After the whirlwind of emotions and tragedy that was A Storm of Swords, I wasn't entirely sure how GrrM was going to be able to top it all. I was also a bit worried because I had been hearing complaints about how this was the worst book in the series. In my opinion that is far from the truth, in fact, I really loved this one. Now, something that you'll find right off when reading this book is that a lot of familiar faces are missing. The book even starts introducing a handful of completely new characters. Quite a few of these characters don't make a reappearance as narrators for the remainder of the book. A lot of the characters in the very beginning make appearances as narrators but then don't have their own chapters again after that. Some faces that we all love that are missing are Jon Snow, Danaerys, Tyrion, Stannis, Melisandre, and Davos Seaworth. So, yes, if you're a Jon Snow and Dany fan like me, you'll be a little wroth at their absent. However, the characters that we do see in this book are equally as exciting.Although, I must admit, I felt like this was the Cersei and Jaime Lannister show. I mean, I love Jaime Lannister's chapters and I think his character ARC is one of the best in the series. However, there was a bit too much of Cersei for my taste. I enjoy her character, she's the one we all love to hate, but I just found that I really wasn't wholly interested in everything that was going on in her character ARC. Of course, by the end I was changing my song, but then everything is so much more dramatic in the end in GrrM style. Of the characters that we do get aside from the Lannister twins, one is Alayne Stone. You all know her as Sansa Stark, but her story gets taken to the Aerie where she has to hide her identity as Petyr Baelish's natural daughter. I have to say, Sansa's character progression has been some of the best in the series. She goes from being the simpering Stark girl, in love with the idea of chivalry and shining knights, to someone far more sly and far more clever after learning some of Littlefinger's politicking ways. Arya Stark is also progressing leaps and bounds in this book. After being passed from outlaw to outlaw all across Westeros, Arya takes the coin she receives from Jaqen H'ghar and says the words that she whispers every night before she goes to sleep 'valar morghulis.' She's then taken to Braavos, across the narrow sea, where she becomes Cat and begins her training in The House of Black and White. Ayra doesn't get nearly enough chapters for me, but alas, I can understand why as there are far more dramatic things happening in Westeros. Samwell Tarly is again a chapter character as he, the wilding Gilly, and Maester Aemon are sent across the sea to Hightown so that Sam may learn from the maesters and become master of the chain himself. Sam's chapters were good, but I admit that I would much rather have had Jon Snow chapters.Cersei had more chapters than I think any other character in the book, except for possibly Jaime and maybe Brienne. Cersei is faced with keeping Tommen safe and on the throne even as his new wife Margaery seems to be competing with her for the rule. Things are quickly falling apart for the Lannister queen as she sees enemies in every shadow and friends nowhere. Jaime's chapters are a bit uneventful, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. I've come to really appreciate Jaime's character, especially as this book went on. He's definitely not the incestuous kingslayer that he's painted up to be in the first two books. If anything he's become something of a romantic hero (yes... i saw that on a meme on tumblr, but it really is true) he spends a vast majority of this book trying to build some semblance of honour for himself even as people continue to remind him of his kingslaying past. A new character that I've fallen in love with is Arianne Martell. The Martell's are a house that is built on sand and blood and through Arianne's chapters we are introduced to the Sand Snakes. A group of Arianne's female cousins who are all warriors in their own rights. Dorne is the only kingdom in Westeros in which a woman can be named heir instead of a man and Arianne is the firstborn of the Dornish prince, Doran Martell. Even though it looks like we won't be getting any more of the Martell's in A Dance with Dragons, I'm really looking forward to more from them, especially with how Arianne's chapters ended at the end of this book.Of the Ironborn, we get chapters from Asha, as well as Aeron and Victarion, her uncles. With the Ironborn chapters we see the formation of the kingsmoot, in which the ironborn choose who their next king will be. Personally, I'm a huge fan of the Ironborn's, especially Asha. I really want more Asha chapters. She quickly sets herself up to make an attempt to gain control, even though the ironborn have never named a woman ruler before. I really wish we had seen more from her, but the Ironborn chapters disappeared halfway through the book as the book turned to other characters and what was happening with them.Brienne of Tarth had a large number of chapters as well, and I admit that she is definitely one of my favourite characters. The strong warrior woman continues to take no shit from anyone, regardless. Even though at times she has second thoughts about her deviant lifestyle, she always, in the end, continues on her path because the knows that it's what she wants. Brienne's story takes her on a journey at Jaime's request to find Sansa Stark.There was one thing in the book that I did take issue with, and that was the awkward repetition that GrrM used in this particular book that he's never used in any of the books prior. The chapters that saw the most of this were Jaime Lannister, Brienne, and Arya. Though, Jaime and Brienne's were by far the worst. I'm pretty sure the phrase: "I'm looking for my sister, she's a highborn maid of three and ten with a fair face and auburn hair." was used in every single Brienne chapter. All of them. And there were a lot of them. Jaime Lannister's chapters had a phrase that was repeated every single chapter as well. The repetition of particular phrases was bizarre and I didn't totally understand the reasonings for it, but it quickly became a point of amusement for me. To be honest, the argument I have seen against this book the most is that it's "Introducing secondary characters and ignoring main ones." However, I feel like the people that say that are missing the point of these books. There are no main characters in these books. Each character that is given a narrative voice is in their own rights a main character. I mean, if you haven't figured it out by now, main characters in this book aren't very static. They're constantly having terrible things happen to them or being killed in various, terrible ways. The law of this series is never get too attached. So, to complain that GrrM is bringing in 'irrelevant characters' is actually pretty stupid. Because we've been shown so far that no character in this series is irrelevant. They all have pretty substantial roles in the history of Westeros. All in all, apparently A Dance with Dragons is happening at the same time as this book, which might get a bit confusing for me (also, if you read this book there are some... spoilers about the outcomes of some characters. So, that's kind of weird...) I just find how GrrM went about this a bit weird. I understand that he now has too many characters to handle in one book, but i think i would have preferred it if he had kept the timeline moving instead of backtracking.... alas, I digress, I haven't even read the book yet, you all will hear what I think about that when it comes ;). For me, these books are just consistently brilliant. I have yet to be disappointed in one. Although this one didn't have as many dramatic battles as the previous books had, it still had that GrrM landslide ending that had me making a high pitched whining noise throughout the last seven chapters or so. I am so in love with these books and I am so in love with every stupid character, no matter what their fate. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I finish A Dance with Dragons and have to actually wait for the next book.