Sacred Hospitality: The laws of hospitality are considered very important in Westeros. The legend of the Rat King suggests that the gods will take vengeance on those who break them. Several characters specifically plan their aggressive actions so as not to break the laws of hospitality. Catelyn urges Robb to request bread and salt from a hostile host as soon as possible to ensure that his stay is safe. The fact that guests were slaughtered in the Red Wedding makes the betrayal doubly outrageous in the eyes of Westeros. The idea is apparently extended to prisoners of war, as Robb worries that Rickard Karstark's murder of two Lannister squires under Robb's protection will look like betrayal of guest right.
Sacrificial Lamb: Thus far the POV character in the prologue or epilogue will, without exception, die. Though Varamyr's spirit lives on in his wolf One-Eye. Most of them are minor characters.
Sad Clown: Tyrion Lannister is a deeply unhappy man who copes with sharp humor even when it's unwise. Dolorous Edd embraces the trope literally with morbid, deadpan wisecracks.
King Joffrey letting a minstrel caught singing a disrespectful song about Joffrey's parents choose between having his tongue cut out or losing a hand.
In "The Princess and the Queen," two assassins tell Queen Helaena they've been sent to kill one of her sons in Revenge by Proxy for the death of Queen Rhaenyra's son in the Civil War. They make her choose which son is to die, then kill the one she didn't choose. Helaena is Driven to Madness as a result.
Samus Is a Girl: Brienne of Tarth wins a tournament before it's revealed that she's a woman (though an interesting case because everyone present other than Catelyn knows who she is and most disapprove of her winning because she's a woman). Also Alleras is generally assumed to be Sarella Sand, one of Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters.
Alleras, who is most likely Sarella Sand in disguise.
In A Dance With Dragons, Mance Rayder goes undercover as "Abel", alluding to a famous undercover wildling named Bael.
Second Love: Brienne and Jaime, coming on the heels of Renly's death and Cersei's cheating, respectively. Tyrion starts to feel this way about Shae, until she falsely testifies against him for plotting to murder Joffrey, and then when he finds her in his father's bed, he kills her. Mostly, though, nobody ever moves on.
"Brown", the cheap stew served at pot shops in King's Landing is made of anything the cooks can find or catch. There are rumors that this includes the occasional human corpse. When Tyrion sends Bronn to kill a blackmailer, Bronn says he'll dump the guy's body into a stewpot with no one the wiser. Tyrion is slightly disturbed when he meets a mercenary who enjoys brown.
Jaime and Cersei, since incestuous adultery doesn't go over well. Tyrion knows from the beginning, the reader finds it out from Bran's POV in the first chapters, and a lot of the book is about Ned gradually uncovering the secret.
Likewise, Tyrion keeps his relation with Shae a secret to protect himself and her during his time at court.
There's another between Renly and Loras - aside from a few pointed comments by other characters (e.g., Jaime Lannister threatening to stick Loras' sword "somewhere even Renly couldn't find"), the only confirmation has been from Word of God.
Secret Test of Character: After Jon and his fellow Night Watch members capture a wildling woman in a battle, there is a debate about whether to kill her. Jon's captain leaves him behind with the captive and tells him to "do what needs to be done". Jon frees her and defends this decision on the grounds that she wasn't a threat any more. As befits the moral ambiguity of the novels, the goal was to learn whether Jon could make a decision on his own, and what sort of decision he would make; the captain didn't care if the girl died or not.
Jaime suspects Ser Osmund Kettleblack of being one after examining the White Book, the registry of Kingsguard knights. Kettleblack claims to have been knighted by one "Ser Robert Stone" (deceased). Jaime notes the Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story.
It's implied that Dunk is one of these, which is confirmed by Word of God. He always claims when asked that Ser Arlan knighted him shortly before dying, but always seems rather guilty when doing so. He also never actually reflects on this event in his internal monologue, when you'd expect it to have been one of the last and most significant conversations he'd ever had with his beloved master, and a matter of great personal pride.
Selkies and Wereseals: It's mentioned in A Feast for Crows that members of House Farwynd are skinchangers who can change into seals and walruses, but so far this remains an Informed Ability.
Sergeant Rock: Lord Commander Jeor Mormont is a quite gruff man who doesn't sugar-coat his words, but is shown to be a good leader who has all the qualities that a member of the Night's Watch is supposed to have.
Sex Is Violence: In A Storm of Swords, Jaime and Brienne have a fight that Jaime's POV describes in very sexual terms, particularly afterward where he focuses on her clothing being disarranged and heavy breathing and "looking like they had been fucking, not fighting".
Shadow Archetype: Qyburn, a defrocked maester who sits on Cersei's small council, is one for the generally kindly and dutiful (if occasionally cowardly and ineffectual) court maesters. Where they work as doctors and messengers, he works as a Torture Technician and Master of Whisperers.
Shameful Strip: The Faith demands Cersei perform a walk of penance, shorn and naked, through the streets of King's Landing before her trial by champion. King Joffrey orders Sansa Stark stripped and beaten in public in petty revenge for her brother's victory over the Lannister forces, only for Tyrion to intervene and stop things.
Archmaester Rigney, who believes that "time is a wheel", and Lady Jordayne of the Tor are both references to The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (real name Jim Rigney), which is published by Tor Books. GRRM has claimed, semi-facetiously, that the house words of House Jordayne are "Let It Be Written".
House Stark was confirmed to be a reference to Iron Man, there are heraldic sigils in Tywin Lannister's army referencing the Blue Beetle, Green Arrow and other comic book characters as well.
Three soldiers who escort Catelyn to the Eyrie are references to The Three Stooges in name and appearance.
One of the heraldic sigils is a blackadder (spelled as one word).
The Dunk and Egg novella "The Mystery Knight" features Lord Gormon Peake of Starpike as a prominent villain (his son and successor by the time of the main series is called Titus).
One of the gods worshipped in Braavos is Bakkalon, the Pale Child. This same deity is mentioned in some of Martin's Thousand Worlds Science Fiction stories, most notably "And Seven Times Never Kill Man".
There are a number of references to the Cthulhu Mythos. The Iron Islanders worship the Drowned God, saying, "What's dead can never die." The Greyjoys have a kraken for a symbol. These are all references to Cthulhu. One of their kings was called "Dagon," which is also the name of a character in the Mythos. Another character named Dagon (Dagon Codd) "looks like his father had sired him on a fish." The wooded free city of Qohor worships the Black Goat, which is a reference to Shub-Niggurath, "The Black Goat of the Woods." There is a "Cult of Starry Wisdom" in Braavos. The maps in The Lands of Ice and Fire show that the far eastern regions of the Known World have names straight out of Lovecraft. Almost at the edges of the map you have the cities K’Dath and Carcosa, plus the island of Leng, in the Jade Sea.
In A Dance with Dragons, when the crew of the Shy Maid go under the Bridge of Dreams for the second time, Haldon Halfmaester says: "Inconceivable. We've left the bridge behind. Rivers only run one way."
The abandoned stronghold east of Castle Black is called "Oakenshield". There is another abandoned stronghold on the Wall named Icemark.
While at the Nightfort, Hodor drops a stone down a well. Bran warns him that it was a bad idea: "You might have hurt something... or woke something up." Later that night he hears heavy footsteps coming from the well. It turns out to be Sam Tarly.
Khal Drogo is named after Drogo Baggins, the father of a rather famous hobbit named "Frodo".
When Prince Quentyn Martell, using the false name Frog, meets Dany and reveals his true identity, she laughs and comments:
The character name "Samwell Tarly" is an obvious nod to "Samwise Gamgee," while another of Jon's entourage is named Pyp.
Two minor characters are named Daeron and Beren (Targaryen and Tallhart, respectively).
Marillion is the name of a singer in Westeros, but in the real world it's the name of a whole band.note Which is itself named after Tolkien's Silmarillion, for multilevel Shout-Out goodness!
An important Valyrian phrase is "Valar morghulis," or, "All men must die." The Valar are essentially the strongest group of angelic beings in the Tolkien Legendarium, and "morgul" is the Sindarin (Elvish) word for evil magic (the root mor means "black, dark", cf. "dark arts").
