If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is an Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros and it is Seven Kingdoms are offering that you cannot find in another medieval setting, save for seasons that last a number of the mysterious beings referred to as the 'Others' lurking beneath the great Wall within the north. Instead, Martin comes with a different kind of fantasy, one that focuses more about the human being aspect of the story. Take away the dragons as well as the magic and you may see that the gritty human nature continues, driving the primary plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel you to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, it's got enough fantastical elements within the form of knights, dragons, kings and queens, princes and princesses, as well as the whispers of magic working behind the scenes. It is War of the Roses in a very fantasy world. For someone who enjoys reading both fantasy and historical fiction, Martin's masterpiece is really a godsend.
I admit that all-around 800 pages is really a lot of take in, even for one of the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is at producing words that supply enough information, but stops short of being tedious. While Martin will not win awards for beautiful prose, his writing keeps the various readers engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more a writer that can keep my attention until the end rather than one who waxes lyrical.