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Literature / A Feast for Crows

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Crows will fight over a dead man's flesh and kill each other for his eyes. We had one king, then five. Now all I see are crows, squabbling over the corpse of Westeros.
Rodrik Harlaw

The fourth book in George R. R. Martin's Doorstopper A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 2005.

With Tywin Lannister dead, the reign of the Seven Kingdoms falls to Cersei, who becomes the regent for her son Tommen. While the War of the Five Kings seems to be ending, there are still plenty of problems to face, and Cersei may not be as well suited to the task as she previously thought she was. In the Riverlands, Brienne of Tarth still searches desperately to find Sansa Stark, who has taken on the identity of Petyr Baelish' bastard daughter Alayne Stone and is safely residing in the Vale of Arryn.

On the Iron Islands, a succession crisis arises after Balon Greyjoy's death, and much animosity between his assumed heirs is the result, while in Dorne, a rebellious princess prepares to use Myrcella Baratheon (sent to Dorne to be betrothed) to enable her plans of revenge. All at the same time, Samwell Tarly journeys to Oldtown to become a maester of the Citadel at Jon Snow's orders, while Arya Stark reaches Braavos and starts her training to become a Faceless Man.


The novel has a total of 12 POV characters. Some prominent characters from previous books are notably missing: A Feast for Crows provides Simultaneous Arcs with the following novel, A Dance with Dragons, covering events in the southern six kingdoms of Westeros while its sequel handles the North, the Wall and events beyond the Narrow Sea. The prologue is provided by minor character Pate.

  • King's Landing is seen through the eyes of Cersei Lannister primarily.
  • The destroyed Riverlands are seen from the perspectives of Brienne and Jaime, who are now travelling separately with separate goals.
  • The Eyrie and the rest of the Vale of Arryn are seen from Sansa's - or rather, Alayne Stone's - perspective.
  • In the Iron Islands, we see through the eyes of Balon's younger brothers Victarion and Aeron, as well as his daughter Asha.
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  • Dorne is seen through the perspective of Areoh Hotah, captain of Doran Martell's guard; Arys Oakheart, a knight of the Kingsguard pledged to protect Myrcella; and Arianne Martell, Doran's daughter and heir to Dorne.
  • The sea route to Oldtown and Oldtown itself are seen through Samwell Tarly's perspective. He also stops in Braavos, which is primarily seen through Arya Stark's eyes.

Select materials from this book were adapted throughout Seasons 4, 5 and 6 of HBO's Game of Thrones.

A Feast for Tropes:

  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Eight-year old Tommen is crowned King of Westeros after Joffrey's death. Subverted in that Cersei holds the real power and all Tommen does is stamp decrees and letters, without much understanding of what he's actually doing. This bites Cersei in the ass rather horribly when Cersei's enemies make Tommen send out decrees against Cersei.
  • Academy of Adventure: The Citadel of seems to be shaping up this way. But actually a deconstruction, since Sam has to be very careful of not showing his true motivation to the maesters.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: What the Blackfish's occupation of Riverrun is to Emmon Frey, since he's now officially the lord of the castle. Averted from Ser Brynden's perspective, since it's his family's ancestral seat.
  • Analogy Backfire: Nimble Dick assures Brienne that's he's honest as the day is long. Brienne points out that as winter is coming, the days are getting shorter.
  • And Another Thing...: Subverted when Qyburn uses this to bring up to Cersei the play that seems to taunt the crown (see Call-Back, below), which doesn't add anything to the plot and is never mentioned again.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Virtually no one is upset when Ryman Frey, the Fat Bastard General Failure in charge of the siege of Riverrun gets hanged by the Brotherhood Without Banners while returning to the Twins (having been expelled for one screwup too many). His own son Edwyn is less concerned about the fact his father is dead than the fact he's now heir to the Twins and his ambitious brother Black Walder now might kill him, while Jaime's only thought on the matter is concern that the outlaws are getting bolder if they're willing to lynch Walder Frey's heir a day's ride from home.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Like in A Storm of Swords, not only Arya is capable to warg into Nymeria, but when she is briefly blinded in Braavos she realizes she can see through the eyes of a cat.
  • Animal Motifs: Crows are a recurring one; they're even in the title.
    Euron "Crow's Eye" Greyjoy: "After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying."
    Jaime Lannister: "Every crow in the Seven Kingdoms should pay homage to you, Father. From Castamere to the Blackwater, you fed them well"
  • Arc Words: "She's been fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and probably Moon Boy for all I know."
  • Author Vocabulary Calendar: The word "nuncle", previously unused in the series, appears abundantly and conspicuously here.
