Well I've now gotten through the second book and I am glad I got to this series late. I've got four more books to go, til I can bitch about the author not getting the next one out. I know I'm probably going to cause so far books one and two end on incredible cliffhangers. So I'm pretty sure that 4 books from now I'm going to be like, "I NEED the next book Mr. Martin... NOW!!!"
Until then, I'm enjoying the series immensely. I know some folks consider them something of a downer. I don't see it like that. You can't have an immense story of war across nations without loss and drama, so what were you expecting folks? Glittery vampire boys with pixie sticks? No thank you, I appreciate that Martin keeps the warfare well grounded in blood and mud that was the historical truth and would be just as true here.
For those who haven't read the books I won't go into great detail. Just that it begins with six different self styled kings making claims on the lands once ruled by King Robert. Things get even more stressed as a bright red comet fills the sky and magic seems to be coming back into the land. All our old players are trying to stay alive and get some advantage over the others, while new players add more plots, intrigues and armies to the mix. The characters I like like the Imp just get more awesome and the ones I find annoying don't get any more annoying.
One thing I like about the second book is that after all the place setting of the first, it now has the time to get a little more into the culture. We are given a little more information, for example, on the different religions of the area. The one I found interesting was the Drowned God of the Iron Islands. A fairly dour religion based on the axiom of "What is dead cannot die." Doesn't sound like the faith of happy campers to be sure.
We get some truly epic battles here. We get some incredibly creepy magic. We also get more dire wolves! Yes dire wolves, suck it unicorns. I want a pony sized wolf. What can I say, I'm a man of simple tastes and I'll definitely be reading all the books in this series.