This book was the most painful book I ever read. If I cared an ounce for any character something horrible would befall them. There were some truly hateful bastards in this, the first in an unending series by Martin. I think the writing was top-of-the-line, the sense of place was spot on, pacing never let up in the best way, and characterization was completely on point. I'm glad I read it but I will NEVER read the rest of the series. It was just too much for me. I can't believe I'm going to say this but I'll watch the TV series.