It runs more or less concurrently with A Feast For Crows, the fourth part of the series, but features as the main characters those neglected in the previous book (namely Tyrion, Jon and Daenerys, backed up by Melisandre, Ser Barristan and Stannis). The characters/storylines of A Feast For Crows do make fleeting appearances towards the end of the book.
ADWD did take me a little while to get into, simply because of the enormous scale and complexity of the series (not aided by my own rubbishness with names). The quality of the writing is as good as ever, and I did prefer it to A Feast For Crows, which was reckoned by many to be a dip in form after the first three excellent books.
That said, I do have some mixed feelings. The story progressed quite well in some regards (around the Wall and Winterfell, with Jon Snow, Stannis and so forth), but for others either little happened (Daenerys) or what happened seems somewhat insignificant (Tyrion).
Tyrion was my favourite character in the first three books, but I think Theon Greyjoy was perhaps the best written this time around. There was some excellent writing describing his rather horrid relationship with Ramsay Bolton.
The Epilogue was amongst the strongest parts of the book, and dealt with characters in King’s Landing rather than the North or Essos where most of the book’s time is spent. That aside, the ending was somewhat unsatisfying. I don’t want to say anything more specific, but whilst new storylines were added in ADWD none of the central ones were resolved.
That said, it is worth pointing out that the series’ storyline is as complex and large at this stage as it is likely to get, and that (with only two more planned books to go we) things should start to come together in The Winds of Winter (title of book six).
So, overall I enjoyed it. The writing was as good as ever, and the plot advanced nicely in the North. However, some more action/progression in Essos would have been welcome. I’d give it four stars out of five.