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 are offering which you cannot find in every other medieval setting, save for seasons that last years and the mysterious beings referred to as the 'Others' lurking within the great Wall inside the north. Instead, Martin comes with a different kind of fantasy, one which focuses more on the human aspect with the story. Take away the dragons as well as the magic and you will probably see that the gritty human instinct remains, driving the key plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel one to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, it's 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 with 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 near 800 pages is a lot of ingest, even for the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is at 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 the various readers engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more an author who are able to keep my attention prior to the end instead of one who waxes lyrical.