What can I truly say? This book is about 20 years old and obviously it was exciting enough to make in into the HBO show. For a long time I resisted reading because I’d heard there were a lot of departures from the show (like characters getting combined) and I didn’t want to get confused. I also didn’t want to start until all seven books were done. At his current rate, the series may not end before GRRM does.
Well, I’ve read the first one now and I think that if you really like the TV show, you owe it to yourself to read the book if you haven’t yet. While the TV show is one of the most faithful adaptations I’ve ever seen (nearly every bit of witty dialogue is lifted word for word from the book), it is the raw emotion that comes through the in the written word. Because it’s written as a Point of View book, you get to understand what each of the characters is thinking. Through the most harrowing parts of the story it is way more intense than any of the great acting in the show can convey. Examples include the battle that leads to Jaime’s capture in which you’re in Catelyn’s point of view and she can’t really see the battle just hear it and see little glimmers here and there. And you can see how hard it was for her not to know if Rob would live or die.
Other reasons for reading the book:
1) If you like lore – if you read The Simarillion and all the extra Lord of the Rings books, then you’ll like this book as it fills in tons of backstory that isn’t in the TV show. Some of it even explains why things are the way they are in the “present” of the show/book
2) The book is WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY ***LESS*** rapey than the TV show. It’s still a bleak place that makes you wish you were born a man rather than a woman, but nearly all the sex is consensual and, maybe unsurprisingly, there’s a lot less in the book anyway. The book’s still not for prudes, in some ways it’s more explicit as, for example, Dany’s chapter talks about how she feels to be turned on, etc. But for the most part I find it much easier to stomach in the book.