Perhaps there have been times when your breath was literally taken away by some gorgeous display of prismatic colors stretched far across the landscape. Perhaps the human mind is hard-wired to react in this way, for strong colors of many hues are a prime indicator of life in all of its many forms.
Sanderson has taken this basic reaction and created an entire system of magic based upon it, which if nothing else is quite original. Then he has layered this idea with two fully delineated societies that have sharply different ways of incorporating this magic system into their religion, culture, and laws. Here and there, he tosses in a dollop of humorous satire, making the whole a little more believable. Most noteworthy is his reluctant 'god' Lightsong, who is perhaps the most interesting character, in some ways similar to some of Roger Zelazny's cynical heroes. His other characters are well drawn and quite believable, and the general situation of two warring city-states is given good plausibility.
All good things. However, I found the prose a little lacking in flavor, the descriptions a little flat and not as detailed as the book's basic premise seems to demand. The plot twists were suitably complicated, but at the end I felt a little let down, as the answers to all the problems seemed a little too straightforward and easily accomplished. These are, perhaps, nitpicks to a rarity in today's fantasy world, that of a complete story in a single volume, and I did find it quite an enjoyable read, but neither was I totally grabbed by it, nor did I come away with new great insights into the human condition or the proper roles and impacts of religion, mores, and cultural attitudes on the individual and societies. And these thematic ideas lie at the heart of what this story is about.
Eminently readable, different, and enjoyable, but not great.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)