Good to hear that Tower Lord holds up well. I just got it and the first two of the Lightbringer series by Weeks coming in the mail today, so I'll be starting Tower Lord this weekend myself.
As far as AFFc and ADWD goes:
Well right, I suppose I didn't mean it that way. I meant that when you compare them to the first 3, and really book 1 and 3, they aren't that good, but when compared to the genre as a whole, they are still pretty damn good.
See, I don't consider them to be nearly as good as most of the stuff coming out these days. I think they are decent, I'd consider AFFC a 7/10 and ADWD a 7.5/10 type books. But pretty much all of Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, Anthony Ryan, Brent Weeks, Scott Lynch, Mark Lawrence, Daniel Abraham, KJ Parker, Brandon Sanderson's recent stuff, and Rothfuss are much better than those two books. They really don't hold up well to the genre these days. Ten years ago sure, but these days fantasy is at a much higher level.
As for starting and stopping, I didn't get that, though I hated the set up. I wish he would have just told his publisher to frick off and finished writing the books as he wanted to, which was actually one giant arse book.
What I mean by the starting and stopping is the books don't have the narrative structure necessary to e good books taken on their own. A good book has some sort of conclusion, even if it;s a minor story arc. AGOT ends with Ned's conclusion, Dany and the dragons, Jon and the wildlings, Robb and his council, each major arc has some sort of conclusion. The same is true for ACOK and ASOS. AFFC and ADWD do not have that, mainly because of page constraints (and Martin having people all over his arse to finish the book after 6 years). So that's what I mean by just stopping. ADWD in particular simply builds towards events that never occur, and each storyline just stops right before major events with no resolution at all. Makes for a terrible narrative structure and a crappy book when taken by itself.
I disagree with the notion that any part of the books is terribly written, but it has been some time since I read them, so I may be remembering them with nostalgia. I do remember thinking, "Okay, who gives a shit? Move on" a couple times, but I feel that way about a lot of fiction, including Patrick Rothfuss, who tarries way too long on unimportant shite like sex nymphs.
I consider Rothfuss to have superb prose, but A Wise Man's Fear had major issues and terrible writing throughout many parts, with the nymphs part being one of the key parts, so that's kinda what I'm talking about with AFFC and ADWD as well.
If you seriously think Mereen was well written in ADWD though, I think you do have serious nostalgia going on. You'd definitely be in the minority on that one. That entire section of the book was merely about treading water until Victarion gets there, and it shows. It's all the more apparent simply due to how extremely well written the Reek parts are, the contrast is just crazy.