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Literature / A Dance with Dragons

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Not all men were meant to dance with dragons.
Ser Barristan Selmy

The fifth book in George R. R. Martin's Doorstopper A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 2011.

The north deals with various perils; Jon Snow, the newest Lord Commander of the Wall, makes truces with the wildlings, while House Bolton struggles to maintain their position as the new Wardens of the North, replacing House Stark. Meanwhile, Stannis Baratheon makes desperate attempts to win the North to his cause, with varied results. Bran and company's travels beyond the Wall bring them to unusual places. And Theon Greyjoy, who was missing in the last 2 books, is finally revealed to be alive. He has been horribly tortured and mutilated by the extremely sadistic and psychopathic Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Roose Bolton. Now he only answers to the name Reek, living in constant fear and trauma.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen endures numerous difficulties in ruling the slaver city Meereen, with treachery and opposition surrounding her at all sides. Multiple others travel towards her for other purposes - among them Tyrion Lannister, a mysterious figure named Griff travelling with his son Young Griff, a vicious pirate captain from the Iron Islands, and finally a group of House Martell representatives looking to contact Daenerys.

The novel has a staggering total of 18 POV characters. Though the novel starts out with Simultaneous Arcs with Feast, this novel eventually overtakes that one, adding a few chapters from characters in the southern six kingdoms to move the plot along. The prologue is provided by a skinchanger named Varamyr Sixskins. In the epilogue, we follow Kevan Lannister.

  • The Wall is seen from the perspectives of Lord Commander Jon Snow and Lady Melisandre, priestess of the Red God and unofficial consort to Stannis Baratheon.
  • Beyond the wall, we follow Bran Stark still seeking the Three-Eyed Crow.
  • In the North, Asha Greyjoy provides glimpses into Stannis Baratheon's travelling army.
  • The actions of House Bolton are documented by Theon Greyjoy, who is their captive.
  • Davos Seaworth's perspective shows the rest of the North as he travels through it making his way to White Harbor.
  • In Meereen, we follow Daenerys Targaryen and her Queensguard, Barristan Selmy.
  • Various cities and areas in Essos are documented through the respective perspectives of fugitive Tyrion Lannister, Frog the Sellsword, and Griff, as they travel through the continent making their way to Meereen.
  • Arya Stark's perspective stays in Braavos.
  • We also follow Victarion Greyjoy as he pirates his way across the Narrow Sea.
  • In southern Westeros (the area covered by A Feast for Crows), Areo Hotah provides a look at Doran Martell's court.
  • Jaime Lannister once again documents the Riverlands.
  • And finally, Cersei Lannister shows how things have been in King's Landing.

Like A Storm Of Swords, some releases of this novel were divided into two parts: Part 1: Dreams and Dust and Part 2: After the Feast. Certain materials from this book were adapted throughout Seasons 4, 5 and 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones, but with significant deviations.

Not to be confused with Dances with the Dragons, in spite of the similar names.

A Dance with Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Asha proves her worth in a fight against Stannis' men, despite being severely outnumbered.
  • Actually a Doombot: Melisandre didn't burn Mance, she burned Rattleshirt with a glamour on him so it would look like she was burning Mance.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When "Abel" the bard plays The Dornishman's Wife for a room full of rowdy northerners, he swaps out the eponymous lyrics with "northman's daughter". This being the north under Bolton rule, he could end up flayed for the insolence, but Ramsay bursts out laughing and even Roose has a small smile.
  • Aerith and Bob: While "Penny" would be a perfectly normal name in the real world, Tyrion can't help but feel that it's a completely ridiculous name (who names their kid after a worthless piece of currency?) and can hardly manage to make himself say it.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: It's thought to be good luck to rub a dwarf's head in Essos, and people aren't shy about doing it without permission. This doesn't amuse Tyrion...
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Daario's appeal to Daenerys. Ser Barristan laments that while Dany is clever and wise beyond her years, she still has a young woman's taste in men, preferring her handsome, dashing sellsword who's amazing in bed over potential noble suitors.
  • All Women Are Lustful: "All women are wantons at heart, given to use their wiles and their beauty to work their wills on men", the High Sparrow tells the imprisoned Cersei.
  • Ambiguous Syntax:
    • In Bran's weirwood vision about a young-looking (presumably just back from Robert's Rebellion) Ned praying once at the weirwood, he hears Ned saying a rather cryptic prayer about his hopes for Robb and Jon growing up close as brothers, which may mean either that they're half-brothers who should grow up loving each other like full-blooded brothers or that they aren't blood brothers, but blood cousins, and Ned hopes for Jon and Robb to grow up close as brothers. This last one goes straight up to fuel Jon Snow's parentage theory. Ned's prayer for Robb and Jon is granted because Jon and Robb shared a very close relationship as brothers.
    Young Ned: ...let them grow up close as brothers, with only love between them, and let my lady wife find it in her heart to forgive.
    • In Barristan Selmy's POV, we learn that he was in love with Ashara Dayne; he regrets not having pursued her and how she got knocked up by "Stark". This "Stark" could have been either Eddard or Brandon. The elder Stark was implied to be The Casanova, and Word of God is that he might have fathered a bastard or two before his untimely demise. Having said that, the love affair between Ned and Ashara was an open secret, and one of the reigning gossip theories around Westeros is that she is Jon Snow's mother, but Barristan's behavior around Eddard while he was alive and the fact he tried to defend him to Dany isn't suggestive of someone holding a decades long animosity against them.
  • Anti-Mutiny: Played with. Many of Jon's reforms in A Dance With Dragons have sound reasoning, as they are made in the interest of saving everyone (including the wildlings) from the oncoming army of the dead and do align with the Watch's original mission to protect the realms of men — but some of these changes are contrary to traditional interpretations and views of those in the Watch. Some members of The Night's Watch resist Jon's plans for allying with the wildlings against the Others, and for sending a ranging party to rescue the ships sent to rescue wildlings at Hardhome — however, Jon explains that they must also save the wildlings because they are part of the realms of men which the Watch is sworn to protect as the wildlings are people too, and that any living person who dies north of the Wall will rise to become part of the Others — the threat the Watch was built to defend against. Some of these Watch members also don't like involving the Night's Watch with Stannis, thus making it a prime target of retribution at the hands of Lord Bolton. When Jon decides to go south to deal with Ramsay Bolton after receiving a series of threats, which amounts to breaking his vow of not getting involved in the wars of the realm, a group of Watch members turn on him.
  • Arc Words:
    • For Tyrion: "Wherever whores go."
    • For Jon: "Kill the boy and let the man be born," not to mention, "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
    • For Daenerys: "If I look back, I am lost."
    • For Theon: "Reek, Reek, it rhymes with X" and, "You have to know your name."
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark" (really Jeyne Poole), to solidify the Boltons' claim on the North.
    • Alys Karstark and the Magnar of Thenn, to prevent Cregan Karstark from forcibly marrying Alys himself to take away her inherited rights through marriage.
  • Artifact Title: In-Universe:
    The castle dominated the broad fertile valley that maps and men alike called Blackwood Vale. A vale it was, beyond a doubt, but no wood had grown here for several thousand years, be it black or brown or green. Once yes, but axes had long since cleared the trees away.
  • Ascended Extra: Penny, who goes from an unnamed and very minor character in A Storm of Swords to playing a significant part in this novel.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • A line of dialogue in the previous novel stated that Davos Seaworth has been executed. This novel actually covers Davos' journey, culminating in him being condemned to death. It turns out that the execution was faked as part of Wyman Manderlay's plan to take revenge on the Boltons and the Freys.
    • For Janos Slynt. After condemning Janos to die by hanging, Janos breaks down and simpers for his life to Jon, begging to be allowed to live. Jon then declares that he will not hang Janos. This causes outcry from Bowen Marsh and some of the other Watchmen, and Janos looks smug at his fortune. Jon then continues. "Edd, fetch me a block."