  • Back from the Dead: Catelyn Stark is resurrected into Lady Stoneheart.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A line of dialogue mentions that Davos Seaworth has been executed by Wyman Manderly. We learn much later in the following novel that this was an elaborate ruse, and that Davos is still very much alive.
  • Bastard Understudy: We get to see Sansa becoming more and more shrewd under Littlefinger's guide.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Arianne kidnaps Myrcella Baratheon, meaning to crown her Queen of Westeros and raise Dorne's banners to support a war against King's Landing behind her father's back. Doesn't work out.
    • Doran Martell also had one: He only betrothed Arianne to men he knew she would refuse, because he had actually secretly promised her to wed Viserys Targaryen.
    • Euron sends four longships down the Mander to draw the bulk of the Shield Islanders away, so the islands will be lightly defended when the main fleet comes in from the open sea.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with poor Myrcella, who loses an ear and has her face scarred by Darkstar.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Cersei obsesses over a prophecy she once received as a child from a maegi, saying that she would be killed by her "valonqar"; that she would be queen until another "younger and more beautiful" came to "cast [you] down and take all that [you] hold dear"; and that her children would predecease her.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Arya's apprenticeship at the House of Many-Faced God (that is, death) requires that she cast off her identity. She can't complete the process, as a part of her is still running around Westeros.
    • Sansa undergoes this to a certain degree as Alayne Stone, referring to herself as Littlefinger's daughter even in her own mind, and on several occasions makes active attempts to suppress the desires that 'Sansa' has in order to continue to grow as 'Alayne'.
    • Both of them get the benefit of chapter headings (multiple, in Sansa's case) using their assumed identities.
  • Big Breast Pride: Lady Myranda.
  • Big Man on Campus: Alleras, one of the more popular students at the Citadel. Ironically, not a large man. And likely not a man at all.
  • Bitch Slap: Cersei, again, this time to Jaime after he suggests that her consideration of Osmond Kettleblack as Tommen's master-at-arms over the ideally talented Ser Loras was because Osmond stares at her breasts while Loras does not.
  • Blinded by the Light: After having drawn the bulk of the Shield Islanders away to chase four longships going down the Mander, Euron has the rest of the Iron Fleet attack the islands themselves from the open sea as the sun sets behind them to make them difficult for the lookouts on the islands to spot.
  • Bluff the Imposter: A version is mentioned in Sam's last chapter: a harbour offical at Oldtown mentions the Ironborn attacking the coastline of the Reach seized a Tyroshi ship, killed its crew, then dyed their hair all different colours in the fashion of Tyrosh, hoping to slip into Oldtown in disguise and then cause chaos to allow an attack on the city. Unfortunately, the captain of one of the ships in Oldtown's harbour was married to a Tyroshi woman, and when none of the "Tyroshi" crewman answered him when he hailed them in their native language, the captain realised something was wrong and raised the alarm.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Brienne of Tarth is sentenced to hang for refusing to kill Jaime Lannister. The last the reader knows of Brienne's fate, the noose was tightening around her neck.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Emmon Frey loses patience with his nephew Ryman's tactic of repeatedly taking Edmure Tully out in front of Riverrun and threatening to hang him; he'd rather have Edmure dead to strengthen his hold on the castle once the siege is broken, nor does he want the expense of having to repair it after a direct attack. However, Ryman knows that without Edmure, the Frey-Lannister alliance has no leverage to break the siege.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Brienne meets three boys who each try to sell her something: one offers clams, one offers crabs, and one offers his sister.
  • Call-Back:
    • In a near-reproduction of a scene from "The Hedge Knight", Brienne realizes the sigil on her shield will not do, and commissions a woman to repaint it with an elm tree and shooting star on a field of sunset colors.
    • In another reference to "The Hedge Knight", a half-crazed member of the royal family (Aerion in "The Hedge Knight", Cersei here) construes a puppet show as a veiled insult to the crown (though in this case, it arguably was) and has the performers punished.
  • Came Back Wrong:
    • Catelyn Stark from Thoros' magic. Catelyn is resurrected several days after death, leaving her a partially rotted and vengeance-fueled revenant of her former self. Probably a result of having been a corpse for three days, two of which spent in the river, she can hardly speak any comprehensible words and seems to have become increasingly psychopathic.
    • It is strongly implied that Ser Robert Strong is the reanimated corpse of Gregor Clegane, fueled by Qyburn's twisted experiments. The massive knight seems to never sleep or eat. It is also likely that he has no head under his greathelm, since Clegane's skull was sent to Dorne. Earlier in the series, Bran has a green dream in which a huge knight in stone armor lifts his visor, but there is only blood behind it. The stone armor is likely an allusion to Clegane's nickname, "The Mountain."
