I've had uneven success with Tepper's work, but all in all I liked this book. It's anthropologically-minded fantasy, and goes in directions one doesn't necessarily expect. For example, I'm not all that terribly interested in the the young-beautiful-archetype on a quest for truth and justice tale. Tepper starts the story in that vein, and then confounds it utterly and deftly, making pretty good commentary on the way about gender, religion, etc.
The thing I find remarkable about this book is her world-building. She sets up a society, a planet, two distinct kind of alien intelligences, without a bunch of muss and dialogue-y dumps of information. She sets you at sea in a world of strangeness, and doesn't keep interjecting her writerly reasons for this choice or that event. Sometimes SF can be about the ideas more than the characters or cultures, and while she definitely has an idea here she's exploring, it doesn't devolve into cardboard cutouts expounding philosophical positions.
Plus the weirdness! There are episodes in this tale that deal with ideas that could almost be given their own novels, sub-cultures within subcultures that are so real, even if they are completely alien. The minor players have been considered as richly as the major ones, and it gives a texture to the plot that is often rare. For example, there's a group of people known as the Jarb Mendicants, who use a drug, Jarb, that when smoked, makes you sane.
When our blondy-heroine runs in with them, you see her quest in an entirely different light.