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Wyman Manderly is accused of ordering the murder of a young Frey. He replies, "I confess... that I do not know the boy."
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Ramsay Bolton orders his wife bathed daily, as he is... particular about cleanliness. However, it is also strongly implied that she, herself, takes the baths because she feels dirty from the things Ramsay does to her. This wouldn't be surprising, as the mere thought of Ramsay Bolton is enough to give some readers the shudders.
  • Becoming the Mask: Theon is subjected to a rather horrific variation of this, tortured by Ramsay until he is mentally broken down to the point where he loses his identity, thinking of himself as 'Reek'. Oddly, he recovers his identity via this trope after being forced to 'masquerade' as himself on the orders of Roose Bolton.
    "You have to remember your name!"
  • Being Personal Isn't Professional: Despite Jon Snow's personal loathing of Janos Slynt for his involvement in Ned Stark's downfall and trying to get him killed, Jon is willing to look past that, giving Slynt command of Greyguard, one of the castles along the Wall, reasoning Slynt has experience commanding men from his time in the goldcloaks, and the repair work needed to make Greyguard habitable will both get him away from Castle Black and leave him too busy to cause Jon further trouble. Slynt, believing he can browbeat and bully Jon into submission on account of the latter's youth, refuses to obey orders twice, throwing in some nasty personal insults at Jon the second time...whereupon Jon executes Slynt to illustrate he will not tolerate insubordination.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed
    • Tyrion keeps a supply of poisonous mushrooms in his boot to serve this cause, should the need arise.
    • Theon also chooses to jump off Winterfell's walls with Jeyne after they are caught trying to escape, knowing that the risk of dying from the fall is better than what Ramsay will do to them.
    • After receiving a piece of flayed skin from Theon that Ramsay Bolton sent along with demands for her surrender, Asha Greyjoy declares she'll fight to the death rather than surrender to such a fate.
  • Body Double: The "Arya Stark" who marries Ramsay Bolton is not actually Arya Stark, but Sansa's best friend Jeyne Poole (who disappeared soon after Eddard Stark was arrested and his guards slaughtered way back in book 1) being passed off as Arya. Since almost everyone who knew Arya in person is either dead, missing, or isn't able to contact her — and since Jeyne, who did in fact grow up in Winterfell alongside the Stark girls, is able to keep up The Masquerade — they get away with it.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Daenerys and Daario Naharis.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: The plots of Jon, Daenerys, Jaime, and Barristan, which all end on rather deadly cliffhangers. Jon is fatally stabbed by disgruntled Night's Watchmen for attempting to march on Ramsay; Daenerys finds herself lost in the wilderness, surrounded by a likely hostile khalasar of Dothraki; Jaime finally reunites with Brienne, who is planning to lead him to a lynching at the hands of Lady Stoneheart; and Barristan and the Second Sons successfully depose Hizdahr zo Loraq, only for the dragons to be released by Quentyn and the armies of Yunkai and Astapor to begin launching bodies with sickness into the city in retaliation.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Melisandre uses the catchphrase of Jon's deceased girlfriend, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," at the end of his first chapter. It's implied that she did this intentionally.
  • Brain Uploading: Revealed to be the true nature of the Old Gods. What are considered by their human worshipers as merely nature spirits are in fact the countless generations of Greenseers who, when reaching the end of their lifespan, uploaded themselves into the collective mind of the weirwoods.
  • Braving the Blizzard: Stannis and his Northern allies face a devastating blizzard on their march to battle the Boltons and Frey at Winterfell. The northmen handle it much better than Stannis's men, since they're used to dealing with the harsh weather and are strongly motivated to save (who they think is) Arya Stark.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A literal example: as Drogon flies away from Meereen with Daenerys on his back, the Yunkish army encircling the city start shooting crossbows at him to try and bring him down. Their efforts do nothing but enrage the dragon, who promptly descends on the army camp and sets it ablaze, killing two hundred people in the process.
  • Cabin Fever: Lord Roose Bolton holds Winterfell, but his forces comprise a very tenuous alliance of Freys & Boltons with Manderlys and assorted other Northern lords. As King Stannis waits somewhere outside their walls and the whole castle is Snowed-In, someone begins murdering people one by one, heightening the tension between the various factions who are already freezing, hungry and seething with resentment. Eventually it comes to blood when Hosteen Frey attacks Lord Wyman Manderly, and to prevent it escalating any further, Bolton sends their forces out separately into the snow to find Stannis, which has been repeatedly described as a terrible idea.
  • Cain and Abel: Ramsay Snow and his trueborn half-brother, Domeric Bolton. Ramsay allegedly murdered Domeric several years before the series began to eliminate his father's sole heir and legitimize himself, thereby becoming heir to the Dreadfort.
  • Character-Driven Strategy: Exploited by Tyrion Lannister as he plays cyvasse with "Young Griff". Griff is far too trusting of Tyrion, as he believes Tyrion is there to help him, and thus takes Tyrion's advice not to send out his dragon piece too soon to heart. In reality, Tyrion gave him that advice to keep Aegon from having his dragon deplete his own forces, but also so that Tyrion could measure how manipulable Griff was. Finding that he was rather easily manipulated, Tyrion then planted the suggestion to invade Westeros in Griff's mind, which inspired Griff and the Golden Company to break their current contract and begin their incursion at the end of the book.
  • Child Soldiers: Varys' "little birds". The last sentences of the book describes them approaching the wounded Ser Kevan. "And in their hands, the daggers."
    • Also, during his participation in the Siege of Astapor, Quentyn Martell notes that the new Unsullied Astapor's new masters have created are little more than green boys younger than himself.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome:
    • Everyone is urging Daenerys to let Meereen rot, but she feels obligated to protect every single one of her "children". It's even an Invoked Trope by Tryion when he advises Aegon VI Targaryen to let her come to his aid.
    • Similarly, Jon Snow is driven by his need to protect all innocent life and those needing help, and can't bring himself to let any wildling bands die north of the Wall, as they are also men, women, and children who deserve to be safe. In addition to his humanitarian reasons for saving the wildlings, he has a pragmatic one as well: if they aren't allowed to fight for the living, they will fight for the dead.
  • Cliffhanger: The final scenes have Drogon and Dany lost in the Dothraki Sea, and the Night's Watch staging a mutiny against Jon.
  • Compensating for Something: Invoked by Cersei. Upon being informed that Mace Tyrrell, the new Hand, is going to rebuild the Tower of the Hand, which she had had burned in A Feast for Crows after Tyrion killed Tywin, twice as tall as the old one, she notes Tyrell also having his soldiers armed with long lances and jokes that maybe he's hinting at something.
  • The Conspiracy: The supposed "Grand Northern Conspiracy" takes shape. Wyman Manderly seems to have a leading, or at least prominent, role in a conspiracy by several characters to exact revenge against House Bolton and House Frey for the Red Wedding and their betrayal of Robb. Who all is in on the conspiracy is up for debate, but known members are House Manderly, House Locke, House Glover, and House Flint of Widow's Watch are involved, there are hints that House Umber is involved as well, and there's also Lady Barbrey Dustin who is murdering Freys in the crypts. What their full aims are, no one knows, but the Manderlys are secretly looking to do away with their rulers and put a Stark back in charge of the North. To this end, they are aware that Rickon Stark is on Skagos and he is employing Davos Seaworth to retrieve Rickon so that the North can rally around him and go to battle with the Boltons.
  • Continuity Nod: Tyrion's introduction in the first book (in which he somersaults off the top of a door and lands on his feet) is addressed here, where he performs a cartwheel and reflects on a childhood fondness for doing the same until Tywin ordered him to stop. Until this book, he never performed any other acrobatic feats after the first, which made the first instance look like Early-Installment Weirdness.
