At the risk of getting thoroughly stomped by series fans, this was the first book where I really felt "it was ok" is the best I can say of it. It's wildly scattered all over the landscape of the current story, both in term of physical location and in terms of characters. There are so many new characters, new armies, new leaders, new kings, new slaves, new queens, and new vicious psychopaths that it's impossible to keep track of everyone, even if I wanted to. I know fans will say that's what the list of characters is for, but my *personal* attitude is that I don't like flipping back and forth in the book every time I forget who someone was four chapters ago.
I feel as if the hole Martin got himself into when Danaerys chose to settle in one city rather than keep moving has expanded into a massive, unmanageable trap that it's going to be well-nigh impossible to write his way out of for any of the characters caught there. I feel the introduction of other contenders for her crown and the Iron Throne has pulled the story away from its central core and that most of this book could have been cut with no detriment to the main story at all. I feel the story's momentum has slowed to a complete crawl.
Please don't yell at me for not loving the book or for questioning the series. This is my opinion, and it's the opinion of someone who's read the first four books twice. I've waded through a lot of gore, viciousness, woman-bashing, flaying, and cannibalism to get this far without a peep. (And please don't tell me there was a lot of rape in the middle ages. If that reasoning's going to be used, may I point out there weren't zombies, dragons, or White Walkers in the middle ages.) I do wonder if Mr. Martin isn't gaming the plot out, which at least would explain why it's gone so meander-y. Maybe it'll tighten up in the next book. I hope so. If it doesn't, or I lose one more character that I've been hanging on for, I am outie.