I was given a proof copy of this book at work, I am the resident geek after all, and because free stuff is free stuff I started to read. I had very low expectations, apart from the Blade Itself (reviewed below) I've become increasingly discontent with fantasy novels. I expected this either to be the kind of generic fantasy in which the author ticks off a list of cliches - obscure hero, wise mentor, vestigial empire - or one of the new breed of 'oh look how cynical I am' anti-Tolkeins where the same cliches are ticked off only this time upside down.
Instead the world building was startlingly fresh and original and the characterisations had that quality that all good writing aspires to - they felt 'true'. Not realistic you understand since human beings are almost never realistic in real life but true.
I'm going to pay the author the greatest compliment I know - I'm going to buy the second volume with my own money.