    • Near the end, when Tyrion and Penny have been taken into the Second Sons, one of them recalls to him the restaurant in the Kings Landing ghetto of Flea Bottom where he often ate satisfying meals as a child, famous for its brown stew, which Tyrion recalls as "singer's stew", referring to the singer who mocked his relationship with Shae and thus earned himself death at Bronn's hands and disposal of his body in the pots of that restaurant.
  • Creepy Child: Varys' "little birds", children who finish the dying Ser Kevan off in the last chapter.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Quentyn Martell. After his failed attempt to win Daenerys's hand, he tries to gain some measure of worth from the journey and the death of three of his companions by stealing one of Daenerys's dragons. Unfortunately, while his attention was focused on Viserion, Rhaegal attacked him from behind. Quentyn took three days to die, being left so badly burned that his eyeballs had melted and his face was charred down to the bone in places. Upon seeing the extent of his injuries, Barristan opines it would have been a quicker and more merciful end if the dragon had just eaten him alive.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Daenerys and Quaithe.
    Quaithe: Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.
    • Fans have extrapolated some of these hints.
      • We saw the glass candle burning in the Citadel in Oldtown in AFFC, signaling that magic is growing strong once again.
      • The Meereenese call catching dysentery "mounting the pale mare," and the disease arrives in ADWD as an epidemic.
      • The kraken heading to Essos is most likely Victarion Greyjoy, who plans to marry Daenerys, whom his brother Euron covets.
      • The red priest who converts Victarion to the faith of R'hllor is named Moqorro; the Iron Islanders cannot pronounce his name and nickname him "the Black Flame."
      • The one person in Essos whose family sigil is a lion is Tyrion Lannister; the one with a griffin for a sigil is Jon Connington. Both were headed toward Daenerys until they changed their minds.
      • The "sun's son" is probably Quentyn Martell; his house bears the sigil of a sun impaled by a spear, and he is the son of the head of that house — Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne. His attempt to attract Daenerys' attention was disastrous.
      • The mummer's dragon is most likely Aegon Targaryen VI. The jury is still out on whether "mummer" means he is a fake Targaryen or simply a reference to how his life, upbringing, and bid for the throne is being orchestrated by Varys, a former mummer who still uses many of the tricks of the trade.
      • An alternative interpretation of the last two could be to switch them; Quentyn claims to have enough Targaryen blood in him to try and control the dragons. When he doesn't, it makes him a mummer's dragon. Aegon, on the other hand, is — if he is who he claims he is — the son of Elia Martell, and therefore the sun's son.
      • This last seems unlikely, as not only is there prominence placed upon the term "Mummer's Dragon" that seems too important to relate to the doomed Quentyn, Aegon's role in the story (real or fake) would relate more to his alleged father's bloodline than alleged mother's.
      • The perfumed seneschal could refer to a number of things. It could be Daenerys' seneschal Reznak, who possibly betrays her during the book. It could be Varys, who was involved in her marriage to Khal Drogo and is raising another Targaryen to take the throne. And it could be the ship that Tyrion and Jorah were taking to Meereen, whose name roughly translates to "the Fragrant Steward."
  • Curbstomp Battle: Asha holds the small Northern castle of Deepwood Motte with only two hundred men. Her forces are no match when Stannis and thousands of Southron knights and Northerners attack by surprise.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Jon Connington has faint praise for Rolly Duckfield and fears that Young Griff will soon have six such men as his Kingsguard, "each more blindingly adequate than the last."
  • Death Faked for You:
    • For Davos Seaworth. To convince the Iron Throne of his loyalty and get his last son out of Lannister custody, Wyman Manderly has a criminal similar in appearance to Davos executed in his place while keeping the real Davos safely hidden.
    • Also for Mance Rayder: Rattleshirt was burned in his place.
    • This is claimed to be the case for young Aegon VI Targaryen. Many readers suspect that this story is itself faked due to many clues in the text, not to mention the fact that the story of switching infant babies in the middle of a city being sacked, while leaving the infant's mother and sister to die, seems... implausible. Especially considering the fact that no one recognizes the dead infant because he was utterly brutalized beyond recognition, something that couldn't have been anticipated by the conspirators.
    • Jorah and Tyrion after escaping slavery and joining the Second Sons.
  • Decapitation Presentation: After Yurkhaz zo Yunzak, the Yunkish commander, is killed in the pandemonium when Drogon attacks Daznak's Pit, the Yunkish kill one of the hostages Danerys gave them to secure the peace, throwing his head at Hizdahr's feet.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Jorah is hit with this when he was sold to slavery and has become a broken shell of the man he was. Fortunately, in the end, he snaps out of it and joins the Seconds Sons along with Tyrion.
    • More to the point, it was hearing of Dany's marriage that broke him, not slavery.
    Tyrion: One whispered word had done what fists and clubs could not; it had broken him.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Stannis, under advice from Arnolf Karstark (who, unbeknownst to him, is a traitor in Roose Bolton's pocket), plans to lay siege to the Dreadfort, House Bolton's seat, while Roose and Ramsay are gone dealing with the Ironborn at Moat Cailin. When he hears of it, Jon bluntly tells him the plan is suicide; firstly, unless Stannis wins Mors Umber (who is offering an alliance in exchange for certain conditions, namely the skull of Mance Rayder and a pardon for his brother Hother Umber, who is fighting under duress for the Boltons) to his cause, Umber will cut Stannis's host to pieces as it crosses his land. Second, the Dreadfort will learn of Stannis's coming long before his arrival and Jon, having seen the castle's defences, knows that a small garrison could hold the Dreadfort indefinitely against many times their number. Thirdly, the Boltons will easily defeat the Ironborn at Moat Cailin long before Stannis's siege makes any progress, and Stannis will find himself trapped between the Dreadfort's defences and an enemy army outnumbering him five to one. In addition, the northern lords Stannis seeks to rally to his cause, who have suffered generations of wildings raiding their holdings, will not be pleased to see his wildling conscripts crossing their lands.
    • Tyrion points out to the young Aegon VI Targaryen that his plan to show up at Daenerys's court, demand she take him as her king and support his claim to the Iron Throne is laughable, as after all the work she's done in making the Targaryens a power to be reckoned with again, Daenerys is hardly going to meekly submit to some random boy claiming to be a relative with no proof.
    • Tyrion also later opines that Daenerys is a fool for not poisoning every well in a 20 mile radius of Meereen when she learnt a Yunkish army was coming to lay siege, as had she done so, the enemy's only water supply would have been from a noxious river that drinking from would have caused cholera, dysentery and all manner of other waterborne diseases to run rampant through the ranks.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Jon Snow decides not to hang Janos Slynt. He'll chop off his head himself, like Ned Stark taught him.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Pragmatic Villain Roose Bolton has a couple of moments like this towards his psychotic son Ramsay:
    • He makes a special trip to Barrowton to have a word with Ramsay about all the raping, flaying, torture, and people hunts... because he's doing it all much too publicly. Roose has done many of those things himself, he just keeps quiet about it in order to not anger and alienate his allies and subjects.
    • When Lady Dustin is disrespectful toward Ramsay, he rages that he'll make boots out of her skin. Roose calmly points out that killing his allies, while surrounded by enemies, is less than a sound plan, and such an action would turn several more crucial allies against them. And the boots would be lousy anyway, because human skin isn't as tough as cowhide.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Melisandre leads Stannis's army in chanting, "One God, one realm, one king!"
  • Doorstopper: Including the The Wind of Winter sample chapter and all the extra pages for the copyright disclosure, etc., the US edition of the book clocks in at a whopping 1056 pages. The book is forced to end right before the climaxes of several plotlines simply because Martin's editor had to stop him from exceeding the physical limits of a typical bookbinding.
  • Dragon Rider: After wanting to do this since she had dragons, Daenerys finally manages to ride Drogon.
