And in my spare time I'm nearly done all 4 of them. From my understanding, there's a 5th book out right now and a 6th and 7th in the future. So if my impression of the series changes I might do another review then.
But for now, here's my thoughts on the first 4 books.
A smart person would have turned this into 4 blog posts with 4 book reviews.
The series takes place in a somewhat medieval era where most magic has died. Most of the story thus far takes place on the continent of Westeros which mostly consists of the Seven Kingdoms. Whoever sits on The Iron Throne rules all of the Seven Kingdoms. And this is which much of the conflict of the story pertains to. The Game of Thrones refers to the fight for said Iron Throne.
No seriously, you'd have to be completely blind to not see where most of the conflict and plot is coming from. What happens when you cram a bunch of people into a room and tell them only one person can rule over the others? The ambitious people start killing and backstabbing each other, the uninterested get dragged into the conflict anyways, and crazy people are going to be crazy.
Lots of this.
The Game of Thrones is unique in the way that the story is told, utilizing multiple protagonists. Each chapter is distinguished by a different character and is told from his or her point of view at that specific time in the story. You are given a look into their very thoughts, motivations and feelings of ongoing events. Each book has both old and new characters each time, mostly to replace dead people but we'll get to that later.
The first book mostly focuses on characters from the House of Stark, a family of people from the North who are dragged into the fight for the Iron Throne against their will. By the 4th book the number of characters we have is completely diverse and unique in terms of their role is in the Game of Thrones. Several which aren't even from Westeros but on 1 of the other 3 continents.
I am told that book 5 takes place at the exact same time as book 4 but told from the perspective of additional characters, but I wouldn't know. I haven't read that far yet.
As of writing, I haven't seen any copies in paperback in my area.
The writing is excellent, the characters are usually interesting and entertaining in their own ways. Myself, I find Tyrion and Jaime Lannister hilarious and I can't stand Eddard, Catelyn or Sansa Stark. The story continues to evolve and hint at things for future books which is nice. I don't like having random plot devices inserted into my stories that conveniently help one random person.
And yes, there is lots of sex but it's done almost tastefully. Well, it's the most tasteful I've ever read it. None of that over-the-top nonsense that you'd see in something trashy like Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes the book contains violence but it also isn't over excessive and overly gory.
The incest aspect wasn't that prominent either. I think people just like to blow things out of proportion. Same thing with dying characters. Yes, usually at least one main character will die in each book but most people generally will come out at alive.
But that's only because the series isn't done yet.
I haven't watched the TV series yet but my friend has and he complains a lot about the deviations from the book. That, and much of the events in the story are quickly glossed over. I'd recommend reading the books first before watching the show.
You know what, read the books regardless even if you have no intention of watching the show. It's a great series and I normally cannot stand the fantasy genre. Game of Thrones is the first exception I've made in years.
BONUS PICTURE FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE READ THE BOOKS: