This was a very fun, quick read!
Mark Lawrence employs a variety of devices to great effect (e.g. hierarchical categories of traits like speed and size, previous records for ninja obstacle courses, numeric “steps” along the Path increasing in power, classes of initiate, final boss character… all things that help the reader measure Nona’s progress very clearly).
The plot is a gathering one, heavy with repetition while hinting at bigger things to come; it kept me feverishly engaged. Some moves were telegraphed but the final result was never poorly executed.
In contrast with many of the other reviews, the ending fell a little flat for me. Nona’s training, while rigorous and easily measured, seems to have no ultimate effect on her character. [(SPOILER): Perhaps she will reach Serenity later in the series, and this is just farsighted setup for her overall arc (after all, we can’t have our magic child master her abilities by the end of book one). However, I found myself disappointed that Nona surmounts the mental obstacles keeping her from the Path not through growth but through stubborn rigidness, i.e. her innate and ever-present rage. Because she “unlocks” her talent with a key she has clearly always possessed and already internalized, her character and her epiphany seem static to me for the same reason the “magic” of Dorothy’s ruby slippers did. (END SPOILER)]
The world-building is fantastic, as in many of Lawrence’s other settings, and had me blabbering to my coworkers about focus moons and nuclear reactors, erm, I mean Shiphearts?
There are some really punchy lines in here as well. Can fantasy dialogue appear anachronistic if the world is merely a distant-Earth?
Overall, great fun! 4/5 stars!