  • The Dreaded: Ramsay is certainly this, especially to Theon, not to mention the smallfolk he terrorizes. By the time Davos arrives at White Harbor it has become filled with refugee peasants who evacuated their lands in fear of him.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Roose Bolton acknowledges that he raped a maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night." In an attempt to present his fellow Northern Lords as not so different from him, Bolton claims that other northern lords, including the Umbers (staunch allies of the "good guys"), also practice it.
  • Dung Fu: Cregan Karstark gets himself imprisoned in the ice cells of Castle Black for attempting to steal away a guest of the Night's watch, whom he is trying to forcibly wed to gain control of some holdings. Whenever anyone comes in to check on him, he is said to fling his frozen excrement at them, which just makes no one want to come down and check on him.
  • Dye or Die: Young Griff keeps his hair blue. While Tyrion is suspicious of the young man's claim that he is Prince Aegon Targaryen, the believed-deceased son of the late Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, he observes that Young Griff's blue hair make his eyes look blue as well, rather than the dark violet shade they truly are, a common physical trait of the Targaryens.
    Tyrion: The blue hair makes your eyes seem blue, that’s good. And the tale of how you color it in honor of your dead Tyroshi mother was so touching it almost made me cry. Still, a curious man might wonder why some sellsword’s whelp would need a soiled septa to instruct him in the Faith, or a chainless maester to tutor him in history and tongues. And a clever man might question why your father would engage a hedge knight to train you in arms instead of simply sending you off to apprentice with one of the free companies. It is almost as if someone wanted to keep you hidden whilst still preparing you for… what? Now, there’s a puzzlement, but I’m sure that in time it will come to me. I must admit, you have noble features for a dead boy.
  • Election Day Episode: After kidnapping Tyrion, Jorah carries him through the streets of Volantis during the 11-day festival that accompanies elections for the city's ruling triarchy.
  • Enemy Mine: The Night's Watch teams up with various wildling groupings and offers their leaders terms, because they have a common enemy now.
    • Stannis is advised to use this by Jon, defeating the Ironborn at Deepwood Motte to win Northern support. It works.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Jon Snow's apparent death at the hands of the Black Brothers at the end of the book involves a group of them descending on him with daggers. Some of them while crying, since while they don't want to do this, they feel they have no choice.
  • Evil Uncle: Arnolf Karstark and his son Cregan. He declares for Stannis, hoping his great-nephew Harrion Karstark, rightful lord of Karhold, will be executed and plans to make Harrion's sister Alys marry her father's cousin Cregan (who Alys refers to as her uncle), making Cregan Lord of Karhold.
  • Exact Words: Roose Bolton insists that his rule is "a peaceful land, a quiet people", which sounds pleasant at first. What he really means is that his land is peaceful because all his enemies are either dead or too terrified to move against him, and it's quiet because everyone is either bribed or intimidated into silence.
  • Eye-Dentity Giveaway: Theon Greyjoy immediately realizes that "Arya Stark", whom is being wed to Ramsay Bolton to give the Boltons control of the North, is actually Jeyne Poole in disguise because Jeyne's eyes are brown while Arya's are grey. However, played with in that everyone knows it's a deception, because the real Arya Stark is unaccounted for, last being seen in King's Landing at the time of Ned Stark's execution, and so no one can come out with the truth because there is no other proof. Thus the falsehood serves both the Boltons' and Lannisters' purposes.
  • Fake Defector: As it turns out, Wyman Manderly.
  • Faking the Dead: Mance Rayder. Melisandre uses her magic to disguise him as the Lord of Bones and vice versa, meaning the Lord of Bones is burnt.
  • False Flag Operation: Cersei plans to stage an ambush on a Dornish party with a group claiming to belong to Tyrion, but Doran Martell easily sees through it and spoils everything.
  • Fish out of Water: Asha Freyjoy is clearly out of her element in the North. During her stay in Deepwood Motte, she notes just how uncomfortable she is about northern woods, by their smell and the sound the trees make during winds, and view them as strange and hostile to her. Later, while a captive of Stannis, she's taken totally off-guard by the cold of the North, realizing that the cold in Pyke is nothing compared to this, and prays that she doesn't get to know winter after hearing from the northern mountain clans that it's just "autumn's kiss" and that true winter in the North is far worse than this.
  • Food Slap: Penny throws her drink in Tyrion's face.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Davos arrives in White Harbor he initially goes to a seedy tavern to collect rumours from other sailors. The topic turns to the subject of dragons, which one man dismisses as impossible because Viserys has been dead for years, but another man suggests that he faked his death to avoid Robert's wrath- "If a king wanted me dead, might be I'd oblige him and pretend to be a corpse." After his meeting with Wyman Manderly, the Lord of White Harbor orders Davos executed to appease the Freys and Cersei, but in truth hides him in prison while executing another man in his place.
    • When Jon spars against Rattleshirt in the training yard, he notices the man looks a lot larger and stronger once he removes his iconic bone garments to wear proper mail. Later he finds out that "Rattleshirt" is actually Mance Rayder, disguised under Melisandre's glamour, and the spell is more effective when he's wearing Rattleshirt's outfit.
  • Freudian Slip: Justin Massey points out fallacies regarding a siege against the Boltons in the middle of winter, but slips up when he exclaims, "Gods be good." Richard Horpe points this out and questions Massey's courage and dedication to their cause, embarrassing him and nullifying his arguments to the rest of the R'hllor followers.
  • Gambit Pileup: The famous "Meereenese Knot" involves Dany's crusade to end Slavery becoming a geopolitical quagmire that alters the political landscape of Essos. Volantenes, Pentoshi, Yunkishmen, New Ghis, Qarth, what seems like every sellsword company in the continent all arrive to make some move for or against her. Then just when things weren't confusing enough, Victarion Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet head there to bring her and her dragons to Westeros.
  • Gambit Roulette: Either played straight or subverted whether you believe in the "fAegon" theory. Varys's plot to swap the babies and get away with it seems like its a Contrived Coincidence that everything just happened perfectly to get away with this plan. If you believe in the theory, however, this is possibly a clue that the plan was just a concocted story built after the fact around the events that actually happened (conveniently with no witnesses who could disprove it) rather than something that could reasonably plan for and pull off.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Tyrion to Penny, with a side order of Quit Your Whining.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Dany's rule in Meereen is a prime example of how good intentions lead to this, as she tries to reconcile her desire to provide freedom for slaves and at the same time bring peace to a city where the elite is former slaveowners with a vested interest against her:
    • The Shavepate cites Dany's taking of child hostages from the noble families as a good example of this. On one hand, Dany is telling the Good Masters that actions committed by the Sons of the Harpy, will invite consequences, but when the Harpy continues killing and Dany doesn't Make an Example of Them because of her Wouldn't Hurt a Child sentiments, she has essentially proven that her threats were empty, and this leads the Wise Masters to regard her as a pushover and allows terrorism to go unpunished.
    • Likewise Dany lends an ear to the Culture Justifies Anything ethos spouted by the Green Grace and Hizdahr, and starts assimilating into practises and beliefs that she considers distasteful for the desire of peace. But in exchange, the Good and Wise Masters of Meereen and Yunkai keep extracting compromises from her and brazenly display their Loophole Abuse by selling slaves outside her city within view of her city guards. In the end, Dany chides herself for these well-intentioned blunders and accepts that her way is "Fire and Blood".
  • Heir-In-Law:
    • Ramsay Snow has used marriage twice to acquire (or legitimise his acquisition) of power. One of the instances is actually trickery — he claims to be married to Arya Stark, strengthening his position in the lands the Starks used to rule, but in fact, the girl in question is not Arya Stark at all.
    • Alys Karstark runs away from home to Castle Black in order to prevent herself from being married to her Evil Uncle who wants to inherit her title and home, the Karhold, when her brother dies (an event which they don't intend to be very far off) and who she fears will murder her as soon as she gives him an heir. Alys agrees to marry the Magnar of Thenn in an alliance brokered by Jon, which he does to save Alys from her Evil Uncle (who comes after her to carry her off against her will) and so she can retake her home, the Karhold. They form a new house — House Thenn.
