I jumped on the Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon about 5 years ago, just after Feast for Crows came out. I loved the series then, and I love it now, especially with that awesome new television adaptation which is fabulous and I hope continues to be so!
I have waited five years for this book, and many of my friends thought me crazy for hanging on so long to wait for the fifth of seven novels. Well I must say it was worth the wait.
I loved it! I was so glad to see these old friends after so long! Granted the first few chapters were a tad confusing as I was trying to play catch up after five years hiatus, but that's to be expected.
We're brought back to Westeros, Braavos, Pentos, the Dothraki Sea, along with some well remembered and loved characters. All the major player come back: Dany, Jon, Tyrion, Cersei, Jaimie and Bran, along with some supporting characters from previous books and interesting new ones. One of which has made me reconsider the highly speculated path of one much beloved Crow.
Some of the character chapters also made me reevaluate my opinion of the featured character, which is always a good thing as it depicts writing skill and character development. Not all characters though. Some are still jerks.
Something I thought was quite interesting that I think is a first for these books is the chapter names. Usually, the chapters are named after characters: Jon, Cersei. Sansa, Arya, Eddard, etc. And while that tradition continues in Dance with Dragons, I think a new tradition has been introduced alongside it.
I noticed that some chapters weren't the character's name, but rather that character's perception of them self. For example in one chapter someone goes briefly to Winterfell, and repeats this mantra to themselves: "There are ghosts in Winterfell and I am one of them". Then sure enough the next chapter for that character is entitled Ghosts in/of Winterfell. I thought that was really nifty.
Be warned however: The last character chapter is a cliffhanger. If you don't want a cliffhanger ending for anyone, hang on a bit before you read Dance with Dragons. It might make you angry. Made me angry, but in a total shock and "oh my God that did NOT just happen!" kind of way.
But no matter how you slice it, Dance with Dragons is a must must must must read for any SoIF fans. Enjoy.