I don't mind lots of volumes in a series which I enjoy reading. However, Jordan has indeed taken this too far. And, I too fear Martin may be heading that way. What logical reason can there be for such a long period of time between installments, anyway?
Since you might have skipped my entire post because of the spoiler wanring, here is the explanation for the big delay from George himself.
Anyway, here is a history on the enormous wait for this latest book.
As someone mentioned the original plan was a 5 year gap after Storm of Swords. He stubbornly spent almost 2 years trying to make that work before he decided that having half the characters have nothing interesting happening while the other half spend hundreds of pages in cheesy flashbacks just plain sucked.
He then set about writing the five years, and the story got bigger and bigger. He had been told that Storm was the longest a book could be and still be bound in a single volume. He was closing in on that length and still had a lot to write. He was writing inferior work trying to wrap it up in time and eventually came to the conclusion that he would split it into two books. He then had to decide how to split it. He didn't want to just cut it in half, so he decided to split it by perspective and location. He took the kings landing characters, iron islands, and dorne and put them in feast, and took the North and across the sea and put them in Dance with Dragons. All our favorites, Jon, Dany, possibly Bran, will all be in the next book.
The next book is already 60-70% written, and he plans to finish it by spring or summer. He already knows the story, just needs to finish some things and re-write some of what he had been trying to wrap up quickly. It should be published in 2006, likely for the christmas sales.
I'm stuck early in book two. Can't dig up the desire to go on right now, really. Maybe I'll try again later, but it isn't happening for me now.
I admire the writing style, and he can write circles around Jordan, that fracking hack, but I think in the end I prefer more fantasy in my fantasy. So far this has been 96% power politics with the odd baby dragon and mysterious evil of the icy woods thrown in for coolness effect.
Well, I used to consider myself fairly quick on the uptake. Guess I was wrong, as I thought you meant a 5 year gap between release of each volume, but I now see that you mean a 5 year gap in the storyline?
The amount of 'trad. fantasy' elements does increase steadily throughout the series, which I actually found quite refreshing. Instead of everyone being very blasé about things like magic, dragons, whatever, they matter. For reference, see something like the Forgotten Realms novel Spellfire, where any mage who doesn't blow up a Dracolich before breakfast is considered an awful slacker by his peers, and the All-Powerful And Really Mean Hordes Of Evil exist solely as things to demonstrate the author's mastery of superlatives Re: explosions.
On the other hand, in Song of Ice and Fire, the desperate, and fruitless, search for dragons drove one of the most powerful noble houses of the kingdom almost into extinction, magic is rare and powerful, and things are obviously building up to a fairly serious conflict between humanity and the Others. I have to say, I prefer it like this.