As I said with the previous book, there probably isn’t too much that’s new to say about this book given its age and the popularity of the TV show.
I think I once read that ASOIAF was originally meant to be a trilogy and this book definitely has a feel of expanding the narrative without resolving much. A lot is set up and I’m definitely ready for book 3, but if I’d been reading this when it first came out, I wonder if it would’ve contained enough forward momentum on the plot to keep me engaged in the series.
Just a few stray observations:
-The book continues to be less rapey to the main characters and more empowering to women. Sansa is not raped during the riot. Yes, someone else is raped, but TV Sansa essentially has the kitchen sink thrown at her. Also, Arya is responsible for escaping Harrenhal, not Jaqen. He still plays a similar part in killing some people for Arya, but Arya still has to figure out how to escape on her own.
-The books and TV shows continued to be similar with most of the changes involving consolidation of events and characters. For example, in the TV show Stannis and the Red Priestess only make one shadow baby. In the book they make two.
-A lot of the characters seem less dumb/naive when you can see into their heads – Dany is a great example on that front.
-I think the three biggest departures are slightly better in the book.
1) Jojen and Meera meeting Bran at Winterfell instead of on the road gives a bit more believability to Bran’s trust. Also, Bran gets to practice his powers a bit more
2) Jon Snow’s time north of The Wall is much more contextualized and filled out. I think it helps him come across a little less of a whiny brat and introduces a lot more of the character of the land beyond the wall.
3)The way Ramsay Snow/Reek is introduced is amazing. I guess it was just a bit to complex to get TV viewers to understand what was going on. I think it helps set up how crazy Ramsay is as well as perhaps work as a foreshadowing of Lord Bolton’s treachery. (Assuming The Red Wedding is the same in book and TV show)