The first few are awesome, but then they seem to get worse as time goes on. Not that the writing, characters or events get worse, but it seems to be cumbersome.
The scope has continually increased, and now I think the series is buckling under its own weight. Here is a graph of the number of "point of view" characters in each book.
The first book had only 8 POV characters. This really worked. It was concise and the information you didn't have made it exciting. You only had bits and pieces of the puzzle. It made things suspenseful and was really well written. Character arcs happen and things move forward. All in all awesome.
When we hit a feast for crows we had 12 and a lot of them didn't seem all that necessary. This made the book more of a slog as we followed people who weren't really moving the plot forward, or worse were moving it backwards. Sometimes you would know a lot more about a characters situation than they did and I found this made it dull. Not only where they doing something boring, but they did it for a long time.
Spending less time with each character meant we couldn't know them as well or see them develop as much. The pace slowed and often you had to follow characters you weren't invested in. That sucks.
A Dance with Dragons has 18 characters. More than double the first book. It shows. The problems I mentioned previously become worse. The series has lost its concise feel and I'm following a lot of characters that either:
- I have no investment in
- Have just been introduced
- May not ever have another chapter
- Do not forward the story
I read through the first four books at a fevered pace. Polishing off each in about a week to a week and half and moving on to the next one.
I have been reading the 5th for 6 months. Its not really grabbing me anymore. I think I've explained why.
One of the cool things about the series was that anyone could die. No plot armor. Maybe that should happen. Let's do some dead-heading, so the rest of the tree can grow roses again.