  • Coming and Going: Sansa meets the widowed Lady Myranda Royce, whose middle-aged husband expired the first time they had sex.
    Myranda: He died on top of me. In me, if truth be told. You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?
    Sansa: That must have been dreadful, my lady. Him dying. There, I mean, whilst...whilst he was...
    Myranda: Fucking me? It was disconcerting, certainly. Not to mention discourteous.
  • Companion Cube: The order of guardsmen that Areo Hotah belongs to ceremonially wed their axes upon graduation; he sleeps with his by his side and refers to it as his "ash-and-iron wife".
  • Conflicting Loyalty:
    • Jaime is torn between loyalty to his family and to his vows, but a combination of Brienne's formative example of knightly virtue and the realisation of just what a nest of vipers his family is makes that choice easier for him.
    • Later on, Brienne is torn between her oath to protect Jaime, given to Catelyn Stark, clashes with her oath to obey Catelyn Stark, when Lady Stoneheart orders Jaime brought to her for justice.
  • Daddy's Girl: Arianne Martell was so devoted to her father that at the age of fourteen, she was still going to his rooms to kiss him goodnight. That unfortunately led to her finding a letter in which she thinks he discussed his plans to disinherit her. Even when she plans to overthrow him, Arianne intends for Doran to live in comfortable retirement in the Water Gardens where Quentyn (who she believes is Doran's favorite child) can stay with him because she will "suffer no slights to his honor or his person."
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Jaime Lannister recalls the last conversation he had with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, about how the prince had realized how badly his mad father King Aerys was ruling the realm and he had planned to summon a council and make changes. He promised to speak more on the subject when he returned from what turned out to be the battle where he was killed.
  • Demoted to Extra: House Stark. Prior to this book the Starks were the most prominent family in the series with almost every member being a POV character, making up anywhere from half to three-quarters of the first three books. In Crows only two members of the family are POV characters and between them they only contribute six chapters out of 46, while House Lannister drives the book with seventeen chapters. Arya is especially demoted, as with thirteen chapters she was the most prominent character in Swords, while in Crows she just has just three chapters that have nothing to do with the rest of the story.
  • Development Gag: invoked Littlefinger says that he "had hoped to have four or five quiet years" to allow his plans to mature, but things are moving too fast. This is a reference to GRRM's original plan for "a five-year gap" between books 3 and 4, which he had to abandon.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Many of Cersei's decisions as Queen Regent backfire spectacularly for this reason. Notable examples include deferring on loan repayments to the Iron Bank of Braavos (an organisation notorious for getting its money back by any means necessary), prompting the Iron Bank to demand full repayment on all its loans in Westeros and while refusing to extend credit note , all but crippling the nation's economy, and when Cersei tries to alleviate the problem by negotiating a deal with the Faith of the Seven, freeing the crown from its debts in exchange for letting the Faith revive its old military orders, she doesn't consider the idea of re-arming a band of religious fanatics who have a history of fighting with the monarch might not be a good one.
    • Lampshaded when Cersei realizes she had forgotten to consider how the population would react to Margaery getting arrestednote 
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Lord Hewett's bastard daughter Falia, after years of being made to work in the kitchens for her trueborn half-siblings and wait on them at table, delights in joining the Greyjoy invaders to humiliate them - such as suggesting that they be forced to serve their captors naked, which inevitably leads to the women and young girls being gang raped.
    • Cersei rejects Jaime's efforts to help her, replaces his affections with those of Osmund Kettleback, and makes constant snarky comments about his stump. When she sends a raven appealing for his help after her arrest, Jaime orders the message burnt.
  • The Dreaded: Lady Stoneheart aka undead Catelyn Stark.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Invoked by Cersei with regard to Robert:
    Robert was a fool about most things, but he was right in one regard: It is wearisome work to rule a kingdom.
  • The Dung Ages: By this book, the lasting effect of the war are shown with nearly all of the struggling smallfolk are living in constant fear of torture and rape. Life isn't pleasant when you're a peasant. Especially now that Winter has come.
  • Enfant Terrible: Aside from her early blooming Twincest tendency, Cersei's other wacky childhood antics include commonly threatening servants and smallfolk with death and may have pushed her companion to her death for the crime of fancying Jaime. Now it's clear where Joffrey got his charming manners.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The people of the Summer Islands, with whom Sam shares a ship to Oldtown.
  • Evil Gloating: Cersei to Margaery after Loras barely survives his assault on Dragonstone.
