Having got the book when it was brand newI wasn't sure what to expect. I found the book confusing in the beginning as there were so many characters to keep track of; never mind the ever changing locations.
I don't like having to persevere with a story but I did try to "stick with it" and found that finally the characters resolved themselves. The author had created individuals so distinct that they were no longer clashing into eachother.
This first part of the trilogy is weighty but when I'd finished it I wished I had the next part to dive into. He covers many themes here but having looked the author up I can say the difference in writing this fantasy (unlike his sci-fi novels) was that there is not a defined Good side versus Evil (which the plots of his sci-fi novels seem to be geared towards)
There is not one bad guy trying to destroy the world, instead it's a whole lot of people, some loveable some detestable each refusing to be tolerant of another nation. The first book starts with two nations warring but towards the end they have discovered the existence of other nations in their world and the race is on to build alliances.
If you don't like heavy books and can find heavily descriptive narrative a bore my tip would be to try this out as an audiobook. After I read this my friend downloaded it on audio and I've recently listened to it and recommend that over the book. It will also be handy for me to listen to the audio before the second book comes out...rather than try and read bits of this one as a refresher. I think the audio is approximately 21hours unabridged.