Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends.
The third book in George R. R. Martin's doorstopperA Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 2000.The War of the Five Kings still rages strong upon the land. Stannis Baratheon has been confined to Dragonstone, trying to pick up his pieces after his defeat at Blackwater Bay. With the arrival of Tywin Lannister and the newly forged Lannister-Tyrell alliance, House Lannister's grip upon the Iron Throne grows stronger. The King in The North, Robb Stark, still stands fierce, but has to face the disobedience of his subjects when his mother decides to release the captive Kingslayer in a desperate effort to have her daughters returned. All across the Seven Kingdoms, old grudges begin to rear their ugly heads.In the east, Daenerys Stormborn finally decides to take things in her own hands and raise an army of her own. To reach Westeros, however, she needs to march on the slave-trading eastern continent. But while men fight among themselves in the South and East, savage wildlings gather under the banner of the King-Beyond-The-Wall to descend upon the Wall. The terrifying creatures known as the Others grow stronger as the nights grow colder, and when the dead walk, walls and stakes and swords mean nothing.The novel has a total of twelve POV characters. Minor characters Chett and Merett Frey provide the prologue and epilogue respectively. Since the Stark children are completely scattered, they each tell a different tale this time:
King's Landing and the king's court are once again seen through the eyes of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark.
Jaime Lannister follows a journey through the dangerous war-torn roads to return to King's Landing.
Riverrun and the northern army are presented through Catelyn Stark's perspective.
Arya Stark introduces the Brotherhood without Banners, a band of Robin Hood-esque outlaws.
Davos Seaworth narrates the tidings on Dragonstone and Stannis's court.
Bran follows his own story, which takes him through the North and the Wall.
Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow present differing perspectives on the status of the Wall, the wildlings and the Others.
Daenerys Targaryen once again gives the events on the east.
A Storm of Swords is currently the longest book in the series. Due to length, the UK paperback edition was split into two parts: Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold. The events of the book are also spread out amongst the third, fourth, and fifth seasons of HBO's Game of Thrones.
Actually Pretty Funny: Tyrion Lannister's response to seeing his brother's severed right hand for the first time is to crack up laughing at the apparent conspiracy to chop chunks off of Lannisters. It's at least partly hysterical, given that Jaime is probably his favourite family member.
Actually That's My Assistant: When Jon is taken to meet Mance Rayder, he initially thinks that Mance must be Boisterous Bruiser Tormund or one of the imposing Thenns, and is surprised when he turns out to be the nondescript bard in the room that Jon (and the text) hadn't paid any attention to up until that point.
Ser Axell Florent: Let the false and the fickle feel your flames.
Arc Words: Ygritte constantly tells Jon, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," for various reasons, but usually just to be playful. In the third book, they are her dying words. Afterwards, Jon hears this phrase from Melisandre, though she has no way (other than perhaps supernatural means) to know that Ygritte used to say this to him. It also becomes the phrase he thinks to himself when his doubts about his decisions as Lord Commander trouble him.
Attempted Rape: Vargo Hoat tries to rape Brienne, who bites off his ear.
Autocannibalism: Vargo Hoat gets hacked to pieces one part at a time by Gregor Clegane while he is imprisoned. The flesh is then fed to Hoat and the rest of the prisoners.
Awful Truth: Jaime reveals that Tysha, Tyrion's first wife truly did love him and was not a prostitute. The minute Tyrion learns this, he attacks Jaime, cuts off all ties with him and then murders Tywin.
Back from the Dead: Lady Catelyn's corpse is revived by Beric Dondarrion, who forfeits his own unlife to pay for it.
Came Back Wrong — she's still sentient, but cold, utterly ruthless and singlemindedly bent on revenge. The Brotherhood nickname her "Lady Stoneheart".
Badass Boast: Delivered by a crippled Jaime to Loras Tyrell:
"I am the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, you arrogant pup. Your commander, so long as you wear that white cloak. Now sheathe your bloody sword, or I'll take it from you and shove it up some place even Renly never found."
Ballistic Discount: A large-scale example: Daenerys Targaryen goes to Astapor to buy an army of slave-warriors who are conditioned to be utterly loyal to their owner, then proceeds to conquer Astapor and take her payment back. The slavers realize that selling all of their Unsullied would leave them relatively defenseless, but their greed wins out, and they apparently didn't anticipate Dany's immediate attack while still inside their walls. It helps that the dragon she bought them with also remains on her side, having imprinted on her as its "mother."
