- Themes: Sure, they're there, but irrelevant.
- Setting: Now we're talking. Lots of interesting ones, though a few bad ones seep in later on. The world as a whole is *coherent, and Westeros has an interesting set of societies. Many of the foreign ones are good too.
- Characters: Again, mostly awesome. Many of the early characters that seem week eventually become awesome, or dead. Jaime, *Tyrion, Theon and Sansa stand out for the quality of their arcs.
- Plot: Extremely good. See general comment for more.
- Craft: Each chapter is satisfying, each character arc, each book. Writing is consistently good, until the reader is fatigued by elongated arcs they don't care about.
- The first book is really good. The second is better. The third is fantastic.
- The fourth has a few issues, but generally does what is seeks to do: after the epicness of the third book, give a more character driven approach.
- The fifth isn't a waste of paper, but still a wasted opportunity. It had the three most popular characters - Tyrion (my own favourite), Jon (a good character who's human limitations shackle his potential. Or used to), and Daenarys, who I've enjoyed and liked less and less. From her tragedy in book 1 it is all downhill with her. Tyrion's arc introduces the actual best arc, then sinks to mediocrity. Jon's is good, and would be a fantastic subplot, but can't hold up as the meat of the book. Dany's is awful. Her supporting cast is generally uninteresting. The major characters are generally uninteresting, compared to the other plotlines. There are a couple of really bad parts, linked always to the East. The series is so sprawling that the bits so far from its main setting and premise would struggle even if intriguing.
- Hopefully the next book will return the series to its former glory. ADAD tried to be AFFC but with the main characters, but it was the minor ones who stole the book, apart from the ones who wrecked it. The two books could easily have been condensed to a sort of book 3 compromise, of a 1 and a half volume book, once the dross was cut.
Other than committing vile crimes against literature later on, it is fantastic and you should read it.