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Warbreaker Annotations ()
#1 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Everyone Is the Hero in Their Own Story

Another of the big plot events I wanted for this book was to have a character work for the wrong team for a long period of time without realizing it. I'd rarely seen this plot twist in a book, and even more rarely seen anything like it pulled off with any skill. So I wanted to try my hand at it.

Vasher is right here. Denth was playing with her when he told her that line about heroes. He said it partially because he was trying to justify what he was doing, and partially because he was amused that she thought she was doing what was right—when she was a major motivating force driving her people toward destruction.

Vivenna thought she was the hero, but she was the villain—at least for a good chunk of the book.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#2 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Ten

Vivenna Meets the Mercenaries in the Restaurant

Denth was planned as an important figure in this book from the early going. I was looking for a type of character I'd never written, someone who could be interesting, but not steal the show too much from Vivenna. But I also wanted someone who would provide some good verbal sparring (a theme of this book) without simply replicating the way that Lightsong makes word plays.

Denth's and Tonk Fah's personalities grew out of this. I wanted them to offer a more lowbrow sort of humor, conversations that dealt with more base types of joking. They aren't supposed to be laugh-out-loud funny, but hopefully they're amusing and colorful as characters.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#3 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna and the Mercenaries Meet the Forgers in the D'Denir Garden

This particular plan, as Vivenna says, was her idea. Denth goes along with it, obtaining the forgeries that (falsely) prove that priests have been extorting Idris. However, he doesn't plan to let them get out.

He knew that turning down this idea from Vivenna would either annoy her or even make her suspicious. He has to let her feel that she's in control; that way he can remain in control himself and get her to the meetings he wants. Unfortunately for him, that means letting her do this, creating fake documents that could hurt the war effort.

After she vanishes, he cancels the project immediately, which is why the papers never end up materializing.

Oh, and if you're wondering, she got the letter from her father from Lemex's stash. Some people asked about this.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#4 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Two - Part Two

Clod the Lifeless

Yes, Clod is Arsteel, in case you were wondering. After Vasher killed him, Denth's team decided to have him made into a Lifeless. Partially because Denth was curious if it was possible, and partially because Arsteel was such a capable warrior that they knew he'd make for an excellently skilled Lifeless. It isn't as good as having Arsteel himself, of course, but Clod is probably the greatest Lifeless swordfighter in existence right now in the entire world.

Another tidbit that never comes up is that Jewels was in love with Arsteel, which is the primary reason she joined Denth's team in the first place. Arsteel joined it because he wanted to try to redeem Denth; he felt that a reconciliation between Denth and Vasher was possible, and as a peacemaker, he thought he might be able to make it happen. As for why Vasher killed him . . . well, I'm afraid that's another story that will have to wait for the sequel.

Jewels is still in love with him. And yes, she still sleeps with him on occasion. And yes, she's a little bit unhinged emotionally and mentally because of his death.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#5 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth the Traitor

Denth was always going to betray Vivenna. In fact, this is one of the very early concepts for the book—the idea that I wanted a bad guy who was not only likable, but funny. Too often, villains are portrayed as simply despicable people. If they laugh, it's evil laughter.

But people just aren't like that, not most of them. They're real, they have goals and motivations, but they also laugh, cry, and feel. Denth is a mercenary. More than that, he's a man who has caused a lot of pain and death in his long lifetime, and he copes with it by letting himself be hired to do important tasks. So that he doesn't have to feel as responsible.

In a lot of ways, I imagined Denth as the anti-Kelsier. Glib, smart, and hired to do impossible tasks. Only in this book he works for the wrong team. In this scene in particular, he was doing his best to nudge Vivenna to give him the Breaths. His job was only to hold her, to keep her captive and in reserve just in case the plots with Siri failed. That way, there would be a second princess to use in the plots. He was assigned to work for Lemex originally just to give him an in with the Idrians in the city, so that he could rile them up to incite the war further. But when he found that Vivenna was coming, he realized that she would be a much better pawn, and so he poisoned Lemex and took her instead. His employers were very happy to have a backup princess.

So, anyway, Lemex's Breaths were secondary. Denth wanted them, but he knew that the most important thing to do here was get Vivenna to trust him. So he tried to subtly manipulate her into giving them to him. (He intentionally acted reluctant to take them in order to goad her.)

