If you are expecting a hardcore fantasy epic, there is the Game of Thrones book sadly lacking. There is nothing Westeros as well as Seven Kingdoms have to give which you cannot find in some other medieval setting, save for seasons that last a few years the mysterious beings known as the 'Others' lurking within the great Wall within the north. Instead, Martin comes with a different kind of fantasy, one that focuses more about the human being aspect in the story. Take away the dragons along with the magic and you'll see that the gritty human nature remains, driving the key plot of political intrigue, conflicts, and ambition that compel one to commit acts of murder, rape, or worse.
Still, they have enough fantastical elements within the form of knights, dragons, kings and queens, princes and princesses, along with the whispers of magic working behind the scenes. It is War in 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 eat, even for probably the most avid of readers. Thankfully, Martin's talent is in producing words offering enough information, but stops in short supply of being tedious. While Martin won't win awards for beautiful prose, his writing keeps people engaged. The book never feels dragging and I appreciate more a writer that can keep my attention prior to the end instead of person who waxes lyrical.