  • Evil Power Vacuum: Most of A Feast For Crows conserns this, as the deaths of Joffrey, Robb and especially Tywin, emboldens the surviving villains of Westeros to take advantage of the disorder. Cersei attempts to rule through her son, King Euron Greyjoy attacks the undefended Reach, Petyr Baelish is taking control of the Vale and looks at the North, the surviving Bloody Mummers rape and burn what's left of the Riverlands and it's hinted that Roose Bolton might crown himself King in the North. The title itself is likely made to underline this.
  • Exact Words: Alleras says, "I am no Lord's son." "Alleras" is almost certainly Sarella, the daughter of a prince.
    • Edmure Tully does this during the siege of Riverrun. He hands the castle over to Jaime Lannister and Emmon Frey as agreed, but allows his uncle Brynden Blackfish to escape and simply says that he was "required to surrender the castle, not [his] uncle." Jaime turns this around on him, though. Having promised him treatment suitable to his station, he points out that plenty of nobles have died in Casterly Rock's dungeons.
  • Excrement Statement: Cersei thinks about having Tyrion's head bronzed and storing it in the bottom of her chamber pot.
  • Eye Scream: Marillion had his eyes plucked out while he was being tortured into lying about Lysa's death.
    • Blue Bard gets one of his eyes removed by Qyburn.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: Cersei's scheming against Margaery by claiming she committed adultery with knights and then having her imprisoned is inspired by the Tour de Nesle affair, this formed the plot of the first book of The Accursed Kings, an acknowledged influence on the series.
  • Faux Yay: Cersei decides, one night when Taena shares her bed, to explore her sexually, with Taena's full consent, but even despite bringing Taena to orgasm cannot feel any pleasure in the experience herself, realizing that only Jaime truly excites her.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Cersei's scheming against Margaery relies on Osney Kettleblack falsely confessing to the High Septon that he has slept with the young queen. She also has Qyburn torture the Blue Bard, a young musician who plays for Margaery and her company, so he will testify that he also took the queen to bed, while Pycelle admits to having supplied Margaery with Moon Tea. This all backfires on Cersei when the Faith (newly armed by Cersei herself) tortures Osney because the High Septon found his lack of guilt during the confession suspect. Osney admits he "fucked the queen", said queen being Cersei.
  • Fingore: Mord took off a few of Marillion's fingers while torturing him.
  • Food Slap: Cersei throws her glass of wine in Kevan's face when he lets on very clearly at a private dinner, having already declined her offer to make him Hand, that he knows Jaime is Tommen's real father.
  • Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt: Qyburn finds a gold coin from the Kingdom of the Reach from before Aegon's Conquest in the bedchamber of Rugen, the undergaoler who released Tyrion. (Note that Rugen was actually Varys in disguise.) The obvious implicationnote  is that the Tyrells used Reach gold to bribe Rugen into releasing Tyrion, which further fuels Cersei's paranoia. Of course, using a rare, ancient and region-specific currency for your criminal operations, as opposed to the more common and completely untraceable unified currency of the modern day, is nothing short of idiotic, which will cause the reader to suspect the veracity of this evidence. This thought never occurs to Cersei, however.
  • Foreshadowing: Jaime muses on how, for House Frey's sake, Lord Walder needs to at least outlive his grandson and heir, Ryman. A few chapters later, Ryman is hanged by the Brotherhood.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Possibly. While in Braavos, Sam encounters a young girl selling shellfish who recognizes that his black armor means he is a brother of the Night's Watch. When she declines to tell him her name, saying she once had one but now she is "no one", the reader instantly realizes that it's Arya.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale:
    • Once upon a time, there was a girl growing up in her father's house with a Wicked Stepmother and her evil stepsisters, who forced her to live amongst the servants and do all the chores. Then one day, their castle was captured by pirates.The wicked but dashing and handsome Pirate King Euron fell in love with the pretty Falia Flowers. She persuaded Euron to make her enslaved family serve in the nude while her poor father watched, and she laughed and laughed and laughed while they were gang raped all night. The End.
    • Cersei is revealed to have received a prophecy once that she would be queen until a younger and more beautiful girl wrested that position from her. A likely candidate would seem to be her daughter-in-law.
  • Freudian Slip: When Tommen takes an interest in jousting, Cersei compliments him saying he'll be a great jouster like his father, obviously referring to Jaime, since King Robert was a mediocre jouster, but was invincible in the melee. Margaery doesn't miss the slip and politely asks which jousts the late king won.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Brienne goes through this before killing her first man (in self-defence), questioning whether she has the strength to take a life. Ultimately it gets easier for her, but she still doesn't enjoy it.
