Meaty, beaty, big, and bouncy! Plenty of the usual Martin juiciness in character, interactions, schemes, and events. Brutality and suffering are well in evidence, side by side with hope and sincerity.
Alas, I start to tire of the cliff-hanger formula for each chapter. I would like to follow each story line farther, with fewer interruptions. Is this device so necessary? It's typical of a modern TV dramatic series. More than five major story lines are juggled in the air, and there are some important new characters. But their coming together is still mostly anticipated.
A Dance with Dragons left me with more questions than answers. It's a giant "coming next season!" promotional trailer.
I listened to the previous books on audio book. They are read beautifully and powerfully by Roy Dotrice, with the exception of A Feast of Crows, which is very unpleasantly read by a different narrator, and should be avoided. As audio books, they are marvelously effective, although it can be challenging without the aid of maps and appendices of characters, to remember who is who. On the other hand, a superb narrator helps one get the feeling of each character, story line and situation. There is a richness of consciousness in the voice which helps one absorb the story. Roy Dotrice is phenomenal.