In A Storm of Swords, the Brotherhood Without Banners briefly mention someone named Mudge, who was the son of a miller. Much the Miller's Son was a character in the Robin Hood stories, one of the Merry Men, the outlaw band which was clearly something of an inspiration for the Brotherhood.
The first two details Bran notices when going riding in the Wolfswood are a black squirrel and a spider's web, which could be a subtle nod to Mirkwood.
Blood and Fire — the Salvation Army's motto is oddly familiar...
The Tullys' castle, Riverrun, is named for the first "word" of Finnegan's Wake.
The observation that "the gods flip a coin" every time a Targaryen is born to determine if they'll be a great leader or a mad tyrant echoes a similar statement by the title character of I, Claudius about his own family's legacy.
Martin has called Dragonslayer one of his favorite fantasy films. Tyrion's name is probably inspired by Tyrian, a character in the film. Various names of dragons (Vermithor, Syrax, etc.) are obviously inspired by Vermithrax, the dragon in the film. Martin called it his favorite dragon name. Game of Thrones out-and-out name-drops Vermithrax.
Show, Don't Tell: One reason the books tend towards being Doorstoppers. Martin could just tell us that the Drowned Men live (almost) exclusively off stuff from the sea, for example. Instead, he endlessly shows them running around in sealskins and cooking seafood over driftwood fires.
Despite being a pretty brutal place, everyone in Westeros agrees that chattel slavery is bad, and it's outlawed in all Seven Kingdoms. Notably, selling slaves gets Jorah Mormont an instant death sentence from Ned Stark. Even the Ironborn, who take prisoners of war as "thralls," are disgusted by outright slavery, pointing to the fact that thralls are not property and their children are born free. In Essos, Braavos, a city founded by runaway slaves and since become a major player after the Doom of Valyria, actively uses its political and economic power to curtail slavery; even a corrupt magister like Illyrio Mopatis has to hide his involvement from the Sealord.
The slave trade is thriving throughout various nations and city-states of Essos, which is always used as a way to portray their governments and culture as corrupt and evil. Dany specifically fights against slavery, but runs into difficulty with how deeply it's ingrained into the culture. Many slaves prefer the safety of slavery to the chaos that comes with Dany's freedom. Interestingly, Dany never seems to hold Jorah's one-time crime of slave trading against him.
This is played with, when Tyrion gets captured and sold in a slave auction to Yezzan, alongside Jorah and Penny, he notes that slaves are treated a little better than smallfolk are by their liege lord in Westeros, suggesting that the class-subjugation in a feudal society and serfdom is not any better or morally superior than enforced chattel slavery.
Exploited Trope in the case of Doran and Oberyn Martell. After his brother's death, Doran tells his nieces that he used his pensive, somewhat ineffectual reputation to shield Oberyn "the Red Viper" from the enemies he would make if he were in power, leaving Oberyn free to do the family's dirty work. He compares the double act to long grass that looks harmless but hides a snake.
Ser Ilyn Payne comes across this way to Jaime (and once openly laughs at him). This makes sense since the reason Ilyn got his tongue cut out was for snarking about King Aerys.
Theon's squire Wex, a mute who frequently smirks at Theon's misfortunes.
Single Line of Descent: Justified with the Targaryens, as their tradition of marrying brothers to sisters reduced the number of branches of the family tree. This is part of the reason they were so vulnerable to Succession Crisis, both in the recent past and historically.
Silver Fox: A long-dead Targaryen princess, Elaena, was said to have been more beautiful at seventy than she was at seventeen.
Sink or Swim Mentor: Before he actively threatened to kill Sam, Randyll Tarly had this attitude when trying to get Sam to "man up". This extended to a literal case, as Sam almost drowned to death during a disastrous attempt at teaching him to swim — Randyll has a grudge against Hyle Hunt for saving Sam's life, which suggests that he already didn't really care whether Sam survived or not.
Smart People Play Chess: No world so overflowing with Chessmasters would be complete without its own Variant Chess, after all. In this case it's cyvasse, a kind of Tafl game, with opponents setting up their pieces in a custom starting arrangement out of sight of each other. Myrcella picks it up pretty well, and Tyrion is particularly good at it, eventually mentoring Young Griff. Martin himself played in and directed chess tournaments when he was younger, and while he hasn't played competitively since the 80s, he does have a solid USCF rating of 1905, just short of Expert.
Cersei Lannister is constantly gloating to herself about what a good job she's doing as ruler. Her success does not match her smugness.
Janos Slynt, who seems to feel that his powerful "friends" will see to it that he's never harmed. Even if they were inclined to save him (which they aren't, Lord Tywin dismisses him as "the son of a butcher"), they're leagues away, and the commanding officer who learned how to deal with oathbreakers from the father Janos had a hand in betraying is very close.
House Frey is so filled with Smug Snakes that listing them all here would be impossible. But Ryman and Rhaegar stand out.
If the Others don't catch you, the cold will do the job nicely.
Lampshaded when Ygritte first meets Jon Snow and comments on his 'evil' name.
The So-Called Coward: Played ambiguously with Samwell "The Slayer" Tarly, who is a self-confessed "craven" who manages to kill an Other, although mostly by luck. Over the course of the series, he shows more initiative and bravery, but is still far from a badass. Of course, every time he does do something brave, he just beats himself up for being scared in the first place — he'd have benefited from hearing Ned's advice to Bran that "the only time a man can be brave" is when he's afraid.
Sociopathic Soldier: The idea of regular men turning into killers and rapists before returning home and being good husbands and fathers again is openly discussed a few times. The soldiers in Gregor Clegane's war band are a perfect example of this, since at least Raff the Sweetling is a Punch Clock Villain and a likeable guy when Gregor is not around. Of course, Gregor is just like that all the time.
Sock Puppet: In the Vale, Littlefinger has Lyn Corbray working as an anti-sockpuppet, opposing his rule at every turn while behaving in such a vile and dishonourable way that he makes the Lord Protector look like a saint for tolerating him, and embarrasses the opposition by association. In his first appearance on-page, he draws his sword at a parley and makes death threats, buying Littlefinger a year of unopposed rule in return for generously overlooking the grievous insult.
Soft-Spoken Sadist: Roose Bolton is mild mannered, courteous, and speaks so softly that others have to listen closely to hear anything he says. House Bolton also has a flayed man as their sigil, and a legendary (and extremely justified) reputation for torture.
Soul Jar: Wargs treat their Bond Creatures this way; they can only be killed when their last host body is killed, so they collect "skins" partly as a status symbol and partly as a way to cheat death.
Joffrey manages to be one to himself. His mother had it all planned out that Ned Stark would confess to betrayal, Joffrey would show mercy and send him into a relatively honorable exile, and it'd be smooth sailing from there. Instead, Joffrey, Faux Affably Evil psychopath that he is, orders Ned executed anyway in public, sparking off the War of the Five Kings when Ned's son raises an army.
The survival of Bran and Rickon, unbeknownst to Tywin, means that having Robb and Catelyn killed isn't quite the death knell for the Starks that he expected it to be.
Spartan Sibling: Inter-sibling bullying seems common and probably encouraged by the Greyjoys.
The Spartan Way: The Unsullied are trained in this manner, but the methods used are much worse than anything in real life. For instance, the Good Masters give each of the would-be Unsullied a puppy to take care of after they are castrated at the age of five. At the age of six, the would-be Unsullied must strangle their puppy to demonstrate their willingness to follow orders. Any trainee unable to do so is put to death. Before becoming full-fledged Unsullied, each recruit must go to the slave market and murder a slave child in front of its mother.
Standard Royal Court: Much of the story revolves around the goings-on at the Red Keep and the royal court comprises some of the most memorable characters in the books.
The Starscream: Every Great House in Westeros has a house sworn to them that tries to undermine them:
Houses Reyne and Tarbeck were this to the Lannisters until Tywin wiped them out.
House Blackfyre was this to the Targaryens.
House Florent is this to the Tyrells. The Tyrells, in a way, were this to their previous overlords, the Gardeners.
House Yronwood was this in the past to the Martells, but Doran Martell was able to resolve the feud between the two houses by fostering Quentyn at their castle. Now the Yronwoods are among Doran's most trusted servants, as evidenced by the fact that two Yronwoods were sent to protect Quentyn on his secret mission to marry Dany, including the Yronwood heir, who was Quentyn's best friend.