  • Gambit Pileup: About halfway through Cersei's extensive gambits to destroy Margaery Tyrell, Margaery also starts working to destroy Cersei (mainly after Cersei can't resist Evil Gloating over Loras Tyrell's horrific injuries after the battle of Dragonstone). This all while the Faith Militant is scheming to become more authoritative. In the final Cersei chapter, both Cersei and Margaery are arrested by the Faith on legitimate charges of adultery. Well, legitimate in Cersei's case at least; Margaery's is still up in the air.'
  • Girl in the Tower: Arianne is held in a tower after her capture. Lampshaded by titling her chapter, "The Princess in the Tower".
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Cersei's plot with Lady Falyse Stokeworth to have Bronn die in a hunting accident ends with a beaten and bloodied Lady Stokeworth showing up at the Red Keep in the middle of the night alone and demanding to be let in to see Cersei immediately. When she doesnote , she tells the queen that instead of arranging the accident, her husband insisted on facing Bronn in single combat instead, which he lost, whereupon Bronn took over the castle and gained the loyalty of her husband's men almost instantly.[[/spoiler
  • Good Shepherd: Brienne gets to meet few:
  • Heir Club for Men: The notion of women gaining authority and support to rule over the realm is a major theme in the book.
    • Among the traditional seafaring Ironborn, the idea of a woman as anything other than a wife, salt-wife or a whore is unthinkable. Despite this, the highly conservative Balon Greyjoy sought to break with tradition and name his Action Girl daughter Asha as his heir and mentioned as much to others. Upon his mysterious death, his exiled brother Euron seizes the throne by force, and despite hating him, the conservative priest Aeron is equally opposed to Asha being Queen as well and decides to call a Kingsmoot instead.
    • Cersei Lannister's chapters explore the pressures of being Queen Regent, in that the authority of rule comes solely from her children's claim rather than hers, so she faces several challenges from within and without, along with her own flaws. In the end, she finds out how powerless she actually is when the High Septon manages to imprison her on charges of adultery, which is a far greater crime for a woman than her cheating husband Robert, as it casts doubt on the paternity of her children.
    • Arianne Martell also faces angst regarding this. Even if she comes from a more progressive part of the realm where first child primogeniture is held over sons and daughters equally, she becomes paranoid that her father Doran seeks to deprive her of her claim and hand it to her younger brother Quentyn instead. She starts a plot to install Myrcella on the Iron Throne in reaction to this. It turns out she needn't have worried, because her father wasn't trying to rob her of her birthright as Princess of Dorne but make her queen of the Seven Kingdoms by marrying Viserys; when that didn't pan out, he sent Quentyn to attempt to become king by courting and marrying Daenerys, so Arianne would still be Princess, but from what little information she knew, she had every reason to fear.
    • In her more humble position, Brienne's chapters explore her angst about the consequences of defying custom and becoming an Action Girl and her feelings of guilt about being her father's only surviving child and so a poor heir to Tarth:
    "I am the only child the gods let him keep. The freakish one, the one not fit to be son or daughter".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Cersei has Margaery Tyrell arrested by the Faith for adultery, but the knight she sends to confess of this is tortured till he admits he slept with Cersei, resulting in Cersei's own arrest as well. In addition, her own insistence that Margery, as a queen, must have her Trial by Combat be championed by a member of the Kingsguard (limiting Margery's choices to the point where her loss is assured) similarly dooms Cersei, who is also a queen.
  • Honor Before Reason: Arys Oakheart. Results in his untimely death.
    • Invoked by Lord Rodrik when counseling Asha not to go to the kingsmoot since she will not win: "Your father had more courage than sense".
  • How Dare You Die on Me!: Cersei, when informed by Pycelle of Lord Gyle's worsening condition, tells the Maester to inform the Master of Coin that "he does not have my leave to die."
  • Implausible Deniability: An unlucky and none-too-bright Tyrosh merchant attempts to cash in on Cersei's offer of wealth and titles if she's brought Tyrion's head, coming up with various excuses for why "Tyrion"'s head is bald, with two matching eyes instead of the differently colored eyes he actually has, his obviously cut-off nose, and is twice Tyrion's age. The guy ends up being given to Qyburn for wasting Cersei's time (she officially condemns him for murdering the dwarf whose head he tried to pass off, which is about as close to dispensing true justice as Cersei gets).
