The complaints against the series--that there's too many characters, that Martin has lost control of his work, that it doesn't know where it is going anymore--are here. It takes around nine hundred pages to reach a series of climaxes and all of those are cliffhangers. After such a long book, I reckon you got a right to feel a bit ripped off when that happens, but your mileage may vary. I wasn't too bothered by it, myself. Also, if the books weren't total soap opera before, they are now (but lets be honest, they were before). Still, I enjoyed it enough: it's nice trash reading, something to sit round with for a bit of fun, kind of like watching b-grade martial art flicks and bad horror. Switch your mind off, flow with it, and then later just move on to something a little more intellectually stimulating.
I don't want it to sound like I'm hassling the book for being that, because I'm not. There should be a variety of books out there. Novels that make you think, novels that are difficult and require work, novels that are comforting, and novels that are just trashy fun. I sometimes think that we're all trying to make our pleasures out to be important literature to justify the time we spend with it, but really, they're just a pleasure, and pleasure is why you spend your time with something. That pleasure can be found in a variety of forms isn't something to be concerned with, but rather celebrated.
Anyhow, I did enjoy it. I especially enjoyed how Martin structured his chapters. It is something that he has done fairly well throughout the series (at least to my mind--I read those other books something like five, six years ago, and the memory might not be so good), but it works well in A Dance With Dragons. Each chapter has a very complete sense to it, in many ways mirroring the structure of a short story, often using an emotional point as the starting point of the character, and working towards the resolution of that within the chapter. In almost complete opposition to the novel as a whole, the chapters have a neatness to them, a sense of completeness, which offsets the fact that plots rise and fall without resolution as Martin seems fit. It was actually fairly pleasing to read the individual chapters to just see how Martin constructed them and allowed them to follow each other. It made me wonder, in some places, if Martin doesn't just write a certain arc out completely first--seven chapters for Jon, for example, two for Bran, five for Davos--and then once he has the ten or so characters that he plans to use in the novel done, he begins to rearrange the chapters, breaking it up, and structuring the novel as a whole then. It'd be an interesting way to write it, I think, though I am sure that it would cause a certain amount of problems when you were coming to the climax.
Ah well. In a couple of years, there'll be another book, and I'll read it, enjoy the opera, then move on.