House Frey is sworn to House Tully, but frequently tries to throw its weight around, and during a past war withheld its support until Tully was sure to win.
House Stark has engaged in a thousand-year struggle with House Bolton over control of the North. At the beginning of the series, Bolton is sworn to Stark, but they clearly don't want to stay that way. Ultimately the Freys and Boltons betray their sworn overlords in a single gambit.
Stay in the Kitchen: The general opinion of people in Westeros outside of Dorne. Most people mock or criticize Brienne for her knightly aspirations. Cersei has a great deal of problems trying to throw her weight around like a male lord. The Night's Watch forbids women from joining, and after a truce was established with the wildlings, the spearwives encountered so many problems that they were all given control of their own castle.
One may be suggested with the Freys. Their famous two towers and identification as Lords of the Crossing suggests an unstated (and accurate) pun that they are "double crossing".
Stannis using the Fiery Heart as his sigil, considering a Hart is another word for Stag...
Some foreshadowing that the Mance Rayder who dies was not who he appeared to be: when Jon has his archers Mercy Kill the man before he burns alive, he is described as falling bonelessly to the floor. We later find out that he was actually Rattleshirt, the Lord o' Bones.
Stockholm Syndrome: Ramsay Bolton has perfected the art of instilling this in his captives. Theon and Jeyne Poole both have classic cases of it after coming into his clutches.
The religion of the Ironborn prophesies the coming of a literal storm (the storm god being their God of Evil, rival of the Drowned God they worship). Similarly, the faith of R'hllor prophesies the coming of a "long night".
Tywin Lannister is a proud, dignified, and humorless man who is characterized by his aura of cold perfection and total ruthlessness in pursuit of his family's well-being. The in-universe meme that he shits gold relates both to his wealth, as well as the fact that he comes across as too perfect to be capable of normal excretion.
Roose Bolton has a similar dignified and deadpan personality as Tywin and is extremely sadistic in a detached way. He frequently has himself leeched, eats prunes to stay regular, and favors the medicinal wine hippocras- basically, he's a medieval health nut.
Straight for the Commander: A lot of battle strategies among the warring claimants to the throne involve capturing or killing important commanders on the other side(s) as well as taking a side "out of the race" by killing their leader
Generally used instead of Funetik Aksent, to a more or less subtle degree, to represent people from other cultures such as Sallador Saan and Syrio Forel (and all over the place in Essos).
Jaqen H'ghar refers to everyone - first, second or third person - by indefinite descriptive phrases: "a man", "a girl", etc. Nobody else has been seen speaking like this, either in the House of Black and White or "Jaqen" himself in other guises.
Streisand Effect: Invoked and played with. When Stannis distributes a letter accusing Cersei and Jaime of fathering incestuous children, she tries to crush it to prevent the tale from spreading, but she's unsuccessful. Littlefinger attempts to sidestep the trope by trying a tit-for-tat strategy: inventing an equally lurid tale of the paternity of Stannis' daughter Shireen.
Stupid Evil: Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton stand out as being incapable of restraining their sadistic impulses no matter how much it hurts their cause. Roose Bolton calls out his son on this.
Succession Crisis: Starts the War of the Five Kings. Joffrey isn't really King Robert's son, Stannis considers himself the rightful heir, Daenerys wants the throne Robert stole when he killed her brother, Robb wants revenge for his father's death and independence for the North, Renly just wants power and glory and thinks he'd make a better ruler than Stannis, and Balon decides this is the perfect time to attempt another rebellion.
Sunk Cost Fallacy: One of Quentyn Martell's motives for trying to steal a dragon instead of just going home to his father after Dany's disappearance is that he can't stand the thought of his friends' deaths having been for nothing.
Survival Mantra: A running theme for Arya. She frequently remembers the sayings of her old fencing instructor in times of crisis, and makes a habit of listing the people she wants dead before going to sleep each night.
Suspiciously Apropos Music: When the musicians at Edmure Tully's wedding strike up The Rains of Castamere. Justified in that this was preselected as a signal for its appropriateness. Similarly, Wyman Manderly suggests the bard play a song about "The Rat King" at the feast where he feeds several dead Freys to their unknowing family members.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Melisandre sends a shadowy Stannis-like spirit to kill Renly, Stannis has a vivid dream of the murder and repeatedly states that he had no involvement in his brother's death as he was asleep at the time.
In A Feast for Crows, Mance Rayder's son is switched with Gilly's son in order to prevent Melisandre from taking advantage of his "royal blood" as a sacrifice to R'hllor.
As of A Dance with Dragons, it is claimed that the same thing happened in the backstory to save baby Aegon Targaryen. Mind you, the claims come from characters with a vested interest in securing the throne for 'Aegon', and should not necessarily be trusted.
Switching P.O.V.: A textbook example of the advantages of this viewpoint. The first seven or eight chapters of A Game of Thrones are particularly instructive, as each chapter frequently introduces one character, only to have the next be narrated from that character's Point of View, thus highlighting the Gray and Grey Morality of the series. There have been 31 narrators so far: Will, Bran, Catelyn, Daenerys, Eddard, Jon, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Maester Cressen, Davos Seaworth, Theon Greyjoy, Chett, Jaime Lannister, Samwell Tarly, Merrett Frey, Pate, Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy, Areo Hotah, Cersei, Brienne, Asha, Ser Arys Oakheart, Victarion, Arianne Martell, Varamyr Sixskins, Quentyn Martell, "Griff," Melisandre, Ser Barristan Selmy, Kevan Lannister. Word of God is that no more POV characters will be added in the last two books, not counting prologues and epilogues.
Sword Fight: Since this is fantasy after all, it happens in every book.
Jaime Lannister becomes a lot more sympathetic after he becomes a POV character. Reactions are mixed whether Cersei receives the same benefit— you certainly understand her better, even if you don't like her any more. This can also happen in reverse— such as Jon, who is easy to like in his own chapters, but when we get an outside perspective on him we realize he's seen as cold and guarded.
The sympathy one feels for Tyrion during his own chapters is such that we see the people of King's Landing as a bunch of prejudiced, short-sighted ingrates, and it is very easy to forget that he unleashed a load of thieving, raping barbarians and mercenaries loose on the various civilians of the city while securing his position.
Also consciously averted. The War of Five Kings is never told from the perspective of any of the Kings, but the people around them. While the POV characters may see their relevant King in a positive light (particularly Davos and Catelyn), avoiding giving the Kings POV chapters creates a level of distance between them and the readers, meaning the characters are more likely to be judged on their decisions and the consequences of their actions rather than on their emotions, intentions or inner-thoughts.
Taking You with Me: When Stannis attacks King's Landing, Cersei offhandedly reveals to Sansa that Ilyn Payne isn't just attending them for their protection, but also because Cersei does not intend to let Sansa live in the event Stannis wins the battle.
Talking Animal: Ravens will often be able to parrot a few phrases, and tend to say creepily significant words at dramatically appropriate moments. It's implied that in the old days of magic, ravens were used to verbally relay messages, as opposed to the modern practice of having them deliver letters.
Tangled Family Tree: The medievalesque setting means that people often start having children very young and continue to have children very old; add in all the Arranged Marriages between vastly age-differenced people and the general theme of incest and keeping track of relationships becomes... interesting. There are also the Freys, who manage to be this trope all on their own.
A Taste Of Defeat: Several characters in the books suffer major defeats in battle and the consequences haunt them years later and define aspects of their character, making them humbler, more cautious and introspective:
Victarion Greyjoy is a fierce and proud admiral and captain of the Iron Fleet whose defeat at the hands of Stannis Baratheon at Fair Isle haunts him for years afterwards.
Griff or Jon Connington is haunted by the memory of the Battle of the Bells at Stony Sept during Robert's Rebellion, a defeat which in his mind ensured Rhaegar's defeat and death. Kevan Lannister himself Lampshades this trope, noting that while young Jon Connington may have been a glory-hound, defeat and years of exile would have made him cautious and more dangerous than ever.
Stannis Baratheon's defeat at the Battle of Blackwater Bay has likewise made him re-prioritize his course, made him realize that rather than taking the throne to protect the realm, he must protect the realm to take the throne because a true king protects his people.
Jaime Lannister, the brash young swordsman ended up getting Out-Gambitted by the Blackfish and Robb Stark at the Battle of Whispering Woods, becoming a captive for most of the war. After his release and the loss of his hand, he has become Older and Wiser and more cautious as a commander as seen in A Feast for Crows.
On the other hand Robb Stark never lost a battle, but lost his war at a wedding, his and his uncle's and Tywin Lannister never truly suffered a defeat. In both cases, their complacency proved to be their undoing
Tasty Gold: Comes up regularly, including one instance in which Arya murders a man by poisoning a gold coin. It's also Lampshaded in A Feast for Crows by someone who doesn't actually know how to tell whether the gold coin he's handed is real or fake, but bites it anyway so he doesn't seem naive. It's implied that he dies the same way as Arya's victim.
Teaser-Only Character: if you narrate a prologue or epilogue in A Song of Ice and Fire, you will be dead by the end of it. (Though two of them nominally "survived" their chapters despite being killed — Chett as a wight and Varamyr in the skin of his wolf.)
Ten Little Murder Victims: The "Ghost of Winterfell", apparently attempting to invoke Cabin Fever amongst the fractious forces supporting Roose Bolton while they wait for Stannis to attack them. It works, as the tension comes to blood and Roose sends most of his forces out into the snow to seek out the enemy.
Thanatos Gambit: Tyrion, although subverted since he doesn't actually die. Tywin arranged for House Tyrell and House Martell to be his chief allies despite the fact that they'd been at war for centuries. The way Tyrion arranged it, Tyrell and Martell would be at war again regardless, and either Tyrion would live (and piss off House Tyrell) or he would die (and piss off House Martell). Either way, he shoots a hole through Tywin's alliance.
Invoked by Aemon (in backstory) towards his younger brother who became the Unexpected Successor; he tells him he must "kill the boy and become the man", and thus stop going by his cutesy childhood nickname "Egg" and become "Aegon".
Sandor Clegane, who is implied to be living anonymously as a monk on Quiet Isle. The Elder Brother states that the Hound is dead, and later that Sandor Clegane is "at rest". This serves both as a cover and a reference to the man's new life.
That Old Time Prescription: Maesters (essentially doctors, though they have other scholarly duties) commonly prescribe "milk of the poppy" (that is, opium) to anyone suffering from a particularly painful injury. They realise it's not a drug to throw around willy-nilly, though, and have lesser prescriptions for minor painkillers and sleeping draughts.
Theme Naming: The ruling elites of Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are known as, respectively, the Good Masters, the Wise Masters and the Great Masters.
At the beginning of the series, this is Jaime's reaction to his unfairly tarnished reputation, though he eventually comes to realise that he's better off changing people's minds by not fulfilling their expectations.
Later on, his brother Tyrion has a similar reaction to his own family's ill treatment of him. Accuse me of killing your son, will you? How about I kill our dad?
They Called Me Mad!: Although he says it in a more rational-sounding way than usual, Qyburn has a comment like this on the (as he sees it) close-minded Maesters of Oldtown, who didn't appreciate him vivisecting people and teaching himself necromancy.
It's enforced by the ancient rules against kinslaying, which many people see as the ultimate sin — even in cases where the victim thoroughly deserved to die, a blood-relative who orders or perpetrates that death is damned. The Karstarks even invoke this rule in regards to their extremely distant familial links to the Starks, but Robb doesn't buy it.
The Lannister clan's loss of power is a direct result of their blood ties dissolving into infighting and jealousy.
Third Line, Some Waiting: Daenerys's chapters take place on another continent in the east. Not until the fifth book does she start getting a steady flow of visitors from Westeros.
The thirteenth commander of the Night's Watch was the "Night King" who married a "pale, unholy woman" (probably an Other) and enslaved his brothers with sorcery, making them commit atrocities for thirteen years before finally being destroyed by one of the Starks.
The trade guild Xaro Xhoan Daxos belongs to is known as The Thirteen, our first hint that maybe they're not to be trusted. Dany's handmaids tell her that thirteen is a bad omen (it is known) when Xaro shows up with thirteen ships, trying to shoo Dany out of Meereen.
Daenerys has a dream in which she sees her brother Rhaegar say of his son, "He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." The phrase "ice and fire" is also used in the Reeds' loyalty oath to Bran.
The title of A Game of Thrones is dropped most famously by Cersei talking to Ned Stark ("When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die") and is used repeatedly throughout the series by other characters. Notably though, the very first instance of a Title Drop rubbishes the idea of the game
Jorah Mormont: The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are.
The title of A Feast for Crows is dropped by Ironborn discussing how the war of the five kings has dramatically weakened every army in the land, and a cunning opportunist could amass immeasurable spoils.
The title of A Dance with Dragons is dropped in by Barristan Selmy when referring to Quentyn's failed attempt to capture a dragon, which ended in his excruciating death.
Barristan Selmy: Not all men are meant to dance with dragons.
Quentyn Martell. In A Dance With Dragons, he walks into a room with two dragons and tries to tame them with a whip. What did he expect to happen?.
The slave masters of Astapor not only sell their entire army to the leader of a group known for sacking cities, they even suggest using it against a few neighboring cities in her path to get them bloodied.
Lysa Arryn, for trusting and even loving the same admitted backstabber.
Viserys Targaryen, having a short temper and a tendency to petty spiteful acts of violence towards Dany, and act like a prick to a tribe of warriors who consider killing as easy as eating and breathing.
Robb, who was completely blind to the impending backlash of his marriage.
Sansa Stark to a lesser degree, if only because she manages to stay alive and only gets smarter as the series progresses, but her naivety cost the life of several people, including her father, Eddard, by unintentionally aiding the queen's plot against him.
Cersei, for beggaring the realm and driving away any possible allies that might be able to help.
Arys Oakheart. Yes, charge full tilt at a battalion of crossbowmen. This was such a bad idea, Arianne Martell wonders if he wasn't committing Suicide by Cop.
Rhaegar did this according to legend. An artist and scholar as a youth, he one day realized that he had to become a warrior, so he went on to became one of the strongest knights in Westeros.
Arya is slowly leveling up throughout the series. She is currently in training to became a magical assassin, and is beginning to realize her skinchanging abilities.
Dunk is an extremely mediocre swordsman in the first two short stories, in spite of his size. Before the beginning of "The Mystery Knight," however, he gets into a few battles and fights off an ironman boarding party. By the time he arrives in Whitehall, few men are his equal with an axe or mace. He's still a piss-poor jouster, though.
Samwell Tarly after joining the Night's Watch, culminating in him killing an Other with an obsidian blade, then killing a wight by shoving a hot coal in its mouth.
Daenerys Targaryen by the end of the first book. And again by the end of the third.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Lord Wyman Manderly in A Dance With Dragons, owing to the deaths of his family. His change in personality is actually the first clue for readers that Manderly is just putting on a facade of loyalty in front of the Freys, and has no intention of killing Davos after all.
Torture Always Works: Averted. Sometimes, torture does work, but just as often it's used to extract false confessions. Sometimes, torture is even performed to purposefully get a false confession, as when the Blue Bard is tortured into "admitting" he had an extramarital affair with Margaery. Hizdahr zo Loraq points out that torturing him for a confession is pointless, since he'd obviously confess to whatever the torturer asks, no matter how untrue.
The Tickler, Gregor Clegane's designated torturer. He uses a variety of horrible methods to inflict pain while asking the same litany of questions over and over until the prisoner dies. When he is not torturing, he is a perfectly mundane soldier.
Qyburn, a former maester who was thrown out of the organization for conducting experiments on living creatures, including vivisections. Cersei puts his knowledge to use as a torturer, among other things.
Ramsay Bolton is well-versed in the cruel old Bolton tradition of flaying prisoners alive. He spends the time between the end of A Storm of Swords and A Dance With Dragons putting his skills to work flaying Theon Greyjoy piece by piece while breaking his sanity.
The Shavepate either serves this function for Dany in Meereen or directly oversees those who do.