    • Assuming the head was of Penny's brother, he's only guilty of fraud, though, as the dwarf was decapitated by a gang of drunken sailors from Westeros and the head disappeared later.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Lord Gyles Rosby, Cersei's Master of Coin, succumbs to what seems to be tuberculosis, suggested by his incessant cough. Subverted in the sense of the short time frame usually implied by the trope in that, according to Cersei, he has been that way for years; because of this, she finds it so unlikely that his death is nigh that she tells Pycelle that Rosby may not die without her approval.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: To become a Faceless Man, Arya is forced to give up everything about her identity.
  • Inferred Holocaust: Thanks to the bounty placed on Tyrion, many dwraves across Westeros and Essos are being killed in order to cash in on the bounty. Since Cersei wants to ensure Tyrion cannot escape, she does nothing to punish those who kill dwarves nor takes any action to discourage further killings.
  • I Will Find You: Brienne's arc consists of finding Sansa Stark and hide her from the Lannisters.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Tommen has a whipping boy, Pate, who Cersei has beaten whenever Tommen steps out of line. On an occasion when he seriously annoys her, she orders him to beat Pate until he bleeds — and if he refuses, the boy will have his tongue cut out instead.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Subverted. The Blue Bard and Marillion are tortured, not to get them to admit to the truth of their crimes but to break them so thoroughly they're willing to confess to anything at all to get it to stop.
    • Played straight with Osney Kettleblack. When he freely and cheerfully commits to sleeping with Margaery, a capital crime, the Sparrows torture him until he confesses that Cersei is the one who slept with him and told him to lie about Margaery.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Blackfish Tully is rude and condescending to Jaime, but he's right about having no reason to even consider anything other than continuing to hold out: he has more supplies stashed in the castle than can be found anywhere nearby for the much larger Frey-Lannister army outside the walls, he has no reason to think Jaime will or can keep his word after the Red Wedding, and letting any of his men who do not want to change their loyalty leave unarmed would put them at the mercy of the outlaws on the way home.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner:
    • Under Lady Stoneheart's leadership, the Brotherhood Without Banners starts luring, hunting and killing Freys for the mere reason of them being Freys, no matter what they did during the Red Wedding. All of them are considered guilty by default and by proxy and the only possible result is death. In their defense, the Freys they have executed until now Merrett, Petyr, Ryman, are absolutely guilty of involvement in the Red Wedding with Ryman Frey, who is executed at the end of the book being the man who killed Dacey Mormont, and in the case of Pod and Brienne, Stoneheart moderates from outright execution to making her An Offer You Can't Refuse which Book 5 confirms she accepted. In any case, within the context of Westeros when there's no real justice system, one can't plausibly regard the Brotherhood as being significantly more unjust than any other existing system.
    • Cat of the Canals, aka Arya Stark, encounters a deserter from the Night's Watch in Braavos, she leads him into a dark alley and cuts his throat, following the traditions of her culture's executions of deserters from that organization.note 
  • Killed Offscreen: There are several references to the death of Davos Seaworth. However, the character makes no actual appearance in this volume.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: Rodrik "The Reader" Harlaw is an Ironborn scholar, which gets him about as much respect as you might imagine. This might be part of why Asha, who is his niece and also looked at askance for not conforming to Ironborn gender roles, considers him her favorite uncle.
  • Leeroy Jenkins:
    • Ser Arys dies when he unexpectedly charges Areo Hotah's troopsnote 
    • Unwilling to wait for a sapping operation to succeed and guarantee a bloodless taking of Dragonstone, Ser Loras leads a direct charge that takes the castle at a cost of a thousand lives.
  • Locked in the Dungeon: Margaery and then Cersei, by the Faith Militant.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Aside from a handful of chapters featuring Sansa and Arya, there are no POV characters from the first book. In addition, the chapters put a lot of focus on the role and actions of smallfolk and how their lives were affected by the preceding three books War of the Five Kings.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Jaime ends up refusing Cersei's plea for him to return to King's Landing to help her after she's been arrested by the Faith Militant after an entire book and a half of Cersei constantly belittling and insulting him, along with various revelations about what she got up to while he was imprisoned at Riverrun, namely having sex with Osmund Kettleblack and Lancel Lannister as replacement sex toys.
    • Victarion Greyjoy quickly decides to double-cross his brother Euron when the latter tells him to take the Iron Fleet to Slaver's Bay and bring Daenerys Targaryen back to Euron to marry. Victarion makes up his mind then and there to marry Dany himself in exchange for the wife that Euron forced him to kill.
    • Pycelle, having previously been one of Cersei's lackeys, after having spent the entire novel being ignored, derided, belittled and periodically threatened with imprisonment, torture, and death by Cersei, quickly wastes no time after Cersei is arrested and imprisoned by the Faith Militant to strip Cersei's cronies of power, before offering the regency to Kevan Lannister to fix the mess Cersei's incompetent rule has created.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • Sam is this in his first chapter, when he gives Jon his requested rundown on what the Night Watch's records can tell them about The Others and how they might be defeated.
