I admit that Tolkien does tend to go overboard with his narrative, especially near the end where you think everything is settled but Surprise! 200 more pages to go but it all has a point. He basically created a world from zero, with kingdoms, races, cities, gods, an entire mythology, history and language. I'd say that you really do need descriptions and long narratives to unfold these to the reader. GRRM's universe pales by comparison so I do not see the need for his narrative.
Do you mean GRRM's universe pales in comparison in terms of the scale of the world, or the writing, or the background (or something else)?
I guess it boils down to what you look for in a fantasy series.
Also, the actual usefulness of his descriptions is not that big. Certain characters do not move around much so filling the pages with useless details around their surroundings and actions is just a waste.
By move around, do you mean moving around physically? Certainly I agree that many characters stay in the same locations over several chapters, if not several books, and some people have become frustrated with
but I wouldn't say this is a big issue. Much of the battle goes on in the characters heads, and that's where the story really develops. A plot line isn't necessarily continued through the wars (although it has been at times), but within the dialogues between the characters and the ongoing schemes behind peoples backs. The story is much more than a couple of wars and battles upon a field - it is a story about the wars between generations and their families, the rich and the poor. It goes far, far deeper.
Immersion is needed in every fiction book but it tells a lot about the author's value if he manages to do it in 200 pages or 2000.
Finally something we can agree on..
As to your last paragraph, this is where I am in opposite thinking. The point of fantasy is to be as far away as possible from real life. That's why the author makes a new world in the first place. The moment you place ordinary things in your fantasy book, that books stops being part of the genre. Now of course you could take inspiration from real life, or put out a message from the real world through the fantasy idea, I mean Tolkien did exactly that with LOTR, and you can see this in many examples, like... the Japanese version of Godzilla but the complexity of human life can be put forth in many other ways, mediums and genres and I don't feel the need to see them explained in my *go away real world* novel.
.. and another thing that we don't.
I agree that one of the big attractions of Fantasy is the escapism that it offers. However, I would argue that integrating new worlds with the world of the reader is where Fantasy books become successful. This doesn't necessarily have to be the real world that we live and breathe and call Earth, but the worlds inside our minds.
Let me give you an example. The Harry Potter series used to be one of my all-time favourite series as a child. This was in part because of the imagination that it offered to my teenage mind. But it was also because when I started reading the books I was the same age as Harry. I grew up with him and his friends. Yes, it was about wishing you had been invited to Hogwarts and that you could buy Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, but it was also about things like having too much homework to do after class, having that one teacher who seemed to hate you, having arguments with your friends, developing a crush and then being embarrassed by it. It was these little connections with my own, internal world that not only made the Hogwarts real to me, but also gave me hope and comfort.
I think if a Fantasy series is completely disconnected from reality, then it would be un-relatable to the reader, and for me, it would feel like a pointless read.
People often seem fixed on the idea that in fantasy (and in most movies and books where there is a conflict) everything is black and white and most of them come with the argument that GRRM paints a grey/dark world but the same can be said about many many other books, from LOTR, to Paradise Lost or even To Kill a Mockingbird.
Out of interest, where do you find the grey areas in LOTR?