Garth in White Harbor. He tortures by burning his victims with a heated iron rod called "the Whore."
Pretty Meris is designated torturer for the Windblown mercenary company; she can make a victim last for a month.
The Tower: Harrenhal is a Big Fancy Castle with a number of towers, but as a whole it serves as a symbol of the hubris typically associated with this trope. King Harren intended to build an enormous, impregnable castle as a representation of his power. Unfortunately, it became obsolete on the day of its completion, when Aegon arrived in Westeros with dragons that made castle walls moot. It's now a blasted-out wreck that is rumored to be haunted.
Wyman Manderly - Lamprey pies He also really enjoyed that pie which are suspected by fans to contain three Freys, although that was presumably/hopefully because of the revenge aspect rather than the taste.
Westerosi ravens seem to like corn.
Tragic Hero: Eddard Stark, Robb Stark, Rhaegar Targaryen and many more.
Tragic Mistake: While the story is not a classic tragedy, we can trace some characters' downfalls to a single action caused by some character defect.
Eddard Stark refusing to preemptively strike at the Lannisters, leading to his downfall and the destruction of his House.
Theon refusing to abandon Winterfell after he has sacked it, causing him to be captured by the Boltons and broken.
Robb Stark breaking his marriage pact with Walder Frey to instead marry Jeyne Westerling, leading directly to the Red Wedding.
Training from Hell: The Unsullied, who are broken into selfless, robotic, and utterly loyal killing machines.
Littlefinger is a classic Trickster Archetype - he seems to be actively working to destabilise Westeros simply in order to make it easier for him to manipulate people and facilitate his own Rags to Riches progression.
Tyrion and Varys are both prime candidates as well, using tricks, manipulation and ambiguous loyalty to, respectively, keep the Lannisters on top and keep the Houses at each others' throats until the Targaryens return.
Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of her Name, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Stormborn, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Shackles and Mother of Dragons.
Joffrey of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister, the First of his Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.
Lord Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Shield of Lannisport, Warden of the West, Savior of the City and Hand of the King.
Balon Greyjoy the Ninth of his Name since the Grey King, King of the Iron Islands and the North, King of Salt and Rock, Son of the Sea Wind, Lord Reaper of Pyke.
Lord Petyr Baelish, Lord of Harrenhal, Lord Paramount of the Trident, Lord Protector of the Vale and former Master of Coin.
Tormund Giantsbane/Thunderfist, Tall-Talker, Horn-Blower, Breaker of Ice, Husband to Bears, Mead-King of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods, and Father to Hosts
Truce Zone: The Dothraki city of Vaes Dothrak; spilling blood within carries the death penalty (being strangled to death bloodlessly). Khal Drogo invokes Exact Words in order to kill Viserys.
Tsundere: What few glimpses we've had of Lyanna Stark's personality seem to lean toward this.
Turbulent Priest: The High Sparrow, a new High Septon imposed on King's Landing by the begging brothers in protest at the Corrupt Church. Could have stayed as merely a political thorn in Cersei's side had she not foolishly given him licence to reform the Church Militant, making him a powerful military leader in his own right.
Twincest: Twins Jaime and Cersei have had a long-term romantic relationship.
Twin Desynch: As long as Jaime and Cersei are together, they seem to form an utterly unflappable scheming machine to rival their father. However they really start to change once they're separated for a considerable time — both of them suffer horrible traumas to which they respond in entirely different ways, and they each start to loathe the person they see their twin becoming.
Two Aliases, One Character: Barristan Selmy as Arstan Whitebeard; More than likely Jaqen H'ghar as/The Alchemist/Pate (after killing the real one); Likely Sarella Sand and Alleras.
The Unsullied are eunuch slaves trained from birth to be perfect warriors. Their horrific training is meant to strip them of all self-worth and individuality, turning them into soulless weapons. It doesn't quite work.
Sandor frequently asserts that knights are just living weapons, trained from boyhood to kill at their master's command.
Ugly Cute: An in-universe example, Brienne elicits sympathy from Catelyn (and from many readers) for the combination of her brutish looks and resolutely romantic outlook.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Robert and Cersei, after he lets himself go fat and bloated. Plain-faced Jorah and Lynesse, which fails because of his money rather than his looks. Plain-faced Ned and Catelyn, who manage to become Happily Married. Deformed Tyrion and Sansa, which is a possible subversion of Give Geeks a Chance. Lysa felt this way about the old and onion-breathed Jon Arryn, though she ultimately lets herself go. Partly a reflection of the woes of women in this society. May explain the popularity of the rare reversal, the Jaime/Brienne pairing.
Underdogs Never Lose: Of the viewpoint characters who've survived the first four books in spite of constantly being placed in dangerous and potentially fatal situations, one is a bastard, one is a fat black sheep of the family, one is a child cripple, one is the hunted last heir of a toppled dynasty. Tyrion the dwarf, however, never seems to get any credit for his successes, and is constantly pushed back down. Also, a large part of the remainder of this series is spent averting this trope in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.
Dany's Unsullied. Although she's been told that they have absolute loyalty to whoever holds their master's scepter, she sets them free, earning their loyalty even beyond their Unsullied conditioning. After she's believed dead and her husband tries to assume control of them, they remain in their barracks and refuse to follow any orders.
The job description of a Dothraki bloodrider. If their khal dies, they are to avenge his death, escort the khaleesi to Vaes Dothrak and then join their khal in death.
Unfinished Business: Both the characters we've met who have been restored to life by the fires of R'hllor have been single-mindedly obsessed with fulfilling the last goal they had had before they died; Beric with harrying the Lannister forces in the Riverlands and Catelyn with getting vengeance against the Freys. It's not clear whether this is a supernatural effect, or if dying and coming back just gives one a stubborn streak.
Unnecessarily Large Interior: The Alchemists' Guild has a grand hall filled with green wildfire torches. Tyrion notes that the hall is only used to impress visitors and all the torches will be extinguished as soon as he leaves.
Unpleasable Fanbase: Browse the online forums long enough and you can find a hatedom for every character, plot twist, relationship, potential relationship, or prophecy prediction.
In A Storm of Swords, Sansa thinks back on Sandor kissing her when he hid in her room during the Battle of the Blackwater, a detail that never appeared in the actual text of A Clash of Kings. Word of God confirms it as Sansa misremembering the night.
"The Princess and the Queen” shows this in-universe, as Archmaester Gyldayn expresses numerous doubts about the veracity of his sources when writing a history of the Dance of the Dragons.
Propaganda songs are written after the Battle of Blackwater praising the gallantry of King Joffrey and the Queen Regent — in truth their efforts did more harm than good. The true hero, Tyrion, is written out of events altogether.
The fact that we're privy to Varys and Ned's plan for him to confess and take exile to the Wall is one hint that that ain't gonna happen.
Most of the best schemes are kept obscure until they come to fruition in a Wham Chapter. This is presumably part of the reason that very few of the series' chessmasters are POV characters. Cersei only becomes one after she starts going off the rails.
Unusual Euphemism: Mostly averted, actually—characters from the Seven Kingdoms swear using modern English curses.
The Braavosi tend to include odd adjectives for their swearwords, possibly to add to their foreign flavor. "Camel's cunt" is the first that springs to mind, and is even funnier because ten-year old Arya says it.
Swearing occurs not only in dialogue, but in the narrative as well. This leads to some strange dissonance if you're used to typical fantasy, on at least one occasion—one moment a character "screamed and soiled himself", and the next someone "wiped the piss off his boot". Many modern swear words, such as piss and shit, were once the proper names for such things.
Euphemisms referencing the Big Bad ("The Others take you!") and the Fantasy Pantheon ("Seven Hells!") are fairly common.
Night's Watchmen who go to Mole Town for paid sex refer to it as "Digging for buried treasure", due to the town's network of tunnels, which includes the brothel.
Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Catelyn has a number of flashbacks/reminiscences which suggest Littlefinger was this, although he was always pretty mischievous. Dany also recalls Viserys being a decent brother when she was very young, before he went insane from the pressure of his birth.
Variant Chess: Cyvasse is a chess-variant with pieces like dragon, elephant, crossbow, trebuchet and mountain. The players align their pieces in a custom starting alignment before the beginning of the game, with a Battleships-style screen dividing the board so their opponent doesn't know their deployment until the game begins.