Bathtub Bonding: Brienne and Jaime's bath in Harrenhal, where a delirious Jaime reveals things to Brienne that he's never told anyone. Namely, he reveals that he killed Aerys II Targaryen (an act which earned him the derisive moniker "Kingslayer") because the Mad King intended to burn the city to the ground out of his love for fire and to see the rebels utterly decimated.
Jaime keeps the beard he acquired in captivity, then shaves his head for good measure. It doesn't fool anyone who's seen him before.
Arstan Whitebeard, aka Ser Barristan Selmy. He originally grows it in order to flee the Seven Kingdoms unrecognised.
Big Damn Heroes: Jaime Lannister, previously a cold-blooded villain, saves Brienne from the Bloody Mummers, which is basically the beginning of his Heel-Face Turn (although we later find out he wasn't as much of a Heel as we suspected to begin with).
Sandor Clegane has trouble recalling who Mycah (a poor butcher's boy he hunted down at Joffrey's orders) was when accused by Arya of his murder.
When Oberyn Martell duels the Mountain, he brings up the murder of his sister Elia. The Mountain's response is "Who?" Presumably this was a deliberate taunt; it's hard to imagine even Gregor would forget raping and murdering the wife of the heir to the throne...
Tywin Lannister doesn't remember Tysha's name; neither can he recall what happened to her after the gang rape.
Call Back: Jaime wore his gilded Lannister armor instead of his white Kingsguard armor when he killed The Mad King but he supposes nobody remembers that. According to book 1, Ned Stark did.
Chekhov's Gun: In the first chapter after the prologue, Catelyn learns that Hoster's fevered deathbed mutterings include the mysterious word "Tansy". While Catelyn is curious to know what it means, the matter is left alone by Catelyn and the narrative itself until the final chapter before the epilogue. The flower tansy is an ingredient in moon tea, which Hoster forced Lysa to drink so her child by Littlefinger would be aborted.
Completely Unnecessary Translator: Missandei to Dany in Astapor. Dany is fluent in several languages including Valyrian, but lets the slavers assume she isn't so they'll talk freely in her presence about things they really wouldn't want her to know.
Damned by Faint Praise: When the Tyrell women inquire Sansa about Joffrey, Sansa is unable to think of anything good to say about him except that he is "comely".
Dark Horse: Jon Snow didn't seek leadership of the Night Watch, but wins it thanks to some astute campaigning by Sam Tarly, pointing out to most of the other candidates how much worse it would be if any of the other candidates won (and Stannis locking them in until they came to a decision).
Decoy Protagonist: Beric Dondarrion, the altruistic warrior fighting for the good of the smallfolk who has the blessing of the Lord of Light Himself, has all the markings of a major player in the series to come. Psyche! He's just there to make space for the resurrected Catelyn Stark (though we don't actually find out he died to give her life until the next book).
Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Sam Tarly kills an Other (not a wight), when he stabs it with the first thing to hand, a dragonglass dagger. He puts it all down to luck, and assumes everyone who calls him "Sam the Slayer" is mocking him, even though he personally discovered their sole Kryptonite Factor.
Disproportionate Retribution: The Red Wedding is the result of a hodgepodge of various old grudges, resentments and jealousies: Walder Frey has Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn and half his bannermen murdered because Robb broke a promise to marry one of Frey's daughters. Lady Barbrey Dustin backs the Boltons' involvement because she resents the fact that she doesn't get to marry any of the Starks. She expresses a desire to feed Ned Stark's bones to her dogs.
Divide and Conquer: Oberyn implies his family is trying to convince Princess Myrcella to press her claim as queen of the Seven Kingdoms by Dornish law after Joffrey's death.
Doorstopper: Even for this series. Martin likes to point out that its word count is similar to The Lord of the Rings. As in, all of it. In the UK it was originally published in two parts, titled "Steel and Snow" and "Blood and Gold".
Dramatic Irony: While staying at an inn/brothel called the Peach, one of the "serving girls" jokingly tells Arya and Gendry that she might be King Robert's bastard. Arya does note her Baratheon-esque black hair, but internally dismisses the notion—"That didn't mean anything though. Gendry has the same kind of hair too. Lots of people have black hair."
