Well, not too surprisingly the book varies in some of its details from the HBO miniseries, but is every bit as bloody and violent and filled with treachery as the TV version, if not more so because Martin has more space and time to work with. I am pleased to find that the book leans more toward realistic medieval drama than boilerplate elf & dwarf crap; there is not much in the way of magic, and Martin has definitely done his homework when it comes to the dynamics of feudal politics, especially when it comes to dynastic ties of marriage and the consequences of having unstable, violent people in positions of power.
Martin is also very good at drawing everything in shades of gray. There are characters on the "good" side who are disappointing, disgusting, weak and whiny; there are, contrariwise, characters on the "bad" side who are sympathetic and decent. Well, okay, only one of those, really. By and large, the story plays out much like a historical novel of conflict within Christendom between the decadent East and the semi-barbaric West; there is even religious conflict, although it's not a major factor in the civil war that has erupted with the death of King Robert. Highly recommended.
Meanwhile, back in real life, the second half of June is going to be interesting since the unemployment insurance has stopped while I'm on this para assignment and the pay from the Alexandria Public Schools is delayed by two weeks. This means I'm not getting any income until the end of the month, at which time I'll get paid for the first nine days of the assignment. Whether I'll actually have my unemployment restarted by then is a good question. We'll see what happens.