If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is an Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros as well as Seven Kingdoms have to give you that you simply cannot find in any other medieval setting, save for seasons that last years and the mysterious beings called the 'Others' lurking underneath the great Wall inside the north. Instead, Martin provides a different kind of fantasy, one that focuses more on a persons aspect from the story. Take away the dragons as well as the magic and you will discover that the gritty man's instinct continues, driving the key plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel you to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, they have enough fantastical elements inside 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 from the Roses inside a 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 within producing words that provide 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 is able to keep my attention until the end rather than one that waxes lyrical.