  • He's Back!: Theon spends the entire novel struggling with his identity, suffering borderline panic attacks when referred to as anything other than "Reek" and with his POV chapters titled under either that or "The Prince/Ghost of Winterfell". After praying to the Winterfell heart tree and receiving a reminder of his true name from weirwood!Bran, Theon finally musters the courage to defy Ramsay and go through with a rescue attempt of "Arya"/Jeyne Poole... and for the first time in the novel his chapter is titled Theon.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: Played with. If Young Griff is who he says he is, Aegon VI — Rhaegar Targaryen's son — has been hiding in the Free Cities all this time. However, it's unclear if Young Griff really is Aegon. Fan theories range from him being a Blackfyre, who Illyrio mentions are extinct "in the male line", Illyrio Mopatis' son — a descendant of Aerion "Brightflame" Targaryen — who Martin says may have had bastard children in Lys, or just a Lyseni child, as there are many people in Lys with Valyrian features.
    • Also, Wyman Manderly and Robett Glover find out, via Wex Pyke, that Rickon Stark and his direwolf are on Skagos, and Davos' mission is to return the North its liege lord from an island of cannibals and unicorns.
  • Hope Spot: Inverted trope, as a hero does this to a villain. Jon Snow is fed up with Janos Slynt after he refuses a direct order multiple times, and Jon orders him hanged. Watching his men prepare this while Janos is protesting, Jon thinks that this is wrong and tells his men to stop:
    The smile that Lord Janos Slynt smiled then had all the sweetness of rancid butter. Until Jon said, "Edd, fetch me a block," and unsheathed Longclaw.
    • Melisandre promises Jon that she has seen Arya, "a girl in grey on a dying horse," riding towards the Wall. Later, when Jon is told that a girl matching that description has been found, he is so happy that he might be reunited with his little sister who he hasn't seen in years but the girl turns out not to be Arya at all, but Alys Karstark, who shares physical traits with Arya.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • The North and its Old Gods in the ancient days issued blood sacrifice before the Heart Trees. In their war over the Three Sisters, many Sistermen were sacrificed. Likewise, slavers at the Wolf's Den were sacrificed by their slaves upon their liberation by Brandon "Ice Eyes" Stark. Via a weirwood tree, Bran sees a vision from the past of an old white-haired woman sacrificing a man before the heart tree, with Bran still warged into the tree tasting the blood that splatters there.
    • Victarion Greyjoy sacrifices Maester Kerwin to Rhllor so as to get strong winds. Later Moqorro, the Red Priest asks for more sacrifices but Victarion torn between two gods ends up sacrificing others to the Drowned God (that is drowning instead). He finally hedges his bets, by taking seven slave girls, escorting them to a fishing boat and setting it to fire, reasoning that the ones who were burnt went to Rhllor and the ones who drowned went to the Drowned God instead.
  • Humanoid Abomination:
    • Gregor Clegane, somewhat before but definitely after Qyburn turns him into Ser Robert Strong.
    • Brynden Rivers, a character who lived generations before the actual protagonists, is revealed to be still alive in a form of a humanoid tree.
  • Idiot Ball: Jon spends the entire book trying to balance his helping Stannis, Alys, and Arya against the Night Watch's neutrality with trying to save the wildlings and defending the Wall against the Others. Jon knows many of the things he's doing is aggravating his officers, particularly in regard to the wildlings. He receives the Pink Letter which accuses him (accurately) of doing many things that compromise the Watch's neutrality. Jon then reads the entire letter publicly, which verify the fears of his dissenters in the Night's Watch: 1. Jon has helped Stannis, inviting the wrath of the Iron Throne and 2. The Lord Paramount of the North is sending an army to attack the Night's Watch for interfering in the realm. This proves to be the last straw and Jon's officers stab him to death in retaliation.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: It's strongly implied Wyman Manderly cooked the three Freys formerly staying at his court into pies, which he fed to the Boltons and a few Freys at Winterfell. He even eats some himself and enjoys it.
    • Skagos is apparently filled with cannibals, and that's where Rickon is at.
    • While warging into their wolves, Bran and Arya eat human meat, and it's implied that the meat given by Coldhands which they think is pig meat is actually flesh from the Night's Watch deserters at Craster's Keep that Coldhands had killed.
    • Some of the soldiers in Stannis' army resort to eating the dead during the march to Winterfell during the winter. Stannis has them burnt in punishment though there are some who note that it was probably a lot more common and it is likely that these soldiers only had the misfortune to be caught.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Jon Snow's thoughts on confronting yet more problems.
    Jon: A cup of hot spiced wine would serve me well just now. Two cups would serve me even better.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: Barbrey Dustin, Jon Connington, the Golden Company, Quentyn Martell, Alys Karstark, Aegon Targaryen, and Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers.
  • Identity Amnesia: Using torture to invoke this trope seems to be one of Ramsay Bolton's favourite pastimes. He nearly manages it with both Theon and Jeyne, but they seem to have started recovering once out of his hands.
  • The Igor: Reek, to Ramsay Bolton. Both of them, the original Reek and Theon Greyjoy. The former (from what we know of him) appeared to be a pretty voluntary one, but the latter is a horrific Deconstruction of what kind of brainwashing it takes to turn a normal human (a prince, no less) into an Igor. On the more positive note, Theon picks up the essential skill of all Igors: to escape when the crowd with Torches and Pitchforks shows up.
  • Ironic Echo: Theon spends most of the book in a state of Stockholm Syndrome, denying his identity due to the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of his captor, Ramsay Bolton; in his internal monologue he frequently repeats the line "You have to know your name" in order to remind himself that he's supposed to be "Reek", not Theon. At the end of his last chapter in the book he repeats the line to emphasize that he once again recognises himself as Theon.
  • Ironic Name: Qarl the Maid is a man who has lots of sex with Asha. (He got his nickame because he's unable to grow a beard.)
  • Irony: When a girl Jon Snow assumes is Arya is reported to have arrived at Castle Black, he contemplates sending her go Braavos for safety; as it just so happens, Arya is already there (and has even crossed paths with Samwell). He also thinks on the necessity of providing coin and a guardian to care for her, unaware that girl has proved absurdly resourceful lonely and penniless no matter where her path has taken her.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The entire populace of King's Landing does this to Cersei during her naked walk of shame. The most fervent provocateurs stand near the entrance of the Red Keep in order to capitalize on her embarrassment and mental state.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Morbidly obese Illyrio reveals that his sculpture of the beautiful young bravo was him at the age of 16.
  • Just Between You and Me: Varys shoots Ser Kevan with a quarrel and starts giving exposition on his major plans like a Bond villain but then he seems to catch himself:
    "I am sorry. You are suffering, I know, yet here I stand going on like some silly old woman. Time to make an end to it."
  • Kidnapper's KFC: Jorah Mormont finds Tyrion Lannister wandering as a fugitive in Essos and kidnaps him so he can deliver him to Daenerys and hopefully earn back his place in her court. While traveling through Volantis, they share a quick meal of roast duck and ale at the Merchant's House. Tyrion sarcastically thinks to himself that he should fling the empty tankard at Mormont's head when he's done drinking; if he's lucky, it'll crack his skull, and if he's really lucky, he'll miss and Mormont will beat him to death.
  • Kinky Role-Playing: During Asha's sex scene with her lover Qarl, he's rough with her, shoving her on the bed at knifepoint and ripping her clothes off, while she puts up a bit of a fight and insults him, giving the initial impression he's forcing himself on her. However, it quickly becomes clear they're actually role-playing him taking her by force and she's an enthusiastic participant, with the couple being all lovey-dovey with each other afterwards and Asha thinking how she would gladly marry him if he weren't lowborn. It overlaps with Power Dynamics Kink, as Asha is a higher-ranking noblewoman and Qarl's captain but enjoys letting him dominate her in the bedroom.