Especially You: An exchange Mance Rayder has with Tormund Giantsbane on two occasions in which he (Mance) tells other wildlings to leave so he can talk privately with Jon Snow. In both instances, Tormund asks, "Even me?" and Mance replies "Particularly you."
Exact Words: Used for a darkly humorous moment in the epilogue, when the Brotherhood Without Banners captures Merrett Frey. Lem Lemoncloak is preparing to hang him, but Tom Sevenstrings presses him for information about the war, promising to tell Lem to let him go if he tells them anything useful. Merrett cooperates, so Tom honors his promise. He tells Lem to let him go, and Lem tells him to go bugger himself. He shrugs and sits back to enjoy the show.
Finger in the Mail: The Brave Companions cut off The Kingslayer's sword hand, intending to send it to his father with a ransom demand.
In her first chapter, Catelyn hears her father muttering about Tansy in his sleep and wonders if it's the name of a woman he impregnated while he was off at war. Shortly afterward, a raven arrives with the message that Robb has been injured. While Cat decides that Hoster was actually talking about something else, Robb does take a girl to bed while recuperating. The actual meaning of "Tansy", as it turns out, is the flower tansy, an ingredient in the abortion-inducing moon tea Hoster forced Lysa to drink when she was pregnant with Littlefinger's child, which is eventually revealed in the final chapter of the book.
Jon hears "The Dornishman's Wife" in the wildling camp. The lyrics parallel Oberyn Martell's fate.
Mance Rayder telling Jon how he infiltrated Winterfell. He said it didn't matter if he was discovered since he was already protected by Sacred Hospitality. The Freys break this in a big way.
In Tyrion's second chapter, Tywin tells him that "Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens" as he writes some important letters. In Tyrion's third chapter, Tywin turns down Balon Greyjoy's offer to fight the Starks in exchange for their territory, as "a better option may well present itself". Both of these scenes foreshadow Tywin's alliance with the Freys and Boltons to wipe out the Starks with the Red Wedding.
"The Rains of Castamere", a song about the Lannisters annihilating a vassal house that dared to defy them, is introduced and featured a lot in this book.
Full-Circle Revolution: The ultimate result of Daenerys' Sack of Astapor: a former slave declares himself King and kidnaps noble children to train new Unsullied.
Gondor Calls for Aid: Maester Aemon sends out so many requests for men for the Wall for so long that most of the characters, not to mention the readers, have given up on anyone answering by the time Stannis shows up.
Hit-and-Run Tactics: Oberyn Martell uses these tactics in his duel against Gregor Clegane. His long spear and light armour keep him out of Clegane's reach. It worked, up until he assumed that being run through with a spear would be enough to render Gregor helpless.
To be fair the spear was also poisoned. Also he was about to finish him off, while the spear is still in Clegane, with Gregor's own sword. So he also had no weapon.
Hoist by His Own Petard: The Good Masters of Astapor are brought down by their own slave army, which they'd just sold to an ambitious foreign queen within their own city walls. There's a reason they're not called the Ingenious Masters.
Hypocritical Humor: When Loras complains that Brienne only defeated him through a trick, Jaime remarks that he remembers someone else who won a tourney by riding a mare in heat against a stallion.
Instrument of Murder: Sort of, at the "Red Wedding", wherein most, possibly all of the musicians were actually disguised soldiers.
When Jaime first meets Brienne, he continually annoys her by referring to her as wench, ignoring her demands to be called Brienne. After his Heel-Face Turn (and once they're both on first-name terms with each other), there are occasions where someone else will refer to Brienne by an insult and Jaime will emphatically tell them to call her Brienne.
Tyrion's false accusation and trial for killing Joffrey is a dark echo of his earlier trial in A Game Of Thrones when falsely accused of killing Jon Arryn and the attempted murder of Bran. Basically, everything that went right in the latter, goes wrong the former, and in both, Tyrion "pleads guilty" of being himself (humorously in A Game of Thrones and bitterly in A Storm of Swords)
Tyrion is again put on trial for murdering Joffrey, and on this occasion the judges either hate him or have a political interest in the affair. Although the trial is conducted according to custom, all of the evidence against him is either circumstantial, half-truths or lies told by bribed witnesses and the reader is aware that he's innocent.
