I don't know how I feel about this, so I'm going to divide my review into the good and the bad.The GoodAs previously, Martin's writing envelopes the reader in a richly textured world. His writing hints at (and more often than previously, elaborates on, which is not necessarily a good thing) the history, societal expectations, mythology, and politics that shape the characters and their story arcs. He still doesn't shy from killing characters, and his characters remain intriguing and relatable. With very few exceptions, those characters we actually spend time with are even sympathetic, no matter how evil they may appear to other characters in the world. Martin continues to switch the pov from character to character, in his signature style, which creates a beautifully textured and morally gray universe.The Bad I don't know if I'm the only one who thinks this, but Martin appears to be suffering a little from too much artistic freedom. Like George Lucas or Kevin Costner, Martin has become incredibly famous. So much so, I often feel as those he's not being properly edited anymore, or perhaps that his editors no longer have sway over him. I mean, his writing is still good . . . but Martin does have a tendency to repeat phrases often (words are wind; nipples on a breastplate), and he also has a tendency to go over and over and over previous scenes and situations. Perhaps this is intentional; meant to remind the reader (or himself) of where the story has been and where it's going. Often, it just seems superfluous. Yes, Mr. Martin, I know. Cersei slept with Jaime and had babies with him. We got it. You've mentioned it in pretty much every Jaime/ Cersei/ Tyrion chapter since book 2. It's old news.Certain scenes, such as when Tyrion Lannister spoke with Griff Jr. after being rescued from the river, felt awkward and unnecessary; the exposition was telling, not showing, and it felt shoved-in and stilted. It was odd. At the end, I felt oddly . . . disappointed. The first 2 books had been well-paced and plotted. The 3rd book had dragged occasionally, but not noticeably so. The 4th and 5th books were a slog during vast portions of them. I felt a bit like when I gave up on the Wheel of Time series, around Book 7 -- I'd felt from reading it that Mr. Jordan no longer loved his characters or the series; that it was a vast and massive chore for him, and his boredom seemed to bleed through the very pages. I'm getting a bit of that sense from Mr. Martin's writing now, a kind of combination of apathy and artistic license run amok. The biggest impression I had on putting down the 5th book was simply, "Two books were not necessary. He could have gotten the relevant plot across in one book and edited out a lot of the superfluous, overwritten scenes."I'm hoping the 6th book comes out in the next year or so. I somehow suspect if it comes out sooner rather than later, the writing will be back at the quality and pace of the first 3 books in the series. His writing is still great, and his descriptions and characterization is still fantastic. The pacing is just more ponderous and slow than previously -- and worse, it's often uneven.