I re-read this last month, for the first time in 15 years. The really strange thing is that I didn't remember anything at all about it from my first reading - not a single bell was rung all the way through. This is highly unusual for me - maybe I'm becoming senile To look on the bright side, it will save me money on new books, I'll just keep re-reading the old ones...
Anyway, I became decidedly irritated with this book during the first half, because I found it very difficult to get into. Several different story lines are set running, and the author throws in lots of beings, concepts and other names with no description or explanation as to what they are. I think it's a good idea to keep some sense of mystery-to-be-revealed-later in a book, but this one takes it to extremes. I had reached page 170 before I found a clear description and explanation for some of the key characters - the skroderiders - and the physical appearance of the heroine wasn't described until close to the end.
In fact, the characterisation was very patchy. The heroine - Johanna - never came alive for me, perhaps because of the belated description. OTOH the second character - Pham - seemed much more clearly drawn and convincing (despite not being entirely human). The pacing also varied. It was very slow at first, with lots of extraneous detail which I could have done without, and only got going about half way through. From then on it got a lot better, although the climax (with a ship being chased by a fleet, which was in turn being chased by another fleet, which was in turn being followed by another...) had an element of Keystone Cops farce about it.
Having said all of that, the concepts were powerful and imaginative and much of the latter part of the book was good, so overall it was worth reading. What I would definitely not do is recommend it to anyone who wasn't familiar with SF, because I fear it would put them off for life.