The fourth sequel of the Song of Ice and Fire was an absolute disappointment compared to the previous books. It lacked the addictive excitement and intrigue necessary for early books and the catastrophes and closure I was looking forward to from later books.
It also didn't have any brutal weddings for a start and our two favorite storylines, that of Danaerys and Jon Snow's was entirely absent from the plot. The story was completely filled with political schemes of Cersei; unceasing scandals cooked by Petyr Baelish and unwanted tales narrated by George R. R. Martin.
Nonetheless, I will follow the tradition of giving a synoptic of the plot along with the comparisons with the tele-series -
After Joffrey and Tywin Lannister's death, Cersei's incompetent governance of the kingdom and her increasing distrusts of Margaery raises the kingdom's debts to the Iron Bank and the Faith of the Seven. In order to settle the debts, Cersei permits the restoration of religion's military order and schemes to falsely have the Faith put Margaery on trial for adultery which backfires when the High Septon imprisons Cersei herself on similar charges.
Petyr asks Sansa to pose as his daughter while he manipulates his late wife Lysa's bannermen and controls the protectorship of the Vale and intends to claim Winterfell on Sansa's name.
Jamie arrives at Riverland to regain control of Riverrun in exchange for Edmure Tully's life. Although he retains Riverrun, Brynden Tully escapes before he could imprison him. (In the series, it is shown that the Blackfish was died fighting this battle)
Brienne of Tarth's search of Sansa leads her to Riverrun, where she acquires Podrick as her squire and gets almost killed by the Brotherhood without Banners accompanied by Catelyn Stark (In the series, Catelyn isn't reincarnated).
Doran Martell is confronted by three of Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters, who want vengeance for their father's death from Lannisters. Thus, they try and fail to kill Cersei's daughter Myrcella Baratheon. (Contrary to the series, Myrcella is brutally killed while her uncle Jamie try and fail to rescue her)
Arya Stark ends up serving in the House of Black and White with the assassins known as the Faceless Men. She tries her best to master their belief of having no identity however her former identity asserts itself in the form of wolf dreams and when she kills one of the Night's Watchmen for abandoning Castle Black. Having confessed this death, Jaquen Hagar punishes her by making her blind.
Samwell Tarly reaches the Citadel of Oldtown to research about the Whitewalkers and to become a Maester accompanied by old Grand Maester Aemon, Gilly, and her son. On the voyage, he finds out that Jon swapped the sons of Gilly and Mance Rayder, in order to protect the Wildling prince from sacrifice by Melisandre. (In the TV series, Jon does not swap the children and Maester Aemon dies in Castle Black and does not accompany Sam on his voyage)
There is nothing more to describe about this book, as many of the story lines are not even related to the GOT television series. It is definitely not my favorite of the series so far. However, I am gonna continue down the road and will soon bring the review on the next in line of this fantastic tale.
Please also check out my takes on the previous three books of the series: