OMG, it's here! I have read it! It was amazing! I need more!!!! (Ugh, I need some sleep, too.)
Having read through book four of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I could finally understand why people were getting really twitchy about his fifth book. Why we'd get yet another person coming into the store looking for A Dance With Dragons and then heaving a tremendous sigh of disappointment when we said there wasn't a publication date available.
I get it now, I really do.
And that is why I read 1100+ pages in six days. I'm probably going to spoil some things so you're forewarned.
We catch back up with Jon and the "rock and another rock and a hard place" situation of being Lord Commander of the Night's Watch when Stannis is trying to get him to reneg on his vows by offering him Winterfell, dead things walk in the night and try to kill people, and the sudden influx of Wildings causing a dire need for more food, shelter, and discipline, as well as distrust from half his Sworn Brothers. Roose Bolton and his really, REALLY sadistic son also cause problems. Tyrion has been smuggled out of King's Landing by Varys and sent to Illyrio (whom we haven't really seen since A Game of Thrones). From there he is sent on a journey toward Daenerys and Mereen in the company of "Griff" and "Young Griff"... but gets waylaid and captured in a brothel (of all places) by Jorah Mormont. He also meets another dwarf, Penny, whose brother was killed by men eager to claim Cersei's promised lordship, and she provides a new perspective on being a dwarf for Tyrion. Daenerys has got herself into royally (pun intended) hot water by establishing herself at Mereen to keep the slave trade from reopening there and a guerilla war by the Sons of the Harpy forces her to make some really dense choices. Her dragons are also causing serious trouble because, guess what, they have grown a great deal and seem to have started eating people (children at least). At the end of the North and Essos chapters we start catching up with other characters, chiefly Jaime, Cersei, and Arya (Cersei's punishment...never, EVER could have guessed that, ever).
GRRM gives us great perspective chapters from old/new characters like Ser Barristan Selmy (yay!), Ser John Connington, Quentyn Martell, Asha Greyjoy and Melisandre (wtf! - need more from her/her history). And THEN we get perspective chapters from Reek, aka the wreck-that-used-to-be-Theon-that-douche-who-double-crossed-Robb, AND DAVOS!!! Can I just tell you how happy I was that Davos is still around? Granted, his storyline just got wierder because he has to go find Rickon and Osha, whom we haven't seen since they parted company with Bran, Hodor, Jojen, and Meera, but he's not dead and he's one of my favorite POV characters.
Speaking of Bran, he's got really boring chapters. As does Victarion Greyjoy. We all have our favorite characters/characters we love to hate and I found myself starting to skim the POVs that I didn't care much for. Although...GRRM did toss up something odd in one of Bran's chapters that I had to go back and re-read: Bran can "jump" into the heart-tree at Winterfell and see its whole history and there was a brief flash of Eddard Stark praying something about Jon's mom.... And that was it! I was like, wait, what??? Tell us more!! People have some seriously crazy ideas about Jon being Lyanna and Rhaegar's kid (I'm fence-y, given that Jon would need to be at least a year older than Robb and it's acknowledged that he's younger because Eddard knocked up Catelyn before he went off to war) - when is someone going to let Jon know where he comes from?? All those chapters from characters I don't care so much about...they are important, just don't know why as yet.
However, two important characters didn't make an appearance at all in A Dance with Dragons: Sam, now forging his chain in the Citadel, and Sansa, hiding in the Vale with Petyr. Sam just has a great voice and I want to see how Maesters are trained. Sansa, however, is a character I didn't like in A Game of Thrones but have come to be very invested in her outcome. Her situation is just as dangerous as Arya's: she's masquerading as Petyr's illegitimate daughter, accused by Cersei of helping Tyrion poison Joffrey (it was really Petyr/Margery's kooky grandma), but GRRM makes it clear that Petyr thinks Sansa is as beautiful as her mom. And Petyr still has a thing for Catelyn, as evidenced by how easily he pitched Lysa out the moon door in A Storm of Swords.
So...now I wait like everyone else. What would I like to see in Book 6 (please GRRM, write fast!)? Since we're giving out POV chapters to a wider range of characters I'd like to see ones from Jeyne Poole (poor girl), Jorah Mormont (dudes, he is OVERDUE for a chapter), Osha, Petyr (how does that sneaky little mind work), and Varys (how does HIS sneaky little mind work). I'd love a chapter from Kevan's POV, but he got taken out by Varys's "birds" in the Epilogue. ADDITIONALLY, I would really, REALLY like to see Daenerys take everyone (the dragons, Ser Barristan, Jorah, Tyrion, Penny, her Unsullied, etc) and get the heck out of Mereen, perhaps by way of Old Valyria - the Doom of Valyria keeps being mentioned, as well as how no one goes there anymore, and that seems important.
And then I'd like to see Arya let loose on Westeros. She is now officially the scariest child-character in fiction.
(Apologies for the fangirl review)