(My own copy)
Characters wandering about the landscape, sometimes in circles. Plotlines unresolved while new characters are created and new plotlines set off. In one of them (can't remember which one now) it ends with a strange postscript explaining that the reason that so many previously important characters did not figure is because he could not find space for them in this vast tome, er, sorry about that. I have never seen anything like that in a book series. So why keep creating unnecessary new characters? It looks to me like the series had at one point a cataclysmic ending in view - Ice and Fire, the White Walkers coming down from the North and the dragons coming from the East, no doubt to meet in some Westeros Ragnarok. The trouble is that that doesn't fit well with the idea of a Wars of the Roses type feuding families and shifting alliances and that he got more interested in that. The walkers keep on walking, the dragons flying round in circles. And now the main characters (who are not in dungeons) are wandering aimlessly about the place and have been for at least the last two huge and bloated novels.If we were at the third of a 400 page novel then it might be reasonable to hold out hope that he was a master craftsman with a master plan who was carefully setting up the characters for the big finale. Unfortunately, that hope is long, long, since gone. What we have is the sad sight of an author who has got completely stuck and instead of completing the storylines he has spun, either goes to conventions to bask in the approbation of his fans, or creates new characters and storylines with no baggage to worry about, which makes it ever harder for him to pull them back together. To me the real question is how anyone could have read the last two books and not realise that something had gone horribly wrong.
(Bought in 2003)
An author DOES owe you a coherent narrative and a decent ending; otherwise he might as well have just written down his dreams every night for umpteen years and then slung that at you. Surely you got invested in these books because you thought they were going somewhere? You can hardly blame people for worrying that they might not be at this point. If you've forked out money for the book series so far (which collectively has made Martin a rich man) then you're entitled to feel you paid that money on false premises if no ending is forthcoming. I think this is something that's driven the habit of buying boxsets of a show after it's finished airing. People are less and less willing to get invested in something if it's just going to malinger on and then die on its arse.