In some ways, even though he doesn't have a viewpoint, a big theme of this book is the tragedy of the man Denth. He could have been more. At one time, he was a much better man than most who have lived.

Tonk Fah is a waste of flesh, though. Even if he is funny sometimes.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#6 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth's Speed

Yes, Denth is inhumanly fast. He's a Returned, after all, and has all of the physical enhancements that come with that. Even when he's chosen not to manifest most of them, he's still got an edge, just like Vasher does.

How do they hide that they're Returned? Well, it comes down to mastery of their ability to change their appearance. They can't shape-shift entirely; they can just alter some things about their appearance. They can change their weight, their hair color, and things like that at will. Vasher doesn't do this often, but Denth has been known to use it as a disguise. The problem, after you do this once and someone realizes it, your nature becomes very suspect.

They have learned to suppress their divine Breath. This allows them to hide, but they must be careful never to give away all of their Breath. Denth has been a Drab before—he's not completely lying—but never for longer than a few days. And his divine Breath is always there, suppressed. So he doesn't know what it's like to be a true Drab, which is why in this chapter he says he doesn't think it changes you that much. He's never felt it.

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#8 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher Is Tortured More

It's very important to note that Vasher is hiding and saving his strength here. Writing his scenes here was tricky, since I knew that he would need to be able to pull off some feats of strength later in the book. I figured that one night of torture wouldn't do very much to him, though I also didn't want to spoil the tension by drawing too much attention to that fact.

Denth is frustrated, here, that he's not enjoying the process of torturing his old friend—much as he's frustrated with his life as it exists presently. He wants so badly to just be the carefree, work-for-whoever-pays thug. But he can't. He can't be like Tonk Fah, and it frustrates him. Hurting Vasher hurts Denth too, as it reminds him of so many things that have been lost.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#9 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth's Plans

When I was posting chapters online as I wrote them, I remember one person in my forums noting (upon reading this chapter) that Denth's plans were a terrible way to help Idris. By attacking supply caravans and creating a crisis in the city, chances are very good that the war factions would be more likely to get the others to strike. Desperate times generally give more power to those who are willing to act, even if those actions might lead to even more problems.

This person on the forums is, of course, exactly right. I'm impressed that they caught it, since most everyone else seemed completely taken in by Denth. However, what Denth is doing here is using Vivenna to help continue plots he has long had in motion. He's lying when he says that he doesn't know what Lemex was involved in and has only seen pieces. In truth, Lemex was doing what Denth wanted him to—they were Denth's plans all along.

However, Lemex was beginning to grow more reticent, and Denth was having more trouble manipulating him. Another good reason for the poisoning. (And it took a lot of poison to off someone with that much Breath.)

If you're reading it through again, I hope that Tonk Fah's line about being able to stow a lot of bodies in the storage space is a creepy line. It's supposed to be.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth's Motivations Here

If you're reading through for the second time, pay close attention to the things Denth says here about Lemex. They're having a conversation about how Lemex could be a patriot but still steal from the king. Well, Denth is kind of talking about himself here, and not Lemex. He's hinting that he thinks (or would like to think) that he can both do his job and be a good man at the same time.

These are things he's struggling with. He tries to tell himself that he doesn't care, but he does. He has kidnapped Vivenna here without her knowing it, and is very deftly manipulating her. (By the way, Jewels tails her to the assembly meeting, if you were wondering.) He does feel bad about this, just like he feels bad about killing Lemex. That doesn't stop him from doing things like this, though.

He does plan to get Vivenna's Breath. He knows, however, that in the end he can probably just torture her into giving it to him. In this scene, if you could see into his head, he's trying to figure out how exactly he can get her to give it to him without having to hurt her.

He doesn't really believe he can do it, though. Life has proven to Denth lately that he just has to do bad things. He almost sees it as inevitable.

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#11 Copy

Winter Wolf

In Warbreaker, how did Denth feel about Vivenna?

Brandon Sanderson

RAFO. I'll RAFO that. We'll get to that... I don't want to... it's more I'm worried that I would spoil things if I answered that question the right way. Complicated. How about that? He had complex feelings toward Vivenna... not easily encapsulated in a simple answer.

