There is a reason most of these events were intended to be skimmed over in flashbacks originally.
Nit-picking here, but that's not strictly true. There was no five-year gap originally; that idea only came into the picture during the writing of A Clash of Kings
, when Martin expanded the series from four books to six. In hindsight, it seems to me like he was trying to keep the series from expanding even beyond six books, not really giving enough thought to how practical it would be to skip over certain events. The "problem" of AFFC and ADWD is, I think, less that their events were never supposed to be described, and more that the scope of the story had simply ballooned beyond the manageable. (There's also the fact that A Storm of Swords
closes off so many plotlines that the next book was always bound to be less dramatic and more transitional than that one. In the original, trilogy version of the series, book one ended with the Red Wedding, which means that a lot of Storm
's plot was once part of A Dance with Dragons
. I think that would have worked better.)
What frustrates me about A Dance with Dragons
is that the character arcs all reach some kind of turning point, but every single plotline ends on a cliffhanger, some of which are deeply unnatural. The entire book is building toward the battles at Meereen and Winterfell; excluding them is like ending A Clash of Kings
before the Battle of the Blackwater. Anne Groell mentioned in an interview that Martin wanted to add two major story sequences to the book, but she felt that it was eventful enough, and that including that material would have required another year of writing and made the book too large to be published. I think the solution there would have been to take the time and make cuts as necessary to produce a complete, coherent book. I love the Tyrion and Theon chapters, for example, but there could really be less of them. I certainly hope that if The Winds of Winter
ends up facing similar problems, dramatic structure wins out over sheer scope.