I've been reading this book since November, and have posted twice about it. I'm finally finished, and am sad to report that it never got any better. This morning I went to Amazon and read their collection of readers' reviews, and most people expressed the same opinions that I have: this book is a complete disappointment, a volume in dire need of an editor, written by an author so immersed in his fantasy world that he's lost touch with everything else (such as pacing, plot advancement, and the need for sympathetic characters). It meanders along, going nowhere, and is packed with filler. Some Amazon readers mention something called the "Robert Jordan effect" wherein an author develops a successful series (in Jordan's case, The Wheel of Time) and with each book adds so many characters and situations that the action slows down to a glacial pace. This has certainly happened to this book. It's filled with backstories and superfluous characters. The basic plot moves forward only in the tiniest increments. I hesitate to ascribe a motive to Martin (though some Amazon posters are quick to do so), yet I can't help but think he was just trying to squeeze another $20 out of everyone before he gave them what they were really waiting for, the next volume. I will read that, when it's released, but if he doesn't move the action forward in that one at a much faster rate, I will abandon the series in disgust.
You can read more about it here or at George R. R. Martin's web site.
(Book 3, 2006)
Here are my earlier posts about this book: