MDB and I were chatting about this the other day. It feels like Brienne was tacked onto the story to flesh it out. He'd written too much for 1 book, but not enough for 2, so needed padding. Same thing with the Greyjoys' drama. It doesn't feel like a part of the greater scheme of things. Dany is a great character, as are Tyrion and Arya. I still the final showdown will be between Dany and Arya.
Actually, I've had the thought that the final conflict will be between Sansa and Dany. Sansa is the one who always wanted to be royalty; my idea is that she'll grow into accepting what it really means to rule (i.e. "it's not all being the beautiful princess to a brave knight") and that Arya will be her little assassin and spy.
One other thought I've had... I desperately hope Cersei lives long enough to see that she's wrong about dragons being extinct, if anything so we can see her face on the TV as dragons burn Lannisport and/or King's Landing to the ground.
Given Martin's sense of justice, I have a feeling Cersei will probably suffer a dragon induced comeuppance.
"too much for 1 book, but not enough for 2"
So much for the adage that a story is exactly as long as it needs to be!
Urgh! No! Sansa needs to go the way of Robb, she's just a big wilting violet. Unless Baelish manages to do something with her. However, if that involves chucking her through the Moon hole (or whatever it's called), I'll cheer.
From what I hear, the events of Feast and the first half of Dance were originally intended to be skipped over entirely, but GRRM couldn't figure out how to easily fill in the actual events afterward, so he decided to write them. It makes sense that they would be a little slow, given how crazy Storm was. I think it ends up being worth it with (Book 4 and 5 spoilers) Cersei's comeuppance
I feel sorry for Sansa and I've developed a certain attachment to her because of that.
Basically, she's this sweet, innocent little girl who has dreamed her entire life of being a princess and marrying a noble knight. And she's learned the hard way that being a princess sucks and most of the knights are jackasses. (And one of the few decent ones is gay, though she doesn't know that...) My idea is that she's eventually going to be hardened and end up like her mother -- strong but still feminine.
I think the one thing she's got going for her is that she's under Baelish's influence and hopefully he has plans for her, other than marrying her off to strengthen his grip on the Vale.