  • Know When to Fold Them: Despite being one of Janos Slynt's main allies against Jon Snow, Alliser Thorne doesn't lift a finger to intervene when Jon orders Slynt executed for insubordination. He also doesn't refuse to obey Jon sending him on what is heavily implied to be a suicide mission, outright stating he knows Jon would like nothing more than for Thorne to disobey and give Jon an excuse to execute him too.
  • Left Hanging: Just about every plotline in the book ends this way.
  • Lighter and Softer: The sole Riverlands chapter we get in this book is much lighter than the ones in the previous book and elsewhere in this one.
  • Loophole Abuse: During her naked walk of shame, Cersei is surrounded by guards so no one can touch her, but she is not protected by the crowd throwing things at her from a distance, such as rotten eggs, dead cats and spoiled vegetables.
  • Loss of Identity: A central theme of the book is many characters having to give up or hide parts of their previous identities in order to survive.
    • As Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jon has to become more ruthless and decisive in order to keep the respect of his black brothers and help them survive the coming winter and the threat of the Others. Maester Aemon tells him to "kill the boy and let the man be born."
    • Jeyne Poole is forced to impersonate Arya and marry Ramsay, while far away in Braavos, the real Arya pretends to be an oyster-selling girl named "Cat of the Canals" and a blind beggar girl while spying for the House of Black and White.
    • Daenerys has to assimilate into Meereenese culture in order to please the nobles she is ruling over, wearing the traditional garment called the tokar, re-opening the fighting pits, and marrying the Meereenese nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq.
    • Tyrion becomes a fugitive after killing his father and has to take on multiple aliases to hide his true identity, first pretending to be a bastard out of Lannisport named Hugor Hill, and then calling himself Yollo while a slave.
    • Theon is Mind Raped into Ramsay's terrified serving man, "Reek," after being tortured and mutilated in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. The torture has done so much damage to his psyche that he thinks of his previous self as having died at Winterfell.
    • "Griff" and his supposed son "Young Griff" are the exiled lord Jon Connington and the young Aegon VI Targaryen, son of Rhaegar.
    • To save Mance's infant son from being burned by Melisandre for the power of his king's blood, he is switched with Gilly's infant son and sent south to the Citadel with her, Sam, Dareon and Maester Aemon.
    • Quentyn Martell, prince of Dorne, pretends to be a merchant while journeying to Meereen to court Daenerys.
  • The Lost Lenore: Tysha, much on Tyrion's mind given Jaime's revelations that she really was what Tyrion thought she was before we last saw him in A Storm of Swords.
  • Made a Slave: Tyrion, Penny and Jorah Mormont.
  • Malicious Slander: The former rulers of Slaver's Bay spread horrible rumors about Daenerys Tagaryen to justify going to war with her. They accuse her of being a lustful, bloodthirsty, hedonistic sorceress who feeds babies to her dragons. Some of this is deliberate distortion of the facts or outright lies, but some is merely a nod to how such a character must appear to her enemies.
    Qavo: If even half the stories coming back from Slaver’s Bay are true, this "child" is a monster.
  • Marital Rape License: Ramsay performs this on "Arya" (Jeyne Poole), though he tells Theon to get her wet with his mouth before he consummates the marriage.
  • Modest Royalty: Quentyn projects this attitude and it screws him over. Daenerys is running into similar problems with her desire to avoid making summary decisions against those who displease her. Prince Aegon is implied by Varys to supposed to be this, but it doesn't seem like anyone's clued him in on it. Melisandre mocks this trope after seeing it in Jon Snow, who spurns staying in Mormont's Old Tower in favor of staying in Donal Noye's armory. She reflects:
    Melisandre: That was his mistake, the false humility of youth that is is itself a sort of pride. It was never wise for a ruler to eschew the trappings of power, for power itself flows in no small measure from such trappings.
  • Moral Myopia: The Sand Snakes are outraged and appalled when they learn about the plot by Cersei to kill Trystane. Nymeria selectively forgets she wanted to have Tommen, whose even younger than Trystane, killed as payback for her father's death, and while Tyene's own plan to make Myrcella queen didn't call for it, she didn't explictly rule it out as Arianne did.
  • The Moral Substitute: Stannis' campaign in the North has the end goal of toppling the Boltons and restoring order so as to secure the realm against the invasion of the Others but in the process, he demands castles from the Night’s Watch for his own men and plans to settle wildlings in the south, lead them in his armies, and even, if necessary, install a few in castles. Jon notes that he must stay politically neutral, that he has allowed the wildlings to settle in The Gift, and tells Stannis that he cannot give him any other castles other than the Nightfort because these Night's Watch castles are meant to be garrisoned by the Watch to defend the Wall. However, in Jon's time as Lord Commander, he does something somewhat similar to Stannis's proposal in order to protect the realm from the Others (and later, also acts against the The Dreaded Ramsay Bolton), but goes about it differently. He builds a formal alliance with the wildlings, yet also has humanitarian reasons for wanting to save the wildlings from the Others in addition to pragmatic ones and never asks any wildling to bend the knee or take the Night Watch's oath unless they choose to. Jon explains to his opposers that the wildlings are living people too — men, women, and children — and they are also part of the realms of men the Night's Watch is sworn to protect from the Others. Additionally, any dead north of the Wall will rise as wights. Actions taken to build a peace with the wildlings involve alliances with wildlings groups (such as Tormund's band), efforts to bring wildlings south of the Wall (from places such as Hardhome and the weirwood grove beyond the Wall), accepting willing wildlings into the Watch, and brokering an alliance between the Thenns and Alys Karstark, which Jon does to also save Alys from her Evil Uncle. Jon likewise finds himself supporting Stannis against the Boltons, despite urging himself to stay neutral. His plans nearly work — until the Pink Letter.
  • Mr. Exposition: Hoster Blackwood tells Jaime, and us, all about the history of his family and its feuds with the Brackens.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Averted when the Horn of Joramun is burned. Melisandre, like Mance before her, knows that using it to level the wall, if indeed it could have, would have removed the only thing keeping the Others at bay and making the wildlings' ultimate victory over the Watch short-lived.
  • No Dead Body Poops:
    • Alluded to by Brown Ben:
      Silver's sweet and gold's our mother, but once you're dead they're worth less than that last shit you take as you're dying.
    • Later, after Pycelle dies, Varys has to open a window to ventilate due to the smell.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: The "Children of the Forest".
  • Oh, Crap!: Daenerys has a major Oh, Crap! moment when a farmer presents her with the charred bones of a child that her escaped dragon Drogon ate.
    • Janos Slynt after Jon utters the following words, "Please take Lord Janos to the Wall...and hang him". He has another one moments later when Jon calls off the hanging...then draws his sword and orders someone to fetch him a chopping block.
    • Davos Seaworth once he realizes exactly where Wyman Manderly is asking him to go. note 
    • Jorah: "It's a slaver."
    • Roose Bolton has a minor one once the violence between various factions in Winterfell spirals out of control. Especially memorable considering he's a sociopath who barely shows any emotion and this is the first time he's shown fear.
    • Ser Barristan when he learns that Quentyn Martell and the Windblown unleashed the remaining dragons into the city.
    • Quentyn Martell after he realises that Rhaegal has set him on fire.
  • Off with His Head!: Jon personally beheads Janos Slynt after Slynt refuses a direct order from him.
  • Open Secret: Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell, the entirety of the Small Council and the rest of the Kingsguard have all more or less figured out Robert Strong is a necromantically reanimated Gregor Clegane.
  • Pacifism Backfire: Dany and Jon's arcs deal with them trying to build peace with various competing factions while at the same putting forth their own agenda. In the end it doesn't work out:
    • Dany's attempts to build peace in Meereen has good intentions, curtailing the violence inflicted by the Sons of the Harpy, staving off war with neighbours, and consolidating some of her reforms but, in the process, she has to deal with many painful compromises, some hostile political factions, and a series of reversals, and even face up to slaves being sold right outside her gates as Evil Gloating by Yunkishmen. She manages to escape an assassination attempt on her life. In the end, she realizes that, her way, is Fire and Blood.
