If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is an Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros and its particular Seven Kingdoms have to give you that you cannot discover in some other medieval setting, save for seasons that last years and the mysterious beings referred to as the 'Others' lurking underneath the great Wall in the north. Instead, Martin offers a different kind of fantasy, one that focuses more on a persons aspect in the story. Take away the dragons as well as the magic and you may see that the gritty human instinct continues, driving the principle plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel a person to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, it's enough fantastical elements in 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 in the Roses in a very fantasy world. For someone who enjoys reading both fantasy and historical fiction, Martin's masterpiece is often a godsend.
I admit that near to 800 pages is often a lot of consume, even for the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is producing words offering enough information, but stops short of being tedious. While Martin is not going to win awards for beautiful prose, his writing keeps people engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more a writer who can keep my attention before the end in lieu of individual who waxes lyrical.