I don't think there are many books that explore characters' personalities as well as this one. The style is refreshing, with Kote telling the story of how he became a living legend. At first, to me, Kvothe seemed too perfect. He masters everything quickly, he's remarkably intelligent, with a smart-mouth and a bright future. However, that is Past Kvothe. We know his present day self, Kote, is quite different. So while Kvothe and his life at first seem perfect, fate soon manages to hit him with the misfortune stick. And boy, does he keep getting hit. He uses his intelligence and skill to survive, but we also see him get into a lot of hot water for his arrogance, temper and impulsiveness. He has to work for his good results, and often ends up with bad ones instead. The books explore in detail his philosophical musings, his desires (yes, that includes the tiresome mooning over his love interest), his fears, and knowledge - which I think are fascinating.
Kvothe isn't the only interesting one either. For all the hate Denna gets, she is a curious character. Her motivations, particularly the way she continuously leaves, make you wonder about her past and what exactly she is afraid of. Kvothe's friends and the Masters have interesting and diverse personalities (you aren't likely to confuse Fela, Devi and Auri's scenes). And some of them really, *really* stand out, like Elodin, who must own at least 50% of the most amusing scenes/dialogues in the book. At the same time, he doesn't feel overblown, it again makes you wonder how he ended up that way.
While the book doesn't go into great detail into world building as we know it (politics, wars, nature, etc), it creates a rich culture, full of interesting quirks that are often rooted in history. The stories within a story are also very engaging. And the magic system feels unqiue, whilst having a strange scientific quality to it, which is interesting in a genre where most authors go for more 'classic' magic systems. Reminds me a little of Mistborn
's magic system in that sense. The different parts that make up the magic are also interesting, and it's nice to have a truly academic character as the lead in a book for a change.
Over all: a wonderful, absorbing book, and perfect for anyone who thinks character development is the linchpin of a good story.