    • Jon Snow likewise has good intentions and attempts to build peace as he tries to save everyone from the ever-approaching Zombie Apocalypse. He tries to build peace between the wildlings, King's men, and the Night's Watch while, at the same time, tries to help Stannis and his contingent in a way that doesn't compromise the neutrality of the Night's Watch, and also tries to save his little sister "Arya" from Ramsay. He also works to rescue the wildlings and shelter them south of the Wall, which is met with the disapproval of some fellow Watch members. In the end, the peace he works to build ends with the Pink Letter that puts an end to Night's Watch neutrality with Jon Snow stabbed and chaos breaking out at Castle Black between King's men, Night's Watchmen and wildlings.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Alys Karstark's and the Magnar of the Thenns' marriage. Jon is at first nervous about marrying them together, but the Magnar turns out to be a loving, gentle husband to his new wife and makes the effort to assimilate into House Karstark's traditions.
  • Pet Monstrosity: Subverted — Daenerys turns her back on her dragons when she witnesses them becoming too unruly and dangerous. Played straight when she starts controlling Drogon after he turns up in the fighting pit.
  • Plant Person: The Three-Eyed Crow, who is melded with the Weirwood. And he wants Bran to take his place.
  • The Plague: The bloody flux, carried into Meereen and the Yunkish camps by a pale mare.
    • The Wildlings see this in greyscale, as Val becomes wary towards Shireen and does not consider her "clean". Though the Baratheon princess' condition does seem to be benign at the time, it's unknown whether Jon Connington's affliction will remain as contained.
  • Put On The Back Of A Dragon: Daenerys is carried into the Dothraki Sea, far away from Meereen, by Drogon. Many believe she is dead back in Meereen.
  • Rage Quit: Tyrion plays Young Griff in a game of cyvasse and wins thanks to a piece of bad advice he gave him at the beginning. Infuriated, Young Griff kicks the board over. This fit of anger makes Tyrion consider that the boy might really be a Targaryen.
  • Rape as Backstory: Roose Bolton tells "Reek" of how he raped Ramsay's mother.
  • Rape by Proxy: "Reek" is forced into this at the wedding night of Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark".
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Freys put out an alternative version of the Red Wedding: Robb and his northmen warged into massive wolves and attacked their Frey hosts, and the Freys merely acted in self-defense. It's an absolutely preposterous story that they don't expect anyone to actually believe, but which northmen are expected to pretend to believe. Wyman Manderly does just that in a Davos chapter, leaving Davos stunned that the lord could possibly buy into such nonsense. Manderly eventually makes it clear that he's not fooled at all, he knows very well who's responsible for the Red Wedding and the death of his son and he is still very pissed off about it; he was only playing along until he could get his last surviving son out of captivity.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: Theon heads in this direction after his prolonged Cold-Blooded Torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton.
  • Rightful King Returns: Stannis' Northern campaign initially driven by conquest, is eventually tempered by Jon Snow to prove that he is the true rightful king. He will not distribute "Northern castles to Southron lords" and avoid PR disasters like sending wildlings to march into the fiercely anti-wildling Mors Umber's territory, and also liberate the territories still governed by Ironborn:
    Stannis Baratheon: When Balon Greyjoy rose the first time, I beat the ironmen at sea, where they are fiercest. On land, taken unawares...aye. I have won a victory over the wildlings and their King-Beyond-the-Wall. If I can smash the ironmen as well, the north will know it has a king again.
    • Lord Davos asserts the same to Wyman Manderly, albeit more reluctant since he knew that renewing hostilities is a tough sell to people who lost loved ones in a recent battle:
    Davos Seaworth: Your lordship lost a son at the Red Wedding. I lost four upon the Blackwater. And why? Because the Lannisters stole the throne. Go to King’s Landing and look on Tommen with your own eyes, if you doubt me. A blind man could see it. What does Stannis offer you? Vengeance. Vengeance for my sons and yours, for your husbands and your fathers and your brothers. Vengeance for your murdered lord, your murdered king, your butchered princes. Vengeance!
  • Salt the Earth: Knowing that Daenerys was likely going to conquer the city, the people of Meereen burn crops surrounding the city and dump salt in all the wells. This works, increasing Daenerys' problems by making it difficult to feed and water her new people.
  • Save the Princess: Unfortunately, it's not the real princess.
  • Shady Lady of the Night: The thought-to-be dead Mance Rayder is tasked by Melisandre to save Arya Stark from her marriage with Ramsay Bolton in Winterfell. To do this, he takes six spearwives with him, who go undercover as camp followers (that is, prostitutes serving soldiers). The spearwives kill several men in Winterfell, and later help Theon to save "Arya", who is actually Jeyne Poole.
  • Sherlock Scan: The Varys-Illyrio conspiracy, decades in the making, a total secret from the world... unearthed by Tyrion Lannister in its entirety in a succession of few chapters.
  • Skewed Priorities: Played with. When Cersei sees her uncle Kevan is upset with her, she thinks it is because he is still angry about her throwing wine at him. He says he is upset about her seducing his son Lancel. He doesn't go into the other reasons he could be angry at her: her refusal to give him titles he had a right to, such as Warden of the West or Castellan of Casterly Rock, and how her political incompetence and sexual affairs have brought disgrace to House Lannister.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: It's implied that what is really in Wyman Manderly's three huge meat pies are the bodies of the three Freys who were murdered by Wyman. Before Wyman himself eats his fill, he first serves slices of these pies to Ramsay and three living Freys — Roose Bolton's wife and two of Walder Frey's sons.
  • Secretly Dying: After saving Tyrion from the Stone Men, Jon Connington contracts severe greyscale and knows he's dying, but hides this from everyone.
  • Slut-Shaming: Cersei must perform a naked walk of shame through King's Landing. Also has a Shameful Strip, complete with full body shaving.
  • Soup of Poverty: When House Bolton's forces and allies are snowed in at Winterfell by a massive blizzard, the common men and soldiers are served watery grey porridge and plain bread while the lords and knights eat the good food like ham, bacon, and butter, which causes some grumbles of discontent among the former.
  • Spanner in the Works: All kinds of schemes and long-term plans get upended by unexpected factors:
    • Roose Bolton, in collusion with Arnolf Karstark, hoped to goad Stannis to march on the Dreadfort. Jon Snow told Stannis to Take a Third Option, court some loyal Mountain Clans, and gain a troop of 3000 soldiers, all of them capable of marching in the cold winter and many of whom are still loyal to Ned Stark's memory.
    • Arianne Martell's scheming in A Feast for Crows leads to the death of Arys Oakheart. This ends up becoming Cersei Lannister's get-out-of-jail-for-free card, since she had wanted a vacant spot on the Kingsguard with which to place loyalist Ser Robert Strong so as to win her upcoming Trial by the Faith.
    • The long-term plans of the Golden Company and Illyrio Mopatis get upended thanks to Daenerys Targaryen simply surviving, and then hatching dragons and then conquering three cities. Tristan Rivers of the Golden Company gets fed up and asks his fellow soldiers to Take a Third Option:
      "First Viserys Targaryen was to join us with fifty thousand Dothraki screamers at his back. Then the Beggar King was dead, and it was to be his sister, a pliable young child queen who was on her way to Pentos with three new-hatched dragons. Instead, the girl turns up on Slaver's Bay and leaves a string of burning cities in her wake, and the fat man decides we should meet her by Volantis. Now that plan is in ruins as well. I have had enough of Illyrio’s plans. Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne without the benefit of dragons. We can do the same."
      • Young Grff is one for giving some badly made plan which he get from Tyrion. On that note, Tyrion derails whatever Illyrio, Varys, and Golden company planned by giving Young Griff that idea.
