You know that crushing disappointment when you see a gorgeous cover, read an intriguing synopsis, then start a book and find it dreadfully boring and/or poorly written? Yeah, that didn't happen here.
Straight away, Johnson pulls the reader into an interesting world with compelling characters and a love of language (I love this so much). The writing is also excellent; this is not dense sci-fi that loves its world so much it describes every new thing and setting with a litany of paragraphs, awkward words, and a sense of self-worship. Instead, we are given enough information to understand the world around us, marvel at differences when necessary, and move on with the plot. As a reader, I am confident that the world-building will continue to grow along with the plot in balance. The author employs the show-don't-tell technique to excellent effect, so that the narrative isn't bogged down by annoying and boring sections of telling; instead, things are shown or hinted through events, character observations, and flashbacks. Perhaps I've had a string of unlucky reads lately which influence my enthusiasm here, but I can't stress enough how grateful I am to not have an abundance of telling and awkward dialogue.
Speaking of dialogue, I am loving the author's love and adaptation of language as a living, evolving thing. The logic and flow of the "learned" language of the Goddess has rhythm and structure that flows better than most novels attempting some form of adapted language--even ones that actually exist.
While the overall plot may seem to follow well-known devices, the writing and characters are compelling, and I am excited for the rest of this ride, anticipating everything the author has in store for us.