Jaime and Cersei. Although "villainous" is not so straightforward in this series and both characters are revealed to be greyer than they first appear (and to genuinely love each other, in their own ways), they both play purely villainous roles in the first book, with the reveal of their incest being the first hint of this. Their affair also directly causes much of the series' conflict, although given their relationship this is also a case of Love Ruins the Realm.
Zig-Zagged with the Targaryens: the family tradition of in-breeding is embraced by some and rejected by others, but seems to have no direct correlation with how individually evil they are. How villainous the regime is as a whole is highly subjective.
Villains Never Lie: The Lannisters... well they lie all the time, but they take their motto seriously, and if they outright promise you something (whether it's gold or revenge) you can count on getting it. It's often From a Certain Point of View, though. Jaime, for instance, was pretty disappointed when the Brave Companion he was trying to bribe refused his offer. He was really looking forward to filling the man's pockets with gold before he hanged him.
The Villain Sucks Song: "The Rains of Castamere." Though Tywin Lannister actually likes the song (insofar as he's capable of liking anything); he considers it good PR, as it details exactly what he'll do to you if you cross him. Whenever it's played, something bad's about to go down.
When Jaime rescues Brienne from the Bloody Mummers, there's some concern that she may have been gang raped, so Jaime checks on the status of her maidenhood by joking about how he only rescues maidens. Possibly subverted, as it had been demonstrated that his concern was less about her virginity and more about her wellbeing.
For political reasons Margaery Tyrell is regarded as a virgin when she's married to King Renly, then King Joffrey and finally King Tommen. While it's plausible (Renly is known to be homosexual, and Joffrey was poisoned before the wedding could be consummated) there's some skepticism.
Virtue Is Weakness: The people who are portrayed to be "villains" all believe in this. The Lannisters and Littlefinger in particular all consider "honor" only to be a flaw to be exploited in others.
The Virus: People killed by the Others or their wights will become wights in turn. Jon becomes concerned that leaving wildlings to die beyond the wall will only add to the Others' power.
Also the disease greyscale, which while treatable to an extent can cause insanity if untreated. Advanced greyscale victims apparently gather together and attack the uninfected. It's also telling that the wildlings consider greyscale to be akin to becoming a wight.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Faceless Men can change their faces. They apparently do this with skin masks. Although the kindly man claims that it is not a glamour, Arya still feels her real face after he puts one on her, so it's ambiguous as to whether her face actually changes shape. Jaqen H'ghar also changes his facial appearance simply by passing a hand over his face.
Vow of Celibacy: Required by several religious and military orders, including the Night's Watch, the Kingsguard, the septons/septas of the Faith of the Seven, and the maesters of the Citadel. Some take their vows more seriously than others; in the Night's Watch, it's an open secret that more brothers than not make regular visits to a nearby brothel.
Waif-Fu: Subverted — Arya's father arranges for her to be trained in a Braavosi fencing style that's suited to her small frame and slim blade, but any attempts to take on experienced and armoured male combatants in the real world end with Arya being readily disarmed. Fortunately Arya is still able to kill using skill and trickery, mainly by exploiting the fact that no one thinks a scrawny girl child is dangerous.
The Wall Around the World: The Wall serves double trope duty, both as the edge of the world to the North for the Westerosi, and the edge of the world to the South for the Wildlings.
Wandering Minstrel: Often portrayed as handsome lads of dubious morals where ladies are concerned, and it seems almost a Running Gag for them to come to sticky ends. A nameless singer is mutilated on the orders of King Joffrey for a subversive song about Queen Cersei and the late King Robert, Littlefinger has Marillion tortured into falsely confessing to Lysa Arryn's murder, Symon Silvertongue ends up in a pot of stew after trying to blackmail Tyrion, Dareon is murdered by Arya Stark after he deserts from the Nights Watch. Tom of Sevens is still alive, but his life expectancy as a spy for a gang of notorious outlaws isn't long either.
Feelings in the Vale are mixed. Some of their Lords want to ally with the Starks and others want to ally with the Baratheons. Lysa chooses to stay neutral.
Obara and Tyene Sand both want war with the Lannister's after their father dies in a duel with Ser Gregor Clegane. Their proposed wars differ significantly though: Obara wants to invade the Reach and burn Oldtown as a start, while Tyene prefers starting a defensive war by crowning Myrcella Baratheon queen and forcing the Lannister's to try invading Dorne. They stir up discontent among the commonfolk and nobility to try to force their uncle Prince Doran to go along with one of their plans.
War Is Hell: Enough to make you root for the return of the dynasty that used to hold the whole continent in thrall, because they at least kept the peace; even Aerys' rule seems preferable to the bloody civil war it was replaced with.
Theon: The bards will sing of their valor.
Robb: But the dead will not hear them.
In A Feast For Crows, Septon Meribald delivers a speech on "broken men", peasants driven to become outlaws by the horrors of war. How he describes the plight of these desperate men really drives home the "War Is Hell" message of the story.
Meribald: War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them [peasants] will ever know. Then they get a taste of battle.
Warrior Monk: Thoros of Myr is a red priest of R'hllor. Before his religious reawakening, he was known almost exclusively as a Boisterous Bruiser and melee champion.
Warrior Prince: Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, and Robb Stark. Before them, Rhaeger Targaryen. In the future, possibly Jon Snow.
Wasteful Wishing: In payment for saving his life and his two fellow prisoners, the assassin Jaqen H'ghar offers to kill any three people that Arya names. She starts with two vile but low-ranking soldiers in the Lannister army, only to kick herself when Lord Tywin marches out to fight her brother's army and Arya realises she should have named him. Jaqen then offers to kill King Joffrey for her, but Arya opts for a ploy that will free herself and some captured Northmen in the process, little realizing that the prisoners were using a Trojan Prisoner gambit and would have been freed anyway. However, Arya's cunning and ruthlessness impress Jaqen all the same.
We All Die Someday: As a counterpart to the latin Memento mori, there is the Valyrian saying "Valar morghulis", meaning "All men must die". The traditional reply, by the way, is "Valar dohaeris" ("All men must serve").
One of the main factors in the War of Five Kings. Firstly, the Baratheon brothers are too busy fighting each other to present the united front with which they could have quickly seized victory. By the time that conflict ends, the North and Riverlands have dissolved into a tug-o-war between the Ironborn, Stark loyalists, the Boltons and the Freys. The Lannisters end up on top just by consistently backing the winning horse — and then, they succumb to infighting of their own.
Daenerys's two closest supporters are enemies. Once she settles in Meereen, there is quite a lot of mistrust between her courtiers.
The wildlings used to fight among themselves until Mance Rayder united them under his banner. When Jon Snow tries to join them to the Night's Watch, the wildlings are more willing, though unhappy, to comply than the Night's Watch. The fact that many black brothers refuse to compromise with the wildlings impedes Jon's efforts for unity.
Robert Baratheon favored warhammers. Gendry, who doesn't know he's Robert's bastard son, coincidentally favours hammers as well, as he starts the series as an apprentice smith.
Areo Hotah, like all the boys trained by the Bearded Monks, is ceremonially wedded to his six-foot longaxe; part military oath, part vow of chastity.
The majority of knights are firmly of the opinion that Heroes Prefer Swords, and for prestigious orders like the Kingsguard it's practically compulsory. A lot of symbolism and tradition is tied up with swords, as well, making them seem particularly "knightly" weapons even when some Combat Pragmatists like Robert prefer battering weapons against armored foes.
Dragons are both mythical, fantastic and beautiful creatures strongly associated with the growing presence of magic but they serve the function of tactical nukes in medieval society. The famous "Field of Fire" where all three dragons were unleashed at one time and killed 5000 soldiers in a single day, successfully intimidated Kings Lannister and Stark to kneel and submit. When Daenerys starts her campaign, her dragon are initially greeted as rare wonders in Qarth and brings her fame as "Mother of Dragons", later when her dragons grow stronger and get unrulier, and lay waste to Astapor, her former host in Qarth tells Daenerys that while he had formerly hoped to harness her dragons, he now no longer sees them as anything but monsters. The Yunkish and some Meereenese like Galazza Galare likewise regard the dragons as dangerous and uncontrollable and call for their death while Daenerys eventually comes to terms with the fact that "Dragons plant no trees" but seems to have accepted it all the same.
Wildfire is even more obvious a parallel, moreso than the smaller-scale Greek Fire of the Byzantine Empire, regarded by the Pyromancers as a dangerous, uncontrollable substance which is a closely guarded secret and created by alchemists who take the precaution of keeping ceiling sandbars to quickly douse out-of-control flames. Wisdom Hallyne also tells Tyrion that Wildfire is so dangerous that if its handled carelessly its just as likely to destroy its defenders via spillage and carelessness as their enemies. As such Tyrion spends considerably time adjusting the training of the city's archers to handle pots of wildfire. Later we find out that Aerys II Targaryen was obsessed with Wildfire and planned to explode humongous quantities underneath King's Landing, a plan that led Jaime Lannister to kill him and the remaining pyromancers.
The North's bitter winters make it particularly hard to invade. Stannis's army is bogged down and suffers heavy casualties over the course of A Dance With Dragons from cold, snow and hunger.
Dorne has also used this in the backstory, defeating the armies of the Kingdoms by retreating into the desert. "It is said that the Dornish have two weapons, sun and spear; and of them, the sun is by far the deadlier."
We Have Reserves: During the Siege of Riverrun in A Feast for CrowsJaime boasts that his army has no lack of Freys. Especially true when you realize how much he despises the Freys.
Tywin Lannister plays this role; the desire to please him pushes Tyrion and Jaime, though neither would admit it. As is typical of the series, Tywin never provides validation, especially for Tyrion. Well, not the typical form of validation. Of course, this leads to him contracting an unfortunate fatal case of crossbow-bolt-through-bowels at the hands of, naturally, his son Tyrion. Even after that, it serves to motivate Jaime, to the point that one aunt has to point out to him that Tyrion is much more Tywin-esque than Jaime. It seems to drive Cersei (to a lesser extent) as well, although she flip flops between wanting to make him proud and wanting to become so much greater than him that he would only be remembered as her father, instead of the other way around.
Theon Greyjoy seems to have a case of this towards his father Balon. His feelings toward surrogate father Ned Stark are even more conflicted, which is unsurprising given Theon's dual role of hostage/ward. He at times finds himself wondering what Stark would say to some particular deed and then becomes angry with himself for caring. Thus far, the net result is that he's managed to totally alienate himself from the Greyjoys and the Starks — his jerkass tendencies and willingness to cross the Moral Event Horizon haven't helped, either.
In a very twisted sense, Joffrey Baratheon is like this towards Robert, irritating Tywin immensely as he had been given to understand Joffrey did not care for Robert and is pissed the little brat shows some pride at being a Baratheon rather than a Lannister.
Jon Snow seems to greatly desire Eddard Stark's approval, to the point that he has a few dreams about being accepted as a true Stark and given the rights to Winterfell. He suffers a lot of guilt over that last part though, given his status. While Ned did love and respect him and wanted to tell him so, Joffrey's interference meant he would never get the chance. Made more complex by recent hints that Ned might not actually be Jon's father at all
Wham Episode: Most of the books have at least one toward the end.
A Game Of Thrones: Ned Stark's execution.
A Storm Of Swords: The Red Wedding.
A Feast For Crows: Doran Martell revealing his plans for vengeance. Euron revealing his plan to steal Dany's dragons. Jamie refuses Cersei's plea for help.
A Dance With Dragons: Dany mounting Drogon and flying out of Meereen, as well as Jon getting stabbed by his own men.
Beric Dondarrion is sent to bring Gregor Clegane to justice shortly before Eddard is executed. He turns up later as the leader of an outlaw band, the remnants of his destroyed army.
Jeyne Poole disappears after the Lannisters neutralize the Stark forces in King's Landing. She reappears impersonating Arya Stark to wed Ramsay Bolton, having been forced to work in Littlefinger's brothels the whole time.
Rickon Stark isn't heard from after he and Bran split up, which is particularly striking given the amount of focus on the other Stark children. Davos has gone to look for him on Skagos, but we still haven't seen him.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Jon keeps a couple of wights chained up in the ice cells to be studied, as he suspects there might be more to them than shambling corpses. He notes that the one who tried to kill Mormont had obviously retained memories and some level of intention.
In a rare outburst of temper, Kevan Lannister tells Jaime "I was hanging outlaws when you were shitting in your smallclothes." While it's in apparent response to his nephew patronizing him, Kevan quickly reveals that it's because he knows about Jaime's incest with his sister.
Janos Slynt reacts the same way to the new Lord Commander of the Night Watch ordering him around. He realizes a little too late that no matter how young "Lord Snow" is, he still has the power to cut off your head for refusing to obey orders.
Dany runs into the Cultural Posturing version. "Old Ghis ruled an empire while the Valyrians were still fucking sheep."
Jhogo, one of Daenerys' bloodriders, wields a whip as his signature weapon.
Dany uses a whip to chastise Drogon and then steer him while in the air. She notes that dragons steer toward the lash rather than away from it like a horse.
Whodunnit: The first book is driven in large part by Ned and Catelyn Stark's investigations of, respectively, the death of Jon Arryn and the attempted murder of their son Bran. Subverted when Ned's death, Tyrion's farce of a trial, and the onset of war put an end to the investigations, making it something of a (deliberately) Aborted Arc. The reader does eventually find out the truth behind both crimes in later books; the apparent motive of covering up Cersei's incest with Jaime turns out to have nothing to do with either of them, they were committed by Lysa Tully and Joffrey Baratheon, with Lysa, and possibly Joffrey too, being directed by Littlefinger.
Before she's wed to Khal Drogo, it's implied that Daenerys was always meant to marry her older brother Viserys, who raised her, as soon as she matured.
Done in the most direct possible fashion by Craster, who weds his own daughters.
Littlefinger seems to be taking this approach to Sansa, who is now a 13-year-old girl. With nowhere else to go and no one else to depend on, Sansa is "adopted" by him and is forced to endure Littlefinger grabbing her into his lap and being trained on how he likes his "fatherly" kisses - long and passionate. It's also worth noting that when she was even younger, he was already creeping Sansa out by looking at her as though she were naked. In A Dance With Dragons, Cersei recalls Littlefinger asking to marry Sansa (who at the time was 11-12 years old), although Cersei determined it impossible, since Littlefinger was of too low a status.
With My Hands Tied: Brienne is amazed at how well Jaime Lannister fights after a lengthy imprisonment, with his hands still chained together. Also, Strong Belwas intentionally allows his opponents to slash his belly before he kills them, a bit of showmanship he picked up as an arena champion.
A Wizard Did It: The author has stated the irregular length of the seasons is a result of as-yet unexplained magic.
Wizarding School: The Citadel has elements of this trope. Along with medicine, alchemy and other topics, some Maesters choose to study "magic," though the most they learn is that it doesn't work, effectively making the study of magic a Westerosi equivalent of A Degree in Useless. We later learn that a faction of the Citadel is strongly against magic and is trying to eradicate it. They might have been partially responsible for the extinction of Targaryen dragons, which caused magic to fade from the world for a while.
The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Daenerys after some development. She is also quite aware of the fact, referring to the necessity of her queenly vestments by saying that "The Queen of Rabbits cannot be seen without her floppy ears".
Stannis castrates rapists. It's presented as yet another way his principles lose him the good will of his followers.
While we never find out Jaime's policy on war rape before his Heel-Face Turn, this trope is used as a sign of his newfound devotion to proper knightly behaviour in A Feast For Crows, when he has a rapist in his ranks beheaded.
Heavily deconstructed with Daenerys. First, she tries to stop the Dothraki raping the women of defeated tribes. Since they view those women as spoils of war, she's seen as simply being greedy by claiming them for herself, so she only succeeds in protecting a handful. Later, one of those women complains that Dany sees herself as a hero for "saving" her, when she'd already seen her temple burned, her friends murdered, and indeed been raped several times already. For her next attempt at fulfilling the trope, she acquires an elite group of eunuch soldiers.
