Lisa already gave a pretty thorough review of this book, so I'll skip any summarizing and go straight to a discussion of its merits.
It's been a long time since I got this thoroughly drawn into a fantasy novel. The writing is fluid and beautiful, the characters distinct and interesting (with a couple of exceptions), the events exciting, and the world different enough from other fantasy domains to not be boring. I really, really didn't want this book to end, a wonderful and rare feeling.
A couple of minor faults cropped up. He reused a couple of phrases word-for-word within a page of each other a couple times, which jars me out of the narrative in an unfortunate way. Slightly sad, but more a fault of the editor than the writer. Neither the story nor the story-within-the-story have any sort of even semi-conclusion at the end of this book, a fact that is usually annoying but actually didn't bother me. Part of that is almost certainly the fact that he's apparently already written the entire series and submitted it as a single book. Again, not his fault the publisher decided to break it up. There's also the super-competent main character...
ah fuck this. I could almost certainly come up with some other stuff to complain about, but it'd be deeply pointless. Let me cut to the chase: this is one of the best books of any genre I've read in years. It's a serious fantasy novel that surprises and delights, it has dark moments and sublime ones. The prose is amazing and engaging. If you like fantasy at all, you will love this book. Put aside the distrust for covers with "Book 1" on them (you earned that distrust... I understand. Try anyway). I wouldn't recommend starting this book until you've gotten caught up on your chores, done your shopping, and finished your current video game though... all nonessential tasks are likely to be postponed until you close the back cover.