It's not often that I read fantasy fiction and even less often that I enjoy it enough to make a plug for it. So much fantasy fiction feels overdone and silly, a step away from RenFest or a Civil War reenactment. So little of it carries the weight of Tolkien or manages to be fantastic without becoming ridiculous. Robert Jordan's Eye of the World is a notable exception (although that series bogs down something fierce by book 3 or 4) as are the first four books in Stephen King's Dark Tower series (don't get me started on the silliness of King's deus ex machina in the last few) and Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind. Still, the exceptions are notable because they are few, and so I never pick up fantasy fiction without a strong recommendation from someone whose taste I trust.
That someone was my good friend Adam Sweeney and the book was George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. The story is strong, the characters are distinct, and the pacing is excellent (due, in large part, to the change in perspective from character to character in chapter to chapter). Martin has three or four stories going at once, but he never loses track of them or forgets why and how they are connected.
Martin has been accused by some fans of fantasy fiction as not being "much of a stylist", lacking "beautiful descriptions or choice turns of phrase." My guess is that the "style" these critics mean is that style I mentioned just two paragraphs ago. I enjoy Martin because his language is descriptive without being flowery, polished, but never purple.
A Game of Thrones isn't going to change your life or make you think more critically or possibly even feel more deeply. But it is a heck of a lot of fun. The tale is epic, the telling engrossing, and the teller efficient in his writing. If you need a break from McCarthy or Murakami, but still want to read something of quality, I'd highly recommend Martin.