Most of this book gets three stars from me, but the ending gets a solid five.
I found the magic system creative and fascinating. Essentially, each normal person is born with a single Breath, which is like a life force, that be given away at will. With many Breaths, a person can invest Breaths into inanimate objects to give those objects a usually-temporary life guided by given commands. Transferring Breath requires drawing some sort of power out of colors in the world. Thus, magic requires a command, color, and Breath. I would have liked the author to explain WHY the magic system works, i.e., how color and Breath are intrinsically related to each other so as to awaken otherwise inanimate objects. But despite this omission, I was easily able to suspend disbelief and see the beauty and creativity of the magic system.
The perspective of the book switched between that of four different characters, Siri, Vivenna, Vasher, and Lightsong. I connected with Siri immediately, and I always wanted to know what would happen to her next. Vasher was immediately interesting, but his character's motivations were not explained until the end of the book. As a result, I did not really connect with him. I wish that the author had given me more hints as to Vasher's motivations. He was too much of a mystery, to such a degree that it was difficult to relate to him. Lightsong was entertaining from the beginning, but his purpose in the book (understandably) was not revealed until the end. So as with Vasher, it was difficult for me to connect with Lightsong and to care about his goings-on, however amusing those goings-on were. Vivenna was just boring for most of the book. I understood her from the beginning, and I found it pretty easy to predict how her character would develop throughout the book. She never surprised me, and, were it not for her interactions with Vasher, I might have preferred to see her perspective eliminated from the book altogether.
At the end of the book, I understood the usage of the shifting-perspective, but throughout the book, I just wanted to read more about Siri. I found myself repeatedly flipping forward to determine when I would see Siri again. At many times, it was a chore to wade through the other characters' stories to get back to Siri. Thankfully, Vasher and Lightsong were entertaining enough to make the waiting somewhat enjoyable, even though I was not truly invested in their stories.
The bulk of the book dragged for me occasionally, as I waited to return to Siri's story. It was clear that the four main characters were involved in the same issues, and I assumed that they would all affect one another directly eventually. In the end, the story and characters came together beautifully. To avoid spoilers, I will not discuss the details of the ending in this review (and if I did, I likely wouldn't do it justice), but it was certainly worth the wait. The ending was truly masterful.