I wanted to like this book, but it just did not work (for me).
Although the writing is thorough and descriptive, most of the problems I have with this book come down to its third person (sort of) limited narration. Most of the time, details enhance the story and help build the world, but sometimes they're repetitive and yet you still don't get to know much about the world the story is set in. The latter applies to this story. There are a few scenes where magic played an important role like the Honey Cat's capture or Paks' mysterious pendant, but you don't find out how magic system(s) work, not because it can't be explained, but because the main character doesn't know herself.
Another thing that kept me from getting into this story was the characters and how interchangeable they were. They had no personality or personal traits to separate one character from another. Paks, as a main character, as a lowly soldier in the ranks, doesn't know much of anything, let alone important things, like magic. So the reader just has to accept these things, without explanation, as they happen. But I suppose that's the whole point since Elizabeth Moon wanted to write a story from the POV of a soldier.
If it weren't for all the violence and gore that she has to experience, Paks would fit the Mary Sue mold very well. Things just happen to her and she reacts to them, in an appropriate manner or whatever that's appropriate for the situation. A supernatural force just happens to take a liking to her and saves her from death multiple times. NBD.
I know all of these issues can easily be resolved by my reading the rest of the trilogy since Elizabeth Moon wrote the series as one book. And I'll get around to it... eventually.