I will tell you all the truth: I do not like fantasy. Truly. I don't know if I'm still scarred by the summer I forced my way through all of Tolkien, but I do know that the barest mention of elves or knights or fair maidens will send me scurrying away. In addition, I'm not a fan of political intrigue, nor of really long books that start really long series. So why did I try this one?
I don't like the feeling of dismissing an entire genre based on a few bad apples, so I was looking for some good fantasy. I knew about Game of Thrones from the tv show (which I haven't seen) so I clicked on the page. I read the first few reviews and noted a few others like me - not fans of fantasy - who had liked the book. I took it with me out of town and gave it a try (this may or may not have led to me reading at 3 am in a hotel bathroom so I wouldn't wake my husband... I'm not saying!)
Simply put, this is a great book. It isn't without flaws, but none of those flaws bothered me in the least while I was reading. I loved all the characters, even the ones who seemed unloveable at first(Sansa!) The female characters were well drawn - not just for a fantasy, but in general. Martin chooses to tell the story POV style, with each chapter a different character. I loved that because it allowed the characters to feel real.
The plotline is interesting - political intrigue with some light fantasy (there is magic and fantastic creatures, but they aren't the focus of the story, nor do they solve all the problems/cause all the wars.) The politics did not bore me, though I confess by the end I was forgetting who belonged to which house (there are too many names that begin with T!)
My favorite character, without a doubt, was the dwarf Tyrion. He was wonderfully grey (neither evil nor good) and his dialogue felt more real than any of the other characters (they were not bad, but occasionally trended towards the overly formal language often used in these novels.)
I'm looking forward to the next in the series - and I'm thinking of trying some other fantasy novels soon!