I really liked the story and want to give it more stars. But you can tell this is the author's first novel, which isn't a bad thing. It's a pretty amazing start to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful career. Places he could've improved on:
- The lack of descriptions; the author gets better at this with his other books, but for a lot of this story, details of the setting aren't described; the author will just state that the character walks into a room, but then doesn't give a feel for what the room looks like, what the atmosphere of the room is like, what the characters do in the room other than talk to each other (do they stand, pace, sit, stare out a window, scan the walls, stare fixedly at a rug, etc.)
- The lack of VARIED descriptions; we are told over and over that Sarene is tall and that she always felt like an outsider in part because of her height; one scene of "show" (possibly in flashback) would have accomplished this, or even just a mention near the beginning of how she can see over the heads of the other women
- More "tell" rather than "show"; I'm inclined to forgive the author for this one, because his magic systems are very "scientific" in that they are methodical, make sense, have set rules, and no one violates the rules in some grand deus ex machina way just to bring the plot to a satisfying ending; and as I know by personal experience, when you have more of a science background, you've ultimately been trained to state the facts without the colorful descriptive language; it's possible that in this novel, the author was beginning to back away from this habit (even though I know he's not got an actual scientific background) and more towards a literary background (which he does possess)
All in all, this is a solid first novel, and I can say that though it wasn't the first of his that I read (the fourth, I think) it definitely shows what Brandon Sanderson is capable of.