This is the first book in the Game of Thrones series. Book 5 is scheduled to be released 12 July 2011. This is a long awaited book as it has been many years since book 4 was published. Fans of the series have been waiting not patiently. I have all 4 books published so far but I will try to drag out the reading of them in order to not have to wait so long to get book 5.
This book is set in a sort of medieval time but in a fictional world. This is a world where the seasons last for years. Summer has lasted seven years and the saying goes that a long summer brings an even longer winter. Winter is coming and with it comes a dark and cold world where sinister supernatural forces are amassing.
Meanwhile in the world of men, a deadly game of political chess is played. Children are betrothed to link families and gain power and property. Alliances are formed and broken for the benefit of the realm or the person, depending on the person. The seemingly central family, the Starks, come from the land of the north and are hard and unrelenting people bound by honor and the old religion. They must make their way through the political world of the south while protecting themselves and the realm against the forces of the north.
This book was very engaging and entertaining and it's a fast read even though the books are pretty hefty. This is a great fantasy series which is why HBO has picked it up and made it into a TV series. The HBO series seems to be sticking to the book (after 1 episode) with just a few changes. Most notable is that they have made the Stark children a few years older than they were in the book - probably for logistical reasons on finding kids who could actually pull off the intense rolls they needed to play. The one bummer is that the author ends up having to kill off a lot of characters in order to play out his massive game. I was really annoyed about one particular character's death but, really, I couldn't see any way around it in order for the story line to flow where it needs to go.
I highly recommend this book, and the series, just be patient for that 5th book. Book 4 was published in 2004 and the 5th has been a long time coming. According to the author's blog, "it's a monster."