I think what turned me off most was the hype, because I was expecting awesome characters - all the reviews (that I'd read at the time) seemed to agree. And the characters, while flawed, weren't interesting, weren't alive in the imagination as any decent character should be. Fundamentally, it may be a conflict between what this story is - or at least, is starting to be - and the vehicle through which Martin is telling the story. That is, it's a political epic told through discrete viewpoints of characters who mostly don't have any ability to do anything. It's aggravating as hell, excuse my language.Too many of the characters where children who didn't sound like children, and frankly, Eddard was TSTL anyway, so I didn't really miss him. Spoilers? Also, nothing really started happening until about page 400. Sure, there was a lot of back story and some world-building in those pages, but mostly nothing that I, as a reasonably experienced reader, couldn't have done without.