George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has gotten quite a bit of attention, first as a series of fantasy novels and later as the basis of the HBO television series A Game of Thrones.
ASoIaF, like Robert Jordan's A Wheel of Time before it, starts off strong, but soon starts spreading its plot too thin across too many characters in too many locales. The death of a main character in the first book will likely surprise most readers, but character deaths in later books, for me, start to feel tired and stale. By the end of the fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, I had decided not to read The Winds of Winter when it is published.
It took reading a short story Martin wrote in 1979, The Way of the Cross and Dragon, to pinpoint why reading Martin's work was emotionally exhausting. In short, Martin's nihilistic views made it impossible for me, as a Christian, to enjoy his work.
Contrast ASoIaF with The Lord of the Rings, and the way each author's worldview permeates the story is remarkable. ASoIaF seems to lay claim to "gritty realism," injecting gore and sex scenes to set itself apart from classic fantasy writing. LotR, on the other hand, remains true in tone to its source materials, all the while pointing back to Tolkien's faith.
Side note: Many have pointed out that LotR is not an allegory. I have said it many times and it bears repeating: Allegory is not the only way to incorporate Christian truths in a story. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won't list specifics, but several characters and the overarching plot point to truths found in the Bible, even if Tolkien's methods were more subtle than C.S. Lewis' approach in writing The Chronicles of Narnia.
Put another way: There is hope even when all seems lost in LotR. In ASoIaF, all simply seems lost. In LotR, right and wrong are clear. In ASoIaF, right and wrong are relative.
I've jokingly referred to ASoIaF as The Old Man and the Sea of modern fantasy. And I've been known to summarize The Old Man and the Sea as 130 pages of Hemingway repeating, over and over again, "Life stinks." Both Hemingway's and Martin's stories suffer from the same nihilism.
Martin's short story The Way of Cross and Dragon highlights his own disdain of religion in general and Catholicism and Christianity specifically in a way that may not be apparent until later books in the ASoIaF series. The short story paints the church as a large but ultimately hollow organization, drive by men instead of by God. Of course non-Christians would agree with such a view, but those who have accepted God's undeserved grace understand our faith is anything but blind.
If Christians are considering reading A Game of Thrones to see what the hype is about, may I suggest reading The Way of Cross and Dragon first to get a feel for Martin's worldview? The short story occupies 21 pages in The Fourth Omni Book of Science Fiction, is also available online, and takes considerably less time to read than the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire.
If you still decide to read A Game of Thrones, I'll give the same advice as I gave people regarding A Wheel of Time: Read the first 3 books in the series and stop. The story starts to drone on after that.
And for those of you who read and enjoy ASoIaF, please understand my purpose is to inform Christians prior to investing time and money in reading a series spanning thousands of pages that is based on a worldview that is contrary, sometimes aggressively, to their faith.