Holy shit, you guys. (You know, the two people that read this.) Everyone told me that this was their favorite. That I would be blown away. They were not lying. SPOILERS AHOY.I don't even want to get into exactly what is happening in this book. I just want to say that Martin is terribly cruel and wonderful and extremely adept at what he does. Characters that I never, ever thought I would be able to empathize with are now more human to me than they were before. Characters that I thought had to change have not learned their lessons yet. Characters that I thought were safe? Well. No one is safe in the Seven Kingdoms or across the sea.
There is so much to process in this book and so many loose ends from previous installments that you wish to see resolved. Resolution does not come easily, nor does it always satisfy the reader the way they might have hoped. People make choices and these choices command their fates. Choosing the way of the just or the kind does not win you a happy ending. Choosing to be an evil and conniving monster does not condemn you to death or even comeuppance. It could really go either way. At first, I was upset, though I understand the reality of Martin's world, which is so like our own. We don't always follow the person that makes it to the end and we don't always see the hero save the day. And that's fine by me when the writing is such that you are moved to tears or anger when characters meet their fate. Or piss in the face of what you think you've read.
Really, you should be reading these books. It's an emotional rollercoaster and keeps you guessing. But it is well worth it so far.