Across the narrow seas to the East, the twins Viserys and Danerys, the last surviving son and daughter of the mad king, form an alliance with the Dothraki, a tribe of barbaric horse-mounted warriors, intending to wrest power from the usurper.
There you go. You don’t need to read it now.
George R. R. Martin’s enormous epic (this is the first of – so far – 5 books, with two more to come) makes Tolkein’s masterwork look a bit like “a long story with some elves in it”. Admittedly, Martin has eschewed elves (although he has given us dragons and zombies) but he has certainly engineered an enormous world with a breadth and depth to rival Middle-Earth. His canvas is painted with great richness and detail; broad sweeping grasslands, icy forests and chill tundra, arid desert and humid Mediterranean cities, all supported by an equally well engineered, Tolkeinesque historical back-story.
Indeed the plot and dramatis personae are breathtakingly hard to follow to begin with. Imagine “Dallas”, done with plate armour and more killing, and recounted from the point of view of some ten of the major characters and with big-picture events unfolding concurrently in maybe four or five different locations. Keeping track of what is going on and who is doing it can be a bit of a struggle and I dropped the book after the first few chapters, my poor head swimming. Happily I subsequently found that, having watched the HBO series, I was much better equipped to read the book, having a better feel for the plot structure and the identity and motives of the bewilderingly large cast. Watching and reading (or vice versa) may be considered a cheat by some and it does rather spoil the surprise, but if you struggle as I did, it is a highly recommended strategy.