    • Doran Martell's plan to wed Quentyn to Daenerys goes awry simply due to Dany's attack on Slaver's Bay, which leads to a number of events that ultimately sees her wed to Hizdahr zo Loraq. And in a desperate bid to win her attention, Quentyn releases the imprisoned Rhaegal and Viserion from their captivity in an attempt to tame them, but, ah... fails.
    • The plan of Skahaz and Ser Barristan Selmy to depose Hizdahr zo Loraq went swimmingly up to the end, only to be derailed when the dragons got loose courtesy of Quentyn.
  • The Squire: Tytos Blackwood offers one of his sons as this to Jaime. The Kingslayer turns him down as he already has too many under his retinue.
    "I have more squires than I know what to do with. Every time I take a piss, they fight for the right to hold my cock."
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Turns out that forcing a highly traditionalist organization to go through a ton of reforms, many of which completely go against the principles and ideals of the organization, is a dangerous idea. Especially if said organization is already resentful of you being their new leader due to you being a bastard and younger than most of your officers.
    • A similar problem occurs with Daenerys in Meereen. She successfully takes over the city and abolishes slavery. Problem solved, right? Except that the city's primary economy was based around slavery and all her major trading partners now want nothing to do with her. In addition, the old rulers destroyed most of the cash-producing infrastructure on the way out, and it will take years to rebuild. The former slaves and the former slaveholders hate each other, and both are increasingly turning against her. All of the surrounding slaveholding neighbors are building forces against her. So she's left trying to establish an entirely new economy, keep the people fed and establish new trading relationships in the midst of an active insurgency and massive unrest, equipped only with soldiers and dragons who are great for conquest but lousy at peace-keeping. Also, she's sixteen years old and has zero experience in either governing or economics. And winter is coming.
    • Thanks to Cersei previously deferring on the crown's repayments to the Iron Bank of Braavos and flippantly brushing off its emissaries when they requested an explanation, the Westerosi economy is in freefall and the Iron Throne's credibility as a debtor is in tatters, with other financial institutes in the Free Cities flatly refusing to lend money to the Iron Throne. In the final chapter, Kevan Lannister dispatches the Master of Coin to Braavos to try and negotiate a new payment plan with the Iron Bank, musing that if that fails, he'll have no choice but to pay the crown's debts out of House Lannister's coffers, since he knows raising taxes on the cusp of winter will just give rebels like Stannis more supporters.
  • Sweets of Temptation: At the grand re-opening of the Meereenese fighting pits, the Sons of the Harpy force a confectioner to prepare poisoned honey locusts for Daenerys, but Strong Belwas eats them instead by accident. He gets very sick, but miraculously survives.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: After seeing a ferocious-looking boar being driven into the Meereenese arena for a female gladiator to fight, Daenerys briefly feels pity for Robert Baratheon having died to such a creature.
  • Take a Third Option: After Janos Slynt openly defies his orders to leave Castle Black for Greyguard, Jon concludes he could have Slynt imprisoned in the ice cells until he learns better, but the moment he releases Slynt, he and Thorne will start plotting to undermine Jon again. Jon could also tie Slynt to his horse and forcibly send him to Greyguard to do hard labour there, but Slynt will likely desert as soon as he arrives and Jon suspects a good portion of the men would probably join Jon orders, and ultimately carries out Slynt's execution to set an example to the rest of his subordinates he won't tolerate them defying him.
  • Talking Your Way Out: A dark example. During the cold and arduous march towards Winterfell, four of Stannis' Southron soldiers are caught cannibalizing a dead man. They are to be burned at the stake while completely naked. The ringleader begins taunting everyone of his crime, eventually provoking Clayton Suggs into slashing his throat. Asha notes the cannibal's intelligence - he coerced them into giving him a quick death rather than choosing to be burned alive.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: Roose Bolton and his allies, who are camped out in Winterfell, waiting for Stannis to march to them, start suffering a string of murders in their ranks. Considering many in their own number hate each other's guts, there's at least one enemy agent undercover in the castle, and some of them have very good reasons to hate their liege lord, there's suspects galore. Fan theories range from fairly likely (Wyman Manderly, who is known to already be conspiring against Bolton; Mance Rayder and his spearwives, who admit to one of the murders, but deny another), to creative (some of the other Northern Lords, who might have found out that Bolton is behind the Red Wedding, and already have reason to hate the Freys), to Wild Mass Guessing (Theon has multiple personality disorder and is murdering people without being aware of it; the septon of Winterfell survived being thrown in a well by the Ironmen three books ago and is hiding in the ruins, killing occupants).
    • The theory of the murder of Little Walder, which the spearwives denied, is actually his own cousin Big Walder. Little Walder's body is discovered frozen in the snow, and Big Walder is brought in at the same time with fresh blood (i.e., he interacted with his cousin's body before it was dumped into a snow bank). The two have had several conversations regarding how close they are to in the line of succession and have shown a disturbing lack of remorse over the deaths of family members in line before them.
  • That Liar Lies: Davos does this when one of the Freys claims that Robb Stark and his men turned into wolves at the Red Wedding and they killed them in self-defense:
    Davos: Ser, may I have your name?
    Jared Frey: Ser Jared, of House Frey.
    Davos: Jared of House Frey, I name you liar.
  • They Just Dont Get It: Jon eventually just has to give up trying to explain to Stannis and his followers that they cannot just marry one of them to Val to become the new leader of the Wildlings, because a) Val is only a "princess" in the sense that she's the sister of King-Beyond-The-Wall Mance Rayder's late wife, not because of any noble blood (since Mance himself was only "king" because he defeated everyone who opposed him), b) the Free Folk will only follow someone they personally respect, regardless of who they're married to, and c) if Stannis tried to just "give" Val to someone she doesn't want to marry, she'll just kill him. The Southerners just don't get that Wildling women aren't like the demure, submissive courtly ladies they're familiar with, and are just arrogantly disinterested in trying to learn the major ways that the Free Folk differ from them.
  • Trojan Veggies: Comes up in conversation. Dolorous Edd of the Night’s Watch hates prunes and recalls one meal where Three-Finger Hobb chopped up some prunes and hid them in a hen with chestnuts and carrots.
  • The Unpronounceable: Half of Daenerys' court in Meereen qualifies, but only to the ears of Dornishmen and the Windblown. Daenerys and her Court, including Ser Barristan, have fewer difficulties.
    Archibald Yronwood: Hizdahr, Humzum, Hagnag, what does it matter? I call them all Harzoo.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Jon Snow wants as many wildlings as possible on the Westeros side of the Wall, realizing that every one that dies on the other side is one more Wight to fight. Most of them understand this, but most of the Night's Watch does not.
    • Roose Bolton's northmen and the Freys hate each other, as many northern houses lost people at the Red Wedding.
  • Wham Line: The letter Jon Snow receives from Ramsay Bolton near the end.
    Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.
    Your false king's friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.
    I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.
    I want my bride back. I want the false king's queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want this wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard's heart and eat it.

    Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Jaime Lannister has not been heard from since walking off with Brienne.
  • Winter Warfare: Stannis and his men contend more with the Northern snowstorms than they do with the Boltons. His knights are notably impeded in their heavy plate armor. The Northern houses who side with them fare much better with their lighter and warmer armor as well as their snowshoes.
  • Worth It: Daenerys on her first flight:
    "If I fall and die, it will still have been worth it."
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Quentyn Martell thinks he's The Hero of the story, and therefore destined to victory.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Boltons and Freys seriously underestimated Wyman Manderly.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Ramsay Bolton promises a fort of Ironmen that if they surrender, nothing will happen to them, counting on them believing him on his word. They do, and he flays them alive before killing them. All of them.
    • His father Roose promised squatters at Winterfell's ruins that he would grant them mercy if they helped him in rebuilding the castle. Roose then hanged them, pointing out that he was merciful for not flaying them. Like Father, Like Son.