If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is the Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros and it is Seven Kingdoms have to offer that you cannot find in another medieval setting, save for seasons that last a few years the mysterious beings called the 'Others' lurking beneath the great Wall inside north. Instead, Martin offers a different kind of fantasy, the one which focuses more about the human aspect of the story. Take away the dragons and the magic and you will realize that the gritty man's instinct remains, driving the key 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 inside form of knights, dragons, kings and queens, princes and princesses, and 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 often a godsend.
I admit that all-around 800 pages is often a lot of eat, even for the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is producing words that offer enough information, but stops short of being tedious. While Martin will not win awards for beautiful prose, his writing keeps the reader engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more an author who are able to keep my attention before the end as opposed to individual who waxes lyrical.