I know that right now there are hundreds if not thousands of reviews online for this book. It is one of the most highly anticipated books in fantasy for a very long time. Fans of the series have been waiting for years for it to come out, some so eager for it that they were sending death threats to the author because it wasn't completed yet. These people are not rational creatures, obviously, as that is counterproductive to their desires, but they are definitely fanatics.
I admit that when I first learned of the major reason for the delay of this book, I was a bit miffed. But the HBO show based on the Song of Fire and Ice series, "Game of Thrones" is so wonderfully produced, casted, and adapted that I have forgiven Martin for the delay in the release of this volume of the series. If you haven't read the series or watched the tv show, I highly recommend both. A warning, the tv show is definitely not family friendly viewing.
Martin took a unique approach with this book in the series. It and the previous volume, A Feast for Crows, were suppose to be a single volume, but they were split in two when the size of the tome became unwieldy. Instead of splitting the story strictly by chronological events, Martin split them along character lines. For example, in A Feast for Crows we see the events happening to Sansa Stark, while in A Dance with Dragons we follow Arya Stark's life. The first half of the book takes place at the same time as A Feast for Crows, at just over half way we pass beyond the last events in Feast and move forward in the time line.
As always, Martin's writing was gripping and the turn of events continually surprise. This volume reunited me with some of my favorite characters that I had missed in the last book, Tyrion and Arya for example. We see the head of the Manderly family in a completely new light, and see how the Frey's try to spin the "Red Wedding". I couldn't put the book down, and I would like to say that I loved it. However, I fell just short of loving it. The wonderful, and frustrating thing, about Martin is how he leaves you guessing and only answers a very few questions at a time. I've been waiting so long for this book that the ending left me awestruck and wanting more, yet I felt a lack of satisfaction at the same time. I think the biggest frustration is that I have no idea when the next volume will be out and I will have my answers. The next book is going to be the resolution of the storyline, maybe this is where my dissatisfaction originates. From knowing the answers are so close, yet so far away.
Happy reading all.