It could be that reading over-800-page books on Kindle makes them more ingestible, but I enjoyed the start of this series more than Wise Man's Fear. Maybe I won't feel the same way about the second book...?
The prep work that Martin has done is obvious once you get past the first 200 pages. If I can't keep all the families and their allegiances straight, how is the author going to?? I imagine he created a bible, such as the Lost creators did, to keep all the relationships straight. Either that or a very intricate-looking wall (a la Flashforward). Martin knows he's writing an epic, and he knows his readers know, so he didn't feel hard pressed to explain every connection between people upfront. And well that he didn't. It's far more intriguing to be a little lost at the beginning and slowly begin to "get it"-- it makes you feel like part of a secret club.
What Martin does that Rothfuss does not is write plainly. I should put that the other way, really: what Rothfuss does that Martin does not is create beautiful descriptions of events as they occur. In Rothfuss' books, this is an absolute necessity. In Martin's book, it would simply get in the way. He cares far, far more about plot and the arc of the story and giving you an ending you can hang your hat on. He's also a master at cliffhangers and punches in the gut. Oof.
And that was a mighty ending. It perfectly positions the world he's created for the next round: what happens to Arya? does Sansa change her stripes? will Jon become the mensch we all see him becoming? will Bran fly? does Robb get to grow as a man or only as a lord? who in the bloody heck is Daenerys?? All these things and more I am sure will be answered in the next book. Or pushed along to the one after that...
P.S. I'm not watching the series on HBO. Not until I'm all done.