    • The Elder Brother gives Brienne and Pod the history of the Quiet Isle and what the Hound and his men did to Saltpans.
    • Daven Lannister fills Jaime in at length on the progress (or lack thereof) of the siege of Riverrun and the internal tensions among the Freys over it.
    • And in the next chapter Genna Lannister Frey is brought in to give the reader, through a lot of her conversations with Jaime, some of the backstory of the previous generation of Lannisters and their youth.
  • Never Found the Body: Discussed in Jaime's POV about the case of young Tyrek Lannister, who disappeared during a riot in King's Landing; he even wonders if Varys arranged the riot to cover him being snatched.
  • Never My Fault: Even Cersei is horrified by the brutality of Qyburn's torture of the Blue Bard ... but of course, it's all Margaery's fault, as Cersei simply had to have him tortured to get him to "confess" to Margaery's adultery.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Aeron Damphair will not accept Euron "Crow's Eye" as the King of the Iron Islands and thus organizes a Kingsmoot so that the people of the islands can choose their own King. He himself heavily supports the claim of his brother Victarion. However, at the Kingsmoot, Euron "Crow's Eye" is so convincing that his position of King is affirmed.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Brienne has a moment like this when she is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners. She is armed with a sword that has a golden lion hilt and a blade forged from Ned Stark's old sword, was calling out to Jaime Lannister during her fevered dream, and claims Jaime instructed her to find the two Stark girls and protect them. Unsurprisingly, her captors don't believe her.
  • Obviously Evil: Euron "Crow's Eye" is this trope in full effect. Even considering the Deliberate Values Dissonance of the Ironborn culture, he's evil by their standards as well as anyone else's, and he has the Eyepatch of Power and nightshade-blue lips to show it.
  • Odd Friendship: Brienne and Ser Hyle develop one.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Loras-led attack on Dragonstone.
  • Only Sane Man: Pycelle goes from being the Lannisters' Professional Butt-Kisser, as he was when Tywin was alive, to being this for Cersei's regime, desperately trying his best to stop her ongoing parade of Stupid Evil Epic Fail actions; notable examples include pointing out when Cersei declares the crown is defaulting on repayments of its debts to the Iron Bank of Braavos that it's not a good idea to make an enemy of an organisation notorious for getting its money back by any means necessary (even to the point of financing the enemies of its debtors), it's not a good idea to let the Faith of the Seven reform its own private army when it took the Targaryens 11 years of war and a grudging peace treaty to put down the Faith Militant the last time they were powerful, and it's not a good idea to put important royal assets in the hands of incompetent or untrustworthy cronies of hers. Pycelle's warnings all prove accurate when Cersei's efforts at ruling result in the economy of Westeros all but collapsing (as well as the Iron Bank sending an emissary to Stannis, offering to finance his war effort to claim the Iron Throne in exchange for his pledge to repay the throne's debts once he has it), the Faith of the Seven in command of a private army of religious fanatics with no respect for her authority and the man she placed in charge of the royal navy absconding with the new fleet she all but bankrupted the realm to pay for to set himself up as a pirate.
  • Pet the Dog: Brienne feels genuinely sorry for her mistrust of Nimble Dick after he is horribly slaughtered by two former Bloody Mummers. She resorts to giving him a proper burial.
  • Pride Before a Fall: This book features Cersei's period of unchallenged power, before her own petty schemes bite her back.
  • Promotion to Parent: Alayne Stone is now the Lady of the Eyrie, managing the household and becoming the only one who can get little Lord Robert to behave.
  • Puppet King: It's no surprise that Tommen is this even more than Joffrey. Thing is, while the Lannisters initially have control over his strings, the Tyrells are wresting the strings from their control, and out of treating him very well, no less.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In this book, the taking of Dragonstone.
  • Rape as Backstory: Euron raped Victarion's wife, which Victarion responded to by killing her. For what it's worth (which, admittedly, isn't much), Euron denies that he raped her, claiming "she came to [him] wet and willing". It is also implied he sexually abused his brothers Aeron and Urrigon.
  • Reason Before Honor: Despite strong popular sentiment in Dorne (and among his own extended family), Prince Doran refuses to go to war with the Lannisters and Tyrells after his brother Oberyn is killed by the Mountain since Oberyn died in trial by combat, which is not legally murder.
  • Reality Ensues: Tywin Lannister is left on display for seven days before he is to be carried home to Casterly Rock. This results in him decomposing as he lies in state, and the smell eventually becomes appalling.
