A Dance With Dragons is the fifth of the seven planned novels of George R. R. Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I recently finished it and can say it was as intense as the other novels in the series.
This book takes place for the most aprt in the same time frame as the fourth book, mostly focusing on places and characters that were not part of the fourth book. It ends having caught up with the fourth book, and getting us back with the events that were going on there.
As with all the books in this series you can not guess as to where the story is going. There are surprises waiting for you in just about all the chapters, and yes a lot of characters do not make it. It ends with the fate of many noticeable characters in question. One of the biggest surprises for me was a couple of characters I thought had died in previous books were alive, although not necessarily well.
As a writer I am trying to look forwards and figure out just where the story is going for the final two novels. I have no doubt at all that there will be plenty of surprises yet to come. We have so many storylines going now that I half suspect that Martin is not going to merge them but let them each play out on their own. There is just so much going on that it is hard to imagine it all get wrapped up in just two more books. We'll see just how good of a writer Martin is now as he concludes this epic series.
Of course after such a massive, intense novel I've cut down to some shorter, more relaxing pieces to read. I have a huge stack of books to read through, so finding such a novel is not hard at all.