Footnote: The full question was, "In Warbreaker, how did Denth feel about Vivenna? He was clearly manipulating and using her, but was all of his friendliness an act or was he telling the truth about liking her?"
Warbreaker Annotations ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Also, just so you know, the second person who snuck into the palace was Denth—tailing Vasher, trying to decide what he was up to. Bluefingers let Denth know that Vasher would try to enter, but warned him not to attack the man. Not while it could expose Denth and possibly Bluefingers.

Denth would have attacked anyway, if he'd decided he had a good opportunity. But he didn't, and he decided it was better to watch.

And yes, he'd hidden away his Breath so that Vasher couldn't sense him following.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#14 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 ()
#15 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Treledees Takes Siri

At this point, you're supposed to be confused at whose motivations are what. I'm not sure what you'll be thinking of the priests at this point in the story. Suffice it to say that Denth's men were in control of Siri's chamber, but he left them once he got Vasher. While he's been torturing Vasher, however, Treledees and his forces seized Siri's room back and killed the guards out front. Now they've pulled her away.

Tonk Fah wasn't there, as you'll soon discover. He's guarding the door to the room where Vasher and Denth are. He's just outside, and he has orders not to let Denth get interrupted. When things get out of hand in the palace, however, he goes in to inform Denth of what's going on. We'll see him there in just a little bit.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#16 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Vivenna Drinks Juice at an Outdoor Restaurant and Plans the Meeting with the Idrian Leaders in the City

Here we have Vivenna showing off her end of the reversal quite well. This is one of the few places where I have a character point out the reversal taking place. Vivenna has learned to blend into Hallandren—she's learned not to judge quite so much. She's still not where she needs to be, but the transformation is happening.

The conversation she has with Denth, where he discusses every man seeing himself as a hero in his own story, is a kind of subtheme for this book. In this novel, everyone does think they're doing what's best. The only exception to that is, perhaps, Denth himself—which makes the conversation particularly poignant.

This is one of the very first conversations I imagined for this book, as I knew it would be very important to a later one, where Vivenna talks to Vasher. And that particular conversation might just have been the first I came up with.

Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A ()
#17 Copy


Can you give any history on Denth? I don't know what he did as one of the Five Scholars. What was his roll during the Manywar?

Brandon Sanderson

Boy, you know, I'd rather leave the history of the Five and the Manywar for the sequel. Denth was there, and at first he tried to stop it, work as a peacemaker, and eventually took Vasher's side. Until the death of his sister.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#19 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Susebron's Priests

Susebron is right to trust his priests. At least, he's somewhat right. They aren't evil men, and they do want what is best for him—as long as that doesn't include going against their traditions and rules. They believe they have the charge to protect Peacegiver's Treasure, and the God King holds that treasure. They do feel bad for what they are required to do to him.

Their interpretation is extreme, but what would you do, if your god (Peacegiver) commanded you that the Breaths be held and protected, but never used? Cutting out a man's tongue to keep him from using that terrible power is the way they decided to deal with it. Harsh, but effective.

Either way, they aren't planning to kill him. One of the big reversals I planned for this book from the concept stage was a world where the priests were good and the thieving crew was evil—a complete turnabout from Mistborn. Denth and his team were developed in my mind as an "anti-Kelsier's Crew." The priesthood, then, was to turn out to be maligned by the characters and actually working for their best interests.

In the end, I went with the evil crew idea, but the priests aren't 100% without their flaws.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#20 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Fifty-Six

Vivenna Saves Vasher—Kind Of

Vivenna has a few things going for her here. First off, Denth has gotten rid of his Breath. He doesn't want to have it as he tortures Vasher. It made him too aware, too pained. Being a drab as he does it is easier for him. With Tonks dozing, that means that nobody in the room has enough life sense to notice Vivenna hanging outside.

Secondly, Denth doesn't really like what he's doing. He feels he took Vasher too easily, and the torture isn't satisfying. He'd much rather kill Vasher in a fight, as he later realizes. So there's some hesitance to him in this scene, as you might notice. He doesn't just stab Vasher or Vivenna. He goes to free Tonk Fah, then hesitates before turning back and challenging Vasher. Denth was actually hoping that something like this would happen. (Plus, he does care for his friend Tonk Fah. Again, Denth is far from purely evil, no matter what he would like people to assume.)

Denth is the better duelist. Even if Vasher hadn't been beaten and tortured, Denth would have won. Except for the trick Vasher was planning, which Vivenna interfered with. But we don't know about that yet . . .