The Brotherhood Without Banners puts every person they capture on trial before executing them, though it's clearly just a formality. Sandor Clegane calls them out on it during his own trial. However they do accept the decision of the Trial by Combat.
Let Me Tell You a Story: Meera and Jojen tell Bran about The Mystery Knight at Harrenhall and they're very surprised that Bran has never heard this story at Winterfell. Probably because of a certain She-Wolf of Winterfell and a Dragon Prince...
Leitmotif: "The Rains of Castamere" quickly becomes a mark of Lannister strength.
Lightbulb Joke: Joffrey delivers one: "How many Dornishmen does it take to shoe a horse? Nine. One to do the shoeing, and eight to lift up the horse!" This becomes an Ironic Echo when The Red Viper, the most notorious Dornishman of them all, comes on the scene.
How many Dornishman does it take to start a war? Tyrion thought. One.
The Starks and the Northern rebellion are brought down when Robb Stark has a tryst with Jeyne Westerling and breaks his marriage pact with the Freys to marry her.
Tyrion kills his father Tywin to avenge an old wrong done to him and his former wife Tysha.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: By the end of the book, all those cursed by Melisandre are dead (Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey Baratheon and Robb Stark). None by explicitly supernatural means, and at least two with thoroughly-explained mundane causes, but it remains ambiguous whether magic had any influence on things. One possible compromise is that she magically foresaw their deaths and used that to claim credit for causing them.
Musical Episode: Several of the most notable in-page songs in the series are first introduced in this book, many of them acting as Foreshadowing, Leitmotif, commentary and counterpoint. This includes "The Dornishman's Wife", "The Last of the Giants", "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", "The Kingswood Brotherhood" and most famously of all, "The Rains of Castermere".
My Name Is Inigo Montoya: In the climactic duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane, Oberyn is out to avenge his sister's murder. It ends with Gregor gloating over his horrible crime and re-enacting it on Oberyn, though Gregor ultimately dies an agonizing death from Oberyn's poison.Word of God has confirmed that this is a deliberate Shout-Out to The Princess Bride.
Never Say That Again: Tyrion does warnTywin to stop throwing the word "whore" in his face in regards to a certain woman. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't listen.
"...the oft repeated jape about his father was just another lie. Lord Tywin Lannister in the end did not shit gold."
No Name Given: Sharna's husband and adopted son at the Inn of the Kneeling Man. Even the appendix calls them "her husband, called HUSBAND" and "BOY, an orphan of the war".
Not Helping Your Case: Tyrion Lannister grows increasingly angry and snarky in the face of the witnesses and judges when he's accused of murdering Joffrey because he knows his sister has basically set it up so that all witnesses will incriminate him. He finally snaps.
When characters come across a burnt out ruin of a village, it's explained that the lord of the area was on the wrong side, and as punishment, Hoster Tully sent soldiers to Rape, Pillage, and Burn and basically kill everyone. It shows the moral greyness of the series that the head of the Tullys (seemingly one of the "good guys") dealt with enemies just as ruthlessly as Tywin Lannister.
Sandor Clegane calls out the Brotherhood Without Banners in what's both an example of this as well as At Least I Admit It:
A knight's a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady's favours, they're silk ribbons tied 'round the sword. Maybe the Sword's prettier with ribbons hanging of it, but it'll kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I'm the same as you. The only difference is, I don't lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don't call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other your shit don't stink. You hear me?
Not What It Looks Like: The truth about Ned Stark catching Jaime Lannister sitting the Iron Throne in book 1 is explained here.
Obligatory War Crime Scene: The murder of prisoners Willem Lannister and Tion Frey by Rickard Karstark. The dead bodies of the young boys who died unarmed are described in detail to drive the point home.
One Thing Led to Another: Robb, injured after a difficult battle and grieving after hearing of Bran and Rickon's supposed deaths, is "comforted" by Jeyne Westerling.
Pity Sex: Inverted with Tyrion's wedding night with Sansa, where pity is described as being "the death of passion." Though this might be partly due to his past experience.
Also Oberyn and Tyrion before his duel with Gregor. He tells Tyrion after its over that he can come to Dorne and involve himself in some kind of conspiracy with Doran, with the implicit promise of being made Lord of Casterly Rock added as a cherry on top.
