Anyone else read this series (besides Arilou, who I know is a fan)? I really hope so, because it is, hands down, the best fantasy series being published today, and if it maintains its current brilliance, is a possible contender for best fantasy series of all time. Think of all those staples of fantasy: the destined hero, the princess who loves the peasant, the wise old magical mentor, powerful wizards, weak hordes of monstrous enemies, dark lords, foretold quests against impossible odds, good guys, bad guys. Okay, you have all that tolkein-esque D&D stuff in your head? Good. Throw it out the window. None of it applies to aSoIaF. Instead you just have people, the most varied, complex, well realized cast of characters assembled in a fantasy novel, ever. And they all have different things they want to accomplish, lands to conquer, battles to win, overarching schemes so complex they would make Shikamaru shit himself. And the story switches from character to character, varied points of view, so there is no "main character", just a bunch of points of view facing off against each other in bloody conflict. And what conflict! People die in this. Not in the Tolkein or Jordan type way, when main characters only ever die in moments of heroic sacrifice. Nope. "Good" guys, "bad" guys, all can die at any time, when you least expect it. And they stay dead. And because they're so brilliantly realized, you *care*. Nobody does political intrigue than George RR Martin, few do action this intense and realistic and exciting, no one does characterization or plotting like he does. Here are just a few of the characters in the story Tyrion Lannister - Stunted, ugly, twisted. Brilliant, priveledged. Such is the paradox of Tyrion Lannister. The youngest son of the ruthless, wealthy Noble House of Lannister, he is a dwarf. His misshapen appearance has earned him the scorn of the entire world save his brother Jaime, but his brilliant mind makes him too useful a tool to simply discard. Cynical, ruthless, distrustful, he has committed horrible crimes, but he has managed to maintain a scrap of morality in the face of it all. Of course, in the politics of King's Landing, a scrap of morality is the best way to end up dead, and even Tyrion may not be brilliant enough to think his way out of myriad plots surrounding him. Jaime Lannister - Tyrion's older brother, twin brother and lover (yes, i*c*st) to Queen Cersei. The youngest kinsguard of all time, one of the most brilliant fighters in the world. Handsome, arrogant, reckless. A killer of children, a savior of maidens, he is every bit as paradoxical and complex as his brother. Arya Stark - Youngest daughter of House Stark, she rejects the noble way for young girls of embroidery and pretty dresses and balls, instead preferring swordplay which she studies under the swordmaster Syrio Forel. She is thrust into the harsh realities of the world, and the slow transformation from good natured tomboy into cold-blooded killer begs the question: When its all over, will there be anything recognizably human about Arya? Sandor Clegane - the Hound of House Lannister. A towering, powerful warrior. A cynical killer who lives by the creed "only the strong survive", filled with self-loathing, failed morality and a lust for the next drink, he lives for one purpose: to kill his brother Gregor, who held his face in the fire when he was only 6 years old because he used one of his toys. But killing Gregor will be no easy task, as the 8 ft. tall Gregor is among the most feared men in Westeros. Daenarys Targaryen - Mother of Dragons, the lone surviving daughter of the former kings of Westeros, House Targaryen, she wanders plains with the nomadic, barbarian Dothraki, seeking to reclaim her throne. These are just a sampling, and in no way can I do them justice. Just trust me, if you like fantasy at all, you need to read this.