  • Rebellious Princess: Arianne Martell is one, mainly because she believes her father means to overturn her as the heir to Dorne in favor of her brother Quentyn.
  • The Reveal: Doran Martell wants revenge for Elia Martell's death and has been planning, more or less since the day Elia died, an alliance with the remaining Targaryens.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons:
    • When Brienne sets out on her quest to find Sansa, she reasons that she would have fled to the Vale, since Lysa is her only living relative in a secure location. Turns out that's exactly where Sansa is going, but by no choice of her own, because that's where Littlefinger's plots take them.
    • In this book, we finally get a look inside Cersei's head and realize how detached from reality, paranoid, and overconfident she truly is. A lot of her pointless scheming that keeps blowing up in her face is to attack the Tyrells who she feel are out to get her. However, the Tyrells did murder her older son, although their plots against her are mostly hoping that she'll just go away rather than planning her ruination. She also believes that her brother Tyrion is behind every setback because he wants to kill her. In the following novel, it is revealed that Tyrion does actually want to kill her, except it's for all of the times that she has tried to hurt or kill him.
  • Rousing Speech: Euron delivers one of these at the Kingsmoot to propel himself to the Seastone Chair.
  • Sanity Slippage: With a glimpse of Cersei Lannister's mind in her POV, we get to see how to recent events are affecting her best sense in form of grief, anger and paranoia.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: More like in here. Brienne is disgusted to hear that when Saltpans was attacked by the Hound and his men, the aged Ser Quincy Cox barricaded himself in his castle rather than do anything to protect the townspeople from rape and pillage.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The term "broken men", ex-soldiers who become roving outlaws and brigands is used as a medieval substitute for what is obviously the modern condition. Septon Meribald describes it accurately in his speech at Quiet Isle:
    "Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe...They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when that’s still half-healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting, and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water. If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they’re fighting in, men very like the men they used to be...They don’t know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they’re fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground...And the man breaks...The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man."
  • Shout-Out: Sam recalls how Horas Redwyne, after finding out how easily Sam could be beaten and humiliated in practice combat, made him "squeal like a pig"
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Margaery, after months of Obfuscating Stupidity to Cersei reveals what she really thinks of her after Cersei's attempt of Breaking Them By Talking:
    Cersei: You wrong me, daughter. All I want—
    Margaery:is your son, all for yourself. He will never have a wife that you don’t hate. And I am not your daughter, thank the gods. Leave me.
    Cersei: You are being foolish. I am only here to help you.
    Margaery: To help me to my grave. I asked for you to leave. Will you make me call my gaolers and have you dragged away, you vile, scheming, evil bitch?
  • Silent Treatment: Doran orders the servants bringing food, water and clothing to his imprisoned daughter not to speak to her. Eventually this treatment breaks her psychologically to the point that she lies in bed all day and stops eating.
  • Sleep Deprivation Punishment: The septas ask the imprisoned Cersei every hour if she's ready to confess, even waking her up to do so.
  • Smitten Teenage Girl: Cersei is revealed to have harbored a lifetime crush on Rhaegar Targaryen and never forgave her eventual husband for killing him.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Arianne and her plot to crown Myrcella queen. Her father knew all along and she's flatly put on her place. Fortunately for her, her father hasn't any intention of harming her and her companions and has been plotting revenge on House Lannister for 16 years.
    • Cersei's POV chapters really cement her as this ... she has a lower opinion of even many of her putative allies than her enemies.
  • Speed Sex: Arianne recalls that the first time she tried to have sex with Ser Arys, he came on her thighs before he could even insert his penis into her.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    • In flashback we learn that while Lord Tarly put a stop to his knights' wager on which of them could get Brienne in the sack first, that did not in any way imply he approved of her career choice, as he strongly believes in this trope.
    • The Faceless Men tell Arya that while some women have indeed learned their ways and joined their organization, mostly they prefer their members be male, as it is generally women's place to bring life into the world.
  • Stepford Smiler: Cersei becomes a POV character and it's revealed that beneath her calm queenly facade she is a barely stable trainwreck of paranoia, megalomania and insecurity.
  • Storming the Castle: Invoked by Daven Lannister, as what may have to be done to break the siege of Riverrun.
  • Switched at Birth: Jon Snow secretly switched Dalla's baby with Gilly's, sending Dalla's child south with Gilly so that the child wouldn't be burned alive by Melisandre.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Once Cersei has reached unbridled power and authority, she keeps trying to backstab and play games of intrigue instead of governing; she thinks that this is what "governing" is