I have posted my thoughts during the reading process in three parts, and they are located below this official review. It's quite hilarious coming back to them because in the first 500 pages or so, I was riveted and excited with the events that are in A Dance with Dragons, but then as I ventured on and reached the middle parts of the book, I was becoming increasingly frustrated and bored. But nevertheless, I soldiered on and the reward was satisfying enough. The last 100 pages have been great because just when I thought my attention span will slip once more, GRRM surprised me with the comeback punches.
For my further analyses of the events in the entire book itself, just view the comments on my Goodreads review page (but there are spoilers in them so proceed only if you have been reading the book yourself, or have already finished it).
A Song of Ice and Fire series has given me the most amazing reading experience ever in literature. It was challenging and multi-layered. The character-driven narratives with the major story arcs enrich each other that you always remain emotionally invested in the story as a whole. The ensemble of casts for every book is staggering not just in quantity but in quality. GRRM takes good measures in character developments, writing everyone with a lot of depth while enabling them to grow and change by making sure that each has his or her own quirks, insecurities and struggles. The most definitive aspect of ASoIaF for me remains the characters who are the heart and soul of his narrative. The structure and scope of his novels are gargantuan too, that you can't just be a passive or casual reader; you must be a part of the experience which is the best thing that GRRM has accomplished in this series. It allows readers to interact with the events, to care about the subtleties of politics and the personal journeys of his characters.
And that to me is the reason why if one has only encountered the HBO adaptation, I certainly must insist that they read the books too because there is so much more that GRRM offered in his literary material that the Game of Thrones show itself has only touched the surface and then condensed for viewing purposes.
That said, A Dance with Dragons failed where the previous books (even the almost tepid fourth book A Feast of Crows) have succeeded. The length of the book was not justifiable as oppose to the third book A Storm of Swords. I do agree with most fans who said that it should have been edited better. There is an anomaly in the balance of major character POVs and minor character POVs. I really would have preferred some minor POVs taken out and put in the fourth book instead. Although the beginning and the last portions of the book were rewarding, the middle part proved to be a challenge to get through because it contained mostly minor characters that only appear once and such POVs weren't action-oriented at all, and did not even give any important insight (and relevance) to the major events. I suppose GRRM included them as side instances just for additional background, but they that don't affect anything in the long-term so they were more or less read as updates or different angles that personally for me didn't matter because I can't bring myself to care for them.
Nevertheless, A Dance with Dragons was still a great book even with its obvious flaws in narrative scope compared to the previous books. I decided to objectively give it three stars because I still have to take into account the parts that I did not enjoy as much, and therefore affected my reading experience as a whole. But I definitely look forward to what happens next to Jon, Daenerys, Tyrion, Arya, Cersei, Jaime and Bran next. Come at me, The Winds of Winter!
* This book is better appreciated as a sum of its parts.