I don't know if you remember that Vivenna put a whole bunch of Breath into Tonk Fah's cloak accidentally, but it happened during the time when she found Parlin. It might be just a little bit of a stretch here, as I don't know that people will remember it. As I consider it, I should have mentioned what she'd done one more time.

Also, I hope that you don't mind the line that goes something like "Vasher is plunging to his doom from a three story window—of course he'll live!" It's a little bit self-aware, and I'm not trying to break the fourth wall. Denth has simply known Vasher for a very, very long time, and knows that something so simple isn't likely to kill his old friend. That, mixed with Denth's penchant for sarcasm, produced this line.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#22 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Denth Finds Vasher and Forces Him to Duel

Note that Denth, way back many chapters ago, mentioned that he felt the only way to defeat Vasher was to get him to draw Nightblood. Denth knew that would leak away all of Vasher's Breath and thereby leave him unable to use Nightblood any further. (This exchange with Denth and Tonk Fah happened in the D'Denir garden after meeting with the forgers.)

Denth has been planning to find a way to force Vasher to draw the sword and use it. He was hoping that the sword would consume him, which he felt would be a fitting end for Vasher, considering that Vasher killed Denth's sister with Nightblood. When he didn't die from pulling the blade, Denth decided that killing him with a dueling blade—as Arsteel should have—would be a fitting end instead.

FanX Spring 2019 ()
#23 Copy


You've stated before that Denth's ability to change is hair color is independent of him being Returned? So meaning he has the Royal Locks. Are Siri and Vivenna descended from him, or just a separate line of the same family tree?

Brandon Sanderson

I will RAFO that. But he does have the Royal Locks, so you can at least assume that they're related, at the very least.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#24 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth's Climax

I wanted to offer Denth the chance for redemption here, though there was no way he was going to let himself take it. His response is honest. He doesn't feel he deserves it. He has done terrible things; to wipe away the memory of them would be cheating. Better to just get it over with.

There's a very good chance that after killing Vasher, Denth would have walked over, picked up Nightblood, and let the sword drain his life away. He wouldn't have been able to live with the guilt.

But that doesn't happen. When I first designed this magic system, I added to it the idea that taking a lot of Breath shocks you and sends you into a small seizure of pleasure. This is lifted from the magic system in Mythwalker, the story from which I drew Siri and Vivenna. I added the component to Awakening not only because it fit, but because I liked giving one more little nod to Mythwalker.

However, the moment I began writing it, I knew that this twist of giving someone Breath, then killing them, would be an awesome way to pull a reversal with the magic. So I built into the story the entire arc of Vasher beating Arsteel mysteriously, and Denth wanting to duel him to prove that he couldn't win a duel.

Denth was right. Vasher cheated.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#25 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vivenna Hides Her Breath in a Shawl

This has been possible from the beginning, and if Denth had truly been on her side, he would have admitted that there's a way she could get rid of her Breaths. What she would need to do is Awaken something with a one-Breath Command. There are some. They don't do much, but you can Awaken a very tiny scrap of cloth tied into the shape of a person with a very simple Command. That takes one Breath.

Next, you put the rest of your Breath into another object. Then you get that one Breath back and go hunting for a Drab to give it to. Then you take the rest of your Breath back from the object. From there, you can repeat the process if you want to. Vivenna could get rid of the Breaths one by one.

Of course, Denth didn't want that to happen. He was coveting those Breaths. What he said was intended to sound like an innocent mistake. Many people unfamiliar with Awakening would make that mistake, so if Vivenna learned the truth later, he wouldn't look suspicious.

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Can we expect a book regarding the backstory of Tonk Fah and Denth and all the characters of Warbreaker?

Brandon Sanderson

Um, yes, you can expect the sequel to Warbreaker, which will happen, but it's a ways off, to delve a little bit more into at least Denth's backstory. But I can't promise when I'll write that, or an Elantris sequel, sorry guys. The next book I'll write, after Calamity, will be... the next Stormlight book.

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#27 Copy


In Warbreaker, how does Denth remember who his sister is if he was Returned?

Brandon Sanderson

That is an excellent question and it will be answered. It is a conscious decision of mine, doing that. It is something you are supposed to be wondering. In the future books I want to delve into that sort of thing a lot more. So, Read And Find Out, but it was a "That wasn't a mistake" Read And Find Out.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#28 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Parlin Is Dead

Parlin was always meant to die here. That's one of the main reasons I left Vivenna with someone from Idris to be in her team, in fact. (The other reason is that I found it unrealistic that she wouldn't have somebody with her.)

