A while back—June 2006—I started work on the novel which would follow my Mistborn trilogy. At the time, I noticed the work of Cory Doctorow, who releases all of his books on-line at the same time as the hardback comes out from Tor. At first, I thought this was insane. If you give it away for free, nobody will buy it!
Then, I spent some more time considering. Readers can ALREADY get their books for free; I went to the library often myself as a youth. And yet, I still bought books. I often bought the very books I’d checked out from the library, as I liked them so much I wanted to read them again and loan them out to others. What do I really believe? In resenting libraries and used bookstores because they share my books without any direct profit to me? Or, would I rather look at all of that as free publicity?
I’ve been kind of annoyed with how the RIAA has treated the MP3 explosion. I also realize that something Cory says is very true—my biggest challenge as an author is obscurity. I believe in my novels, and believe that if people read them, they will want to read and buy more of them. I believe that readers like to own books and, yes, even like to buy them specifically to support authors they want to write more books.
And so, I did something crazy. I went to Tor and asked if they’d be okay with me posting the entire version of Warbreaker AS I WROTE IT. Meaning, rough drafts. The early, early stuff which is filled with problems and errors. They thought I was crazy too (my agent STILL thinks this project is a bad move) but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something that would involve and reward my readers. For those who are aspiring novelists, I wanted to show an early version of my work so they could follow its editing and progress. For those who are looking to try out my novels, I wanted to offer a free download. (Hoping that they would enjoy the book a great deal, then go on to purchase or check out ELANTRIS or my Mistborn books.)
So, that’s what this novel is. It WILL be published in hardcover by Tor. It’s not some old work I pulled out, dusted off, and offered for free. This book will be coming out in 2009 sometime. And, I’m offering it years ahead of publication here for you to read.
Part of me still worries that I take a huge hit in sales when this thing is released, as my readers will have read it ahead of time. Another part of me worries that new readers will see the flaws and the rough sections of the early drafts, then assume that the finished project will be inferior, and not ever bother to read any of my other books.
The stronger part of me still believes that this will make better publicity, and a better experience for my fans, and is well worth the risk. So, for better or worse, I present WARBREAKER.
It’s been almost ten years since I started the first draft of ELANTRIS. It was my sixth book, and it took me four years or so to eventually sell it. By the time I did get a book deal and release the book, I’d moved on to the Mistborn books.
Still, ELANTRIS is very special to me, and I’m still planning to do sequels some day. Why do I bring that up here? Well, there is one thing about ELANTRIS that has always kind of bothered me. It’s not a terrible thing—the book turned out way better than I had any right to expect at that point in my career, and still stands as the book I’ve written with the best ‘high concept’ ideas. However, the book focuses on a kingdom where regular people are turned into gods—yet, the nature of the plot line makes it so that you never get to SEE what it’s like to have to live as a god after gaining all of these divine powers. (ELANTRIS focuses on a period of time where the magic doesn’t work, and the once-gods have lost their abilities and caught a terrible disease instead.)
I wouldn’t change ELANTRIS, but I’ve always kind of wished that I could write a book that actually focused on what it was LIKE to have to live with all of the expectations of being transformed into a deity. How would that affect a person? What if they, themselves, didn’t believe that their powers made them a god—yet everyone else did believe it? Could you have a god who didn’t believe in his own religion?
Eventually, I couldn’t leave this idea alone. I needed to explore it, perhaps for the same reasons I needed to explore the opposite idea in ELANTRIS. In many ways, this book is a companion—yet opposite book—to ELANTRIS. Though set in separate worlds with very different systems of magic, both take the same concept, then run different directions with it. I hope very much not to seem like I’m repeating myself as an author; I think by doing Mistborn and Alcatraz between these books, I’ve shown my versatility. Now, I want to try another book about deified men. (Coincidentally, I decided I wanted to deal with another concept I promised in ELANTRIS, but then ignored—the bride who is sent to another kingdom to marry a man she doesn’t know. Once again, I wanted to take it the opposite direction. In ELANTRIS, Sarene arrives to discover her fiancé is dead and gone. In WARBREAKER, however, I wanted to show what happened if the bride didn’t get to dodge this uncomfortable situation, but actually had to marry the man she’d been promised to.)
And so, we are introduced to four characters in this book. Lightsong is a God of the Hallandren people—a regular man who died in a heroic way, and was therefore brought back to life by the magic to rule as a god. (Or, at least, that’s how the Hallandren people interpret it.) We have Siri, a rebellious daughter sent by her father to marry the tyrant god-king of those same Hallandren people. We have Vivenna, sister to Siri, who goes to try to rescue her sibling from her fate. And then, there’s Vasher—whose motivations and goals are his own. (You can read about him in the prologue.)
The magic is one I’ve wanted to put into a book for a long, long time and the setting—with its vibrant color and tropical climate—is very different from the worlds of MISTBORN or ELANTRIS. This is the book I wrote when I, myself, got engaged and married, and I think it had a great influence on how I interpret the world.
I hope you enjoy the book! Click this link Warbreaker Rights and Downloads to go to a page listing downloads and explaining the Creative Commons License I’m giving the book.