Let me say that although I have read the novels, I did it after watching the first season completely. I watch it again in order to get a fairer scope on how to review the show. Naturally it's hard for TV shows and movies to convert a book into screen format, for half what makes a book so great are narratives that are spoken in the characters' minds. Game of Thrones is rich in literature and metaphors that it seemed impossible to bring it to the screen without losing out on what makes it such a fantastic novel. While a good chunk of what chapters this episode covered were indeed lost, the slight changes the executives made made it easier to absorb the world and the story; the metaphors in language are lost, but they are replaced with visuals to compensate.
And although I speak as a fan of the novels, my first round watching the show and the first episode when I did not know the world of Game of Thrones prior, although there were some things that I failed to grasp, the story and pacing made it easy to understand the gist of the events. What was necessary to know was that an important person of high ranking was murdered, Ned Stark would be his replacement, and his youngest son saw something he shouldn't have seen. The matters with Daenerys Targeryan and her brother, as well as it was acted out, and Jon Snow's desire to take the Black, would fly over the heads of newcomers, but pertaining to the main events of the episode, they are scenes that you can sleep on not fully understanding their significance.
The pacing is excellent, the actors wisely selected to fill out the cast, and it leaves on an exciting cliffhanger; a score of 9.5 is only fair for an excellent introduction to a fantasy novel series most believe is Lord of the Rings' superior.