I confess, I started the book because of the hype. I also wanted to read a big fantasy series. It also helped that I could get all five books at a discount.
The fact that it's the first part of a series can be felt from the very beginning. The pace is often agonizingly slow. However, every little detail feels important, so even I, who tends to skip a few paragraphs, read every word. The way the story is told is very interesting as well, as it's third person limited. It would limit the scope a lot, if it wasn't told through the eyes of several people. It also shows a lot of planning as the author would have had to pick the main characters well ahead.
The characters are very interesting. They are all grand personalities, not a dull person around. They are, however, not alike. They are different. You may not like them all. They are also not on the same side, which makes things even more interesting. I personally didn't like Sansa, but in the end I could still feel sorry for her. I felt the closest to Dany, as she grew into a fierce woman by the end of the book. I don't want to say more about the characters though, as I don't want to have to put up a spoiler alert. Let me just say that one shouldn't get too attached to anyone.
I wavered between four and five stars, but I ended up with five. It may not be completely perfect, but I found myself reaching for the next part as soon as I closed this one. That to me is a book of five stars.