This is a re-read for me. Five years between books is too long for my poor memory so if I wanted to read the rest I had to read the first one again. This was in no way a chore. It's been a long time since I got lost in a good fantasy story and it didn't matter that I had read it before. It was nice to remember events as I read them and there were plenty of surprises in there too (yes, my memory is that bad).
I think when I read it the first time round I enjoyed it for all the fantasy aspects. It had magic, dragons, strange legends and unexplained events and of course good battles. This time round I was looking at it from a different point of view. I read it for the political aspects which I always enjoy in a book. The Royal intrigue and of course the in depth characters. What's interesting is that although we have the good guys and the bad guys there is more to them than that. Tyrion Lannister is a good example. His family is trying to usurp the crown and being part of that family (despite being an outsider too) he fights on their side and sees the Starks as his enemies. He isn't a bad man though nor is he evil. He is a good man who has had a rough life and just wants acceptance from his family. There are many similar cases and even within the side of the good there are unsavoury characters.
I also like the historical aspect. King Robert very much reminded me of Henry VIII although I am sure that's not who he is based on. He is selfish, egotistical, has an eye for pretty girls and cares only for pleasure and glory. However, the book is actually based on events from before Henry's reign. It was based on the War of the Roses which lead to Henry's father taking the throne. My knowledge of that time is a little vague. I only know it briefly from a few history books I've read from Henry VIII time. It was certainly interesting and well done. I love the integration of history into fantasy. I think that for this reason someone who enjoys historical fiction might like this.
It is a large book but I always like them like this. The kind that sucks you in and you get lost in. Before you know it you have read those 800 pages and find yourself looking for more. Thankfully the others in the series are almost as large. I definitely can't wait to read the next one.