The seven kingdoms, united under one ruler, have lived a life of peace and comfort since King Robert took the throne. But nothing is ever as it seems. Within the king's court there is murder and treason, with no one aware of what is really going on. Across the seas, the last remnants of the previous royal family gather forces to reclaim their throne. To the north, the unthinkable gathers, the creatures of myth and legend that have been forgotten.
The first book in the series centers around the Stark family, the lords of the northernmost part of the kingdom, and the last Targaryens. The Starks, close friends of King Robert, are quickly drawn into the turmoil at court without realizing it. The Stark children are fascinating. I find it difficult to pick a favorite of the four (five if you count Lord Stark's bastard).
The last of the Targaryens plot revenge and invasion from across the seas to reclaim their throne. Daenarys Targaryen is one of my absolute favorite characters of all time. The Princess is soft and delicate, yet hard and proud when the situation calls for it.
I find it very difficult to describe the story without giving too much away about the characters and the plot. I admire Martin's honest writing. He does not flinch from including practices that were very common in real life medieval kingdoms: murder, execution, brothels, arranged marriages, and abuse. The way he weaves it into the story only enhances the sense of realism. Now, I don't want to scare anyone away. While the times were brutal, Martin is not overly graphic in a way some writers can be. It's there for a reason, not for only for shock effect.
The kingdom sits on the brink...on the brink of war, destruction, and invasion. But no one realizes it yet. The noble families of the kingdom are about to be plunged into a web of lies and intrigue. Even the most honorable among them will find themselves doubting those they trusted the most and doing things would have never considered in the past. The peace has lasted too long and people are growing soft, but as they say, "Winter is coming." And this one promises to be long.