Im currently halfway through the second book in the series. The first one was amazing, but really requires the reader to be constantly involved. Because of the amount of characters, if you put the book down for too long, you'll forget who and where you are reading about. The maps and the index of families certainly help, and occasionally you'll have to flip back to re-read a chapter as to make sure you have the characters consistent, but if you want a book series that you can get lost in, this is it. One thing I have liked about the series is that you as the reader are thrust into this world with little to no explanation of whats happening, who these people are, and what their culture is. As a small example,the only way to really start to learn what a "Maester" does is to keep reading. The same goes for the Dothraki. In many situations, you learn who they are based upon their actions or reactions to certain events. Another great thing about this book is the complexity of the characters. The second book really hits upon this fact, so if you feel like Eddard is sort of bland, just remember that there are a ton more characters with many more exciting events ahead of them. There is no clearly defined good and bad in this series which has the reader liking characters of opposing factions, leaving me to wonder who I should be cheering for at the end of the day. Its a wonderful read, and for the most part, I feel like every chapter is needed in the book. Definitely worth the buy if you are willing to invest the time and focus in the book series.