Very enjoyable epic fantasy. A meandering tale told under the premise of describing a talented man's early history, so the story alternates between scenes in the present with the his childhood and teenage years. The switching back and forth is well done, with enough time in each storylines that the sense of development isn't lost and character integrity is maintained. Scattered through the early stories are hints about shadowy evil beings called the Chandrain, which soon becomes a focus of young Kvothe's life. The present also has hints of growing chaos and evil. The flashback parts of Kvothe's life are divided roughly into three parts; growing up as part of traveling theater troupe, surviving in the streets of a city slum, and early years at the University. There isn't much of a driving plot beyond growing up and the beginnings of a revenge fantasy, but it remains enjoyable and engrossing.The good: With fabulous world building and engaging characters, this is epic fantasy on a good old-fashioned scale. However, the world is built largely told from the perspective of one person, which is a delight in the age of the multi-perspective story. I enjoyed the characters, enough detail and backstory on each, from Kvothe's apprentice Bast, to the smith's apprentice, to masters at the university. Such character building orients us without getting lost in detail or in caricature. The magic system is interesting, but we don't learn too much about it, except that it is both complicated, mysterious and draining. Yes, it's a thick book, but it didn't take long to finish because I was so interested, and curious in how the brilliant, talented Kvothe became an anonymous innkeeper hiding in his inn.The bad: young Kvothe is a little bit of a Mary Sue and is brilliant at whatever he turns his hand to--acting, learning and academics, lockpicking, lying, magic and artificing. Unsurprisingly in the male-dominated epic fantasy world, the females are less interesting. Part of Kvothe's early story focuses on a mysterious and fascinating woman, and he returns again and again to the frustration that she is free with her affections with wealthy men. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a fifteen-year old character; in that sense, both the idealization and the fixation on her sexuality are appropriate. Still, the idea that women are not quite equal runs through the story and the societies we come across.Overall, entirely worth reading, and will most likely re-read some day. I'll be looking for the rest of the series.I'll catch the next two for certain.