Maybe this is why Parlin never worked as a character, to be honest. I wonder if he was always in my mind as the character who was going to get killed by Tonk Fah, which kept me from giving him enough depth. I'm not sure; I do know that in the book as it stands, he's probably the biggest component I wish I had time to change. I'm not certain what I could put in his place that wouldn't distract too much from the plot—and wouldn't take away from the humor of Denth and the mercenaries—but would still be sympathetic enough that when he dies here, it would be more powerful. But I would have liked to have found something.

Tonk Fah tortured him to death. He wasn't supposed to, but he got carried away. It was an accident, as Denth claims. (Denth shouldn't have left Tonks alone with the prisoner to continue the torturing.) Denth came back and found Parlin dead, and was annoyed and frustrated. He left Tonks behind, storming out in anger, and eventually found Jewels and Clod, who were talking to slum contacts and trying to find Vivenna. They came back to regroup.

Meanwhile, Tonks heard Vivenna enter, and knew it wasn't Denth. He put his Breath into his clothing, then ducked back under the stairs, his lantern extinguished, wondering who had come. He wasn't terribly surprised to find Vivenna. That was when Denth and Jewels got back and the rest of the situation went down.

I added the corpses of Vivenna's father's agents in the last draft, by the way, since I figured I wanted it to be more obvious what had happened to them.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#29 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Vasher and Denth Spar; Vasher Gets Stabbed

I love scenes in books (when I read them) that imply a great weight of history that we don't get to see between characters. It gives me a sense that the story is real. That these characters lived before the story, and that they'll continue to live afterward (or, well, the ones who survive).

When I built this book, I knew that the Vasher/Denth relationship needed a lot of groundwork to give it that sense. I wanted them both to be complicated characters who have a twisted past. It all comes to head here, in this chapter, and we get the ending of a story over three centuries old. Will I ever tell those stories? Probably not. Like the story of Alendi and Rashek in Mistborn, I think the story between Vasher and Denth is stronger as it stands—as something to lend weight to this book. We will go more into the Vasher/Arsteel relationship (particularly as we deal with Yesteel) in the next book, if I write it.

By this point, you should be wondering just who Vasher is. He's been alive since the Manywar, and Denth implies that Vasher himself caused the conflict. There's obviously a lot more going on with him than you expect.

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#31 Copy


Regarding the sibling relationships of Yesteel/Arsteel and VaraTreledees/Shashara, were either pairing Returned simultaneously? If so, how did they know they were siblings? And do any of the four know their original birth names? Finally, is it coincidence that there are two pairs of siblings in the Five Scholars or is there something more at work?

Brandon Sanderson

I do intend to delve into questions like in your first point when I return to that world, so I'll RAFO for now.

Warbreaker Annotations ()
#32 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

The contact Vasher mentions in this scene is Bluefingers. The little scribe is working very hard to push the court toward war, and he thinks that if Vasher sneaks into the hidden tunnels, he might do something dangerous like kill a few guards. More than that, Bluefingers is hoping that by giving away that tidbit of information, he might be able to get Vasher to trust him, and therefore get the chance to manipulate him toward fomenting the war.

At this point, Vasher has contacted Bluefingers pretending that he's interested in the politics of the court and the war. Bluefingers inaccurately assumes—from intelligence he's gathered, from what Denth has said, and from some faint awareness of who Vasher might be—that Vasher wants to drive Hallandren back to war with Idris. At the very least, Bluefingers assumes that Vasher will want to kill and destroy, since death and destruction have often been his wake.

And so, Bluefingers sells to Vasher a little tidbit that he assumes is innocent (the presence of the tunnels). This gives Vasher an unexpected edge. He now knows that it's possible to get to the Lifeless garrison, and into the court itself, through ways nobody knows about. That makes him suspect that something greater might be going on, perhaps a coup of some sort.

I apologize for only showing little pieces of this in the book. But, to be honest, I don't think it's that interesting—mostly because everybody is so wrong about what they're assuming. And the assumptions are rational enough that I think it would be confusing in the book. Vasher is wrong about the coup, and Bluefingers is wrong about Vasher's motives. Denth only cares about getting a chance to punish Vasher for the death of his sister.