Yes, many of the other reviewers are right. As I read this the first time, I was frustrated. It didn't really follow some of my fav characters, as they appear in book 5 (A Dance With Dragons). And even the first 2/3 of ADWD follow the same template as this one, there's much more talk and much less action than in the previous titles. Many characters travel long roads and it feels like nothing really happens. It's very tempting to rush through, wanting to get to the good parts, the ones you imagine will be filled with action, retribution, vengeance. Several plots are filled with walking and talking, chapter after chapter. Some characters fail in whatever quest they're set on, and even die (or did they now?). Some characters seem to devolve, they grow insecure, weaker, make mistakes and bad choices - or no choices. Others are still to young and I want them to grow older faster.
However, that has never been GRRMs world, not is it what makes the books great. The books have never only followed the success stories, the good guys, or those that survives. Not every character has enough luck that saves them at the last minute over and over. That's what makes the story great, now and in the previous books.
Once I think about it, this has to happen. And come to think of it, it has happened like that in the previous books as well. The action and tension did rise from book to book, but this is the middle piece, the "The Empire Strikes Back" (after Hoth). A lull in Westeros, as several plots have reached a sort of semi-conclusion, and most of the pieces and players are now being set up for the next big push.
Read the book with a calm mind, and relish in the stories and characters instead of wanting the stories to reach where you want them to go. They won't go where you want them to go anyway, and definitely not where you expect them to go. And you know it - they never did in the past! :)
In short, my expectations were more to blame for my frustration with the book than the book itself.