** spoiler alert **
I've never been particularly successful at reading through an entire series (i.e. Lord of the Rings); my attention span isn't usually long enough. Upon finishing the second installment in the Ice and Fire series, I can say that this series requires commitment like a seriously long-term relationship. As with such a relationship, you lose sleep and neglect other relationships while involved in this one. It's going to be a long haul as there are seven books planned, each being nearly 1000 pages.
Since I haven't followed through on reading lengthy series such as this, I'm not used to books that further development and action but don't see the end of it. Several things are hanging at the end of this book - like one epic cliff hanger (picture the Wall).
Winter is still coming. We just witnessed all the kings in Westeros do bloody battle for the Iron Throne resulting in several power shifts. Daenerys Targaryen continued to journey through far-off lands seeking to come back and conquer with her dragons. There's more activity north of the Wall, and obviously much more to come. The power shifts make up most of the action in the book, however we don't see how everything pans out afterwards. I'm guessing that's where we'll go in the next book.
In terms of rating this book - I think it's important to note that the author is a complete genius for creating and giving shape to an entire world - without a doubt. Taking this book on its own, for me the plot, the character development, the depth of political intrigue, and the fantastic, magical elements made this a very memorable and visual read, but I could not help feeling like the book abruptly ended as the battles ended. I felt like it cut-off because it had too or else it would go on and on for thousands more pages. This may be the case. I guess I just wish it had ended a bit differently for it to get five stars.