While I'd been aware of George Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" for many years, I never read the books. I loved "Lord of the Rings" but generally didn't like epic fantasy.
I watched the first year of the series anyway and absolutely loved it, aside from the violence. It was much more grounded in European history as a model than I'd expected. I read all the books in the fall of 2011, giving up quickly on the sea king stuff which was really boring (and I'm so glad HBO left that subplot out).
From the very first episode, I felt it was a lie that Jon Snow was Ned Stark's bastard. I always felt Jon Snow was Lyanna & Robert's child, particularly late in season one when we kept hearing "The seed is strong." Jon looks more like a child of Robert's than a child of Ned's with his very dark, unruly hair, though he behaved more like a Stark with his stubbornness and love of honor. I'm still kind of annoyed that he's part Targaryean as he looks nothing like any Targaryean we've seen up 'til now.
I generally enjoyed the first episode of season seven. The only thing that struck me as kind of odd was the relative quietness of King's Landing. I think there would have been a revolt by the people who were left after the explosion at the Sept. The scenes showing Sam's tribulations went way, way too long. Loved the quiet scenes with Arya and the soldiers [Ed Sheeran was fine in that scene, and, frankly, after everything Masie Williams has been through on camera the last few years, give the girl a chance to flirt a little will ya?] and the Brotherhhood and the Hound. Loved the rallying cry of Lady Mormont about training the girls for war.
I'm still not sure who will wind up on the Iron Throne, but I don't think Cersei will be able to hold it for long. Not sure whether Tyrion or Jamie will ultimately kill her, since it is fortold she will be killed by a younger brother.
Other comments on some of the characters:
Arya: doomed, probably this year. It's one thing to murder Walter Frey & even his two sons, but taking out a whole hall of them (about half of Cersei's body count from blowing up the Sept) is bound to make people angry. I think it'll come down to John's sense of honor requiring him to execute her. Arya was my favorite character, but she's too dangerous to stay alive. She has great abilities but still very little discipline.
Bran: will probably live until a battle involving dragons. I think he'll be able to control a dragon, and he might help to win a war against the White Walkers. It almost looks like the Westeros intra-kingdom warfare will be concurrent with the war against the White Walkers and we won't know who will wind up on the Iron Throne until next year.]