself very well, finally overcoming her problems with Awakening and managing to get her Breath to work for her. (And remember that the more Breath one has, the easier it is to learn to get Commands to work right. That will be important later in the book. . . .)

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#57 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Realizes That the Mercenaries Are Traitors

And finally, here we are. The biggest gamble in the book. I went into the novel knowing I was going to do this, and I wrote all along with the intention that Denth and his crew were working against Vivenna's interests.

As I mentioned in a spoiler section earlier, Tonk Fah is a sociopath, and much of the time when he makes his jokes about hurting people, he's serious. (The vanishing pets are a subtle clue to this.) He finds the concept of hurting people funny. We laugh because of Denth, who's running interference and making it seem like they're just exaggerating to get a laugh.

The death of Lemex is another clue—he was, indeed, immune to disease. (Though not poison, if enough was used.) Anyone with that many Breaths is immune. Another clue is what the mercenaries are doing, riling up the Hallandren to war rather than working to prevent it. Not that Vivenna wanted them to, but through Denth's manipulations, Siri has all but been forgotten in the face of the work against Hallandren. Of course, Vivenna herself was willing to forget Siri. Not by intent, but because she has always been more focused on Hallandren, and Siri was partially just an excuse.

The fact that Vivenna's father's agents are never seen looking for her, the fact that the mercenaries don't seem to care about money, the way Jewels was frequently gone at the beginning (partially so she could tail Vivenna), and much of what they said and did were supposed to be reinforcement of this moment of betrayal.

All that said, however, I don't think it's at all obvious what they are really up to. And that's why this is a gamble. This twist isn't an "Ah, I should have seen it!" revelation like the one about the Lord Ruler at the end of Mistborn. Instead, it's a twist that—hopefully—has just enough groundwork underneath it not to seem out of nowhere. I fully expect it to blindside most readers.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#60 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Oh, and since we're on to random notes, I want to mention that I'm not intending Siri to ever betray who she is through the reversals of this book. When I say that she and Vivenna are switching places, I don't mean that they'll start acting like each other. Siri will always be the type who likes to feel the rain on her face and walk barefoot in the grass. Vivenna will probably always be the type who restrains herself from those kinds of activities.

My intention was to have them remain who they are, but still progress and learn to fill one another's roles.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#62 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Vivenna Wanders, Then Is Confronted by a Thief Who Takes Her Dress

The next few Vivenna chapters are short. I wanted to convey that she's on the streets for a time, but didn't want us to have to wallow in her problems. I've seen books do that quite well, and I don't want this novel to focus on it. (If you're interested in one that does it well, Paula Volsky's Illusion has a nice section about what it's like to be a noblewoman who is forced to live on the streets.)

Instead, these chapters are the transition chapters for Vivenna's character. The representation of her going as low as she can go, so that later she can begin to rebuild. The dress was a problem—it was way too distinctive, and it could sell for enough that she wouldn't have to live on the streets. She could buy something cheap and modest, then put herself up in an inn. So, naturally, it had to get stolen.

I didn't want to strip her all the way, though. We've been through enough of that with Siri, and I really didn't want to go there in this situation. Vivenna can be brought down to the lows she needs to reach without having to be raped by a random man in an alley. (Personally, I think that rape is overused in a lot of fiction.)