Reforged Blade: Rare villainous example, in which Tywin has Ice, the ancestral Stark greatsword, reforged into two smaller blades. 'Oathkeeper' is intended for Jaime, but he passes it to Brienne, and 'Widow's Wail' is a gift for Joffrey's marriage.
Rhetorical Request Blunder: It is revealed that the attempt to kill Bran after his injury in the first book may have resulted from one of these. King Robert, while drunk, remarked how Bran would be better off mercy killed instead of living as a comatose cripple. Hearing that, Joffrey, (who looks up to his supposed father) sent a sellsword to kill Bran, viewing it as an act of kindness.
Rule of Three: There's a detailed description of how Robb bids farewell to Jeyne Westerling thrice before departing to his uncle Edmure's wedding, which turns into the Red Wedding, making it the last time the couple bid farewell to each other.
Sacred Hospitality: Defied by House Frey, to their very great cost. After the Red Wedding (conducted under their roof) essentially everyone in the Seven Kingdoms hates them.
The Secret of Long Pork Pies: "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 dead body. 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.
Sex Is Violence: 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".
The Siege: The Battle of Castle Black, where very few sworn brothers stood against an army of thousands of wildlings until Stannis arrived to save the day.
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.
Tactful Translation: Seen in the hilarious discussion between Dany and the Good Masters of Astapor when she goes to buy an Unsullied army. The Good Masters act very condescending and insulting but the translator passes their messages in the politest way possible. However, Dany actually understands everything she's been told and is struggling to keep a straight face at times.
Thanatos Gambit: Tyrion arranges for one although 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.
Too Dumb to Live: 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. The reward they were promised is a dragon. They paid dearly for it.
Unreliable Narrator: Sansa seems to remember the Hound kissing her when he was in her bedchamber during the Battle of the Blackwater in A Clash of Kings, but the text in ACOK doesn't mention a kiss.
Viking Funeral: A tradition of the Tullys. Lord Hoster Tully is placed on a boat and sent down the river until someone shoots an arrow to set him aflame and lay him to rest.
Villain Ball: Tywin Lannister. His death was akin to someone walking towards a banana peel, then thinking "other people might slip on it and fall, but never me!". And then he steps on the banana peel. And he falls and breaks his neck. Telling the son he's always shunned and outright reviled (while said son is holding a crossbow, no less) that his first wife was a whore even after Tyrion warned him not to wasn't particularly clever for a master strategist.
Villain Respect: Stannis called Tyrion "dangerous" when he had been accused of killing Jeffrey. He also gives him his due for his actions at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Virgin Tension: 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.
Wham Episode: This novel itself is one for the entire ASOIAF series, easily taking the cake for the highest number of major character deaths (so far). Let's review:
Robb and Catelyn are betrayed and slaughtered, along with their entire army, at the Red Wedding.
Joffrey is poisoned and killed at the Purple Wedding.
It is revealed that Littlefinger and Lysa were behind John Arryn's murder. Littlefinger then kills Lysa.
Catelyn is resurrected as Lady Stoneheart.
Tywin is killed by Tyrion, who goes on the lam.
Wham Line: Though savvy tropers can probably see it coming.
Littlefinger let Lysa sob against his chest for a moment, then put his hands on her arms and kissed her lightly. "My sweet silly jealous wife," he said, chuckling. "I've only loved one woman, I promise you."
Lysa Arryn smiled tremulously. "Only one? Oh, Petyr, do you swear it? Only one?"
"Only Cat." He gave her a short, sharp shove.
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.
Seems that Sansa is going to marry a Tyrell and finally run away from King's Landing. She ends up marrying Tyrion Lannister.
The Red Wedding. It looks like Robb will regain the alliance of the Freys and go retake Winterfell by just having his uncle marry. The Freys and the Boltons proceed to butcher Robb's bannermen under their very house.
The duel between Oberyn and Gregor Clegane. Just when it looks like Oberyn Martell is going to kill Gregor Clegane and free Tyrion, Gregor manages to grab the careless Oberyn and kill him in cold blood.
You Are in Command Now: Donal Noye leaves the Wall to Jon, when he has to go and defend the gate. Then Jon becomes Lord Commander.
You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Tywin doesn't seem particularly worried that Tyrion has him at crossbow-point, and flat-out tells him he doesn't have the courage to do it. The only thing he manages to say when he's proven wrong is "You shot me."