Though his reign was an overtly peaceful one, King Robert still loses on both a political and personal level. An insatiable warrior, Robert grows fat and bored after winning his crown, plunging the realm into debt as he entertains himself with lavish feasts and other distractions. Meanwhile, his total disinterest in ruling allows more ambitious players to destabilize the government, resulting in several untimely deaths (including his own) and eventually another war.
Robert: I swear to you, I never felt so alive as when I was winning this throne, nor so dead as now that I have
Young Robb Stark defies expectations when he fights brilliantly on the battlefield, defeating even seasoned strategists many times his age. None of it ends up mattering, however, when his poor political decisions, motivated by the commitment to honor he inherited from his father, undo all of his successes.
"Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne."
— King Stannis Baratheon
World of Snark: You name it, you'll find it. And, it'll very likely be being delivered by a Lannister, one of their supporters, some random bard... or Littlefinger and Varys. Amongst others.
World Sundering: No one's quite sure what caused the Doom of Valyria, but whatever it was, it was quite dramatic, accompanied by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and massive tidal waves. It's also implied that the affected region is still quite dangerous, with local folklore proclaiming that "The Doom still rules in Valyria" and few who venture there ever return.
Would Hit a Girl: This being a quasi-realistic medievalish world, we get this and more.
Wounded Gazelle Gambit: When Littlefinger is mired in a difficult diplomatic negotiation with the lords of the Vale, one of them pulls a sword on him, and Littlefinger leverages the breach of Sacred Hospitality to push the terms into his favour. Sansa works out that the man was in his pocket, and had been instructed to do exactly that.
Written by the Winners: A frequent theme in the series is the unreliability of official records and history books by maesters serving some long-dead political bias or the other.
Tyrion is especially forthright and suspicious about this, noting how some kings like Baelor the Blessed are loved for their piety while ignoring the burdens he inflicted on the realm, while hard-working behind the scenes political figures like Viserys II are unjustly ignored.
Seen in the naming of King Robert's overthrow of the Targaryen. In Westeros, it's popularly known as Robert's Rebellion, a neutral term, but the defeated Targaryen loyalists call it the Usurper's War.
Sansa. At the start of the series, she's very naive about people and thinks that the world behaves as it does in songs and stories. Littlefinger tells her straight out, "Life is not a song, sweetling. You'll learn that someday, to your cost." She starts to get more savvy as the series progresses.
Brienne, at first, very much believes in honor and chivalry, and that the other people believe in it too. She is possibly getting smarter.
Melisandre. She considers R'hllor the one true god and the one benevolent supernatural force when it's indicated the Red God is not really any better than the other gods and demons we've seen so far, and other gods have been demonstrating real power recently. She believes the world works by Black and White Morality in a series full of Gray and Grey Morality. She believes Stannis is the Chosen One to lead the fight against the Other, but everything indicates she's misinterpreting her visions, and Dany and possibly Jon Snow are better candidates.
The X of Y: The series title and the titles of each book follow the basic format, with minor variations.
The Red Wedding, for Tywin. Essentially all he does is provoke a civil war among the major houses of the North and the Riverlands, and arrange an assassination of the King in the North, while ensuring that all the moral outrage caused by the way it was done falls on the Freys. He's moderately better off if his horses (Frey and Bolton) come in first, as they've promised to end the war and swear fealty to the Iron Throne... but if they lose, the crippling of the North's military power would end the war in practice anyway, and the (apparent) male-line extinction of the Starks would mire the loyalist North in a Succession Crisis whatever happens.
Cersei's Uriah Gambit with Loras Tyrell, designed to either take Dragonstone quickly and free up the ships currently blockading it, or get rid of a personal enemy.
Jaime suggests sending Mace Tyrell to beseige Storms End. Either he'll muck it up and look a fool, succeed and remove a threat to Cersei's reign, or lose patience and get himself killed Storming the Castle. Cersei notes with approval that it's right out of father's book.
Xanatos Speed Chess: Part of Littlefinger's strategy is simply fomenting chaos and reacting to opportunities as they present themselves.
Yandere: Lysa Arryn for Littlefinger who is yandere for Catelyn. Heck, Littlefinger just takes Yandere to a whole newlevel of crazy.
If the contents of Ramsay Bolton's letter were true, the promise of an alliance with the Manderlys, the arrival of the Braavosi banker and the exposure of Arnolf Karstark's impending betrayal are all this for Stannis.
at the end of A Feast For Crows, Littlefinger reveals his plan to Sansa: he will keep her hidden for a while longer, then reveal her to her parents' former allies and have them rise up in her name. But then he introduces her to the hedge knights he has hired, and the reader realises (even if Littlefinger doesn't) that one of them is the same guy they saw hunting for Sansa earlier, and the plans aren't likely to go too well...
Yes-Man: Some of the men Cersei names to the small council following Joffrey and Tywin's deaths: Ser Harys Swyft, Orton Merryweather and Gyles Rosby. Averted when she tries to recruit her uncle Kevan in the belief that he was this trope for Tywin Lannister — it turns out Kevan is loyal, not sycophantic, and refuses because he thinks Cersei is a bad leader.
Young Future Famous People: In-universe example in The Mystery Knight, in which Lord Frey appears with his four-years old son... the future Lord Walder Frey.
Your Cheating Heart: The entire beginning conflict of the books was set in motion when Rheagar Targaryen, who was married to Elia Martell, kidnapped Lyanna Stark, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Ned Stark, who was married to Catelyn Tully, sired Jon Snow by an unrevealed woman. Robb Stark, who had promised to marry one of Lord Frey's daughters, instead married Jeyne Westerling after sleeping with her. Basically, a lot of people would be a lot better off if the men in these books could keep their dicks in their breeches.
Your Days Are Numbered: While this happens to a handful of characters, it's actually a plot point for Jojen Reed, who knows when he will die, and Jon Connington, who is Secretly Dying.
You Have Failed Me: Once Cersei starts going off the rails, she becomes very prone to this. She has few enough allies at court as the Tyrells gain power (and only ambitious sycophants are able to gain her trust), and they get fewer and fewer the more she insists on punishing them horribly for honest failures. Most horrifically, Falyse Stokeworth is tortured into insanity and an eventual painful death by Qyburn. Her crime? Her husband failed to kill Bronn and died in the attempt, and she came to Cersei for protection.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: In A Dance With Dragons, Theon gets the successful variant. A spearwife becomes angry with him and threatens his life. For the first time in about a year, he outright grins and tells her that she needs him to get past the guards. She disgustedly lets him go.
Yubitsume: When the smuggler Davos breaks the siege of Storm's End he gets a knighthood, but has the fingertips of one hand cut off. Stannis believes that good deeds don't make up for bad; if you do him a favour he'll reward your for it and punish you for your previous sins. Paradoxically, Davos sees his severed fingers as a token of Stannis' mercy and of his own loyalty.
Zerg Rush: During the Dance of Dragons, a mob high on drink and religious fervor assaults the Dragonpit killing all the dragons chained up inside despite massive casualties.
House Frey is utterly despised by other noble houses for violating the cardinal rule of hospitality in Westerosi culture. The only crime higher than kingslaying, the septons say, is kinslaying, but guest right seems to be held by many to be above even that.
The Boltons are also hated by everyone in the North for their betrayal, and the Northern Houses ally themselves with Stannis to bring them down.
When Cersei and Joffrey take the Iron Throne, both of them become extremely unpopular. Joffrey is hated due to his petty cruelty and lack of concern for his subjects, and Cersei quickly alienates herself due to her inability to consolidate her power. Nevertheless, Joffrey gets a little sympathy and people believe he has evil counselors: the eunuch Varys and the evil monkey demon Tyrion.
House Codd embodies this trope so much that they make it their house words: "Though All Men Do Despise Us."
Queen Rhaenyra during the Dance of Dragons. With her determination to root out and execute traitors, she alienates both the smallfolk (who eventually riot, killing her dragons) and her own consort Daemon (who defies her order to kill fellow Dragon Rider Nettles). When King Aegon II feeds Rhaenyra to his dragon, no-one objects at the kinslaying.
Zombie Apocalypse: The Others and their reanimated wights are trying to bring this south of the Wall.