If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is a Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros and its particular Seven Kingdoms are offering that you simply cannot get in some other medieval setting, save for seasons that last many the mysterious beings referred to as the 'Others' lurking under the great Wall within the north. Instead, Martin offers a different kind of fantasy, one that focuses more about the human being aspect from the story. Take away the dragons along with the magic and you will probably find that the gritty human nature remains, driving the primary plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel one to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, it has enough fantastical elements within the form of knights, dragons, kings and queens, princes and princesses, along with the whispers of magic working behind the scenes. It is War from the Roses in a fantasy world. For someone who enjoys reading both fantasy and historical fiction, Martin's masterpiece is a godsend.
I admit that close to 800 pages is a lot of eat, even for essentially the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is in producing words that supply enough information, but stops less than being tedious. While Martin is not going to win awards for beautiful prose, his writing keeps your reader engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more a writer who is able to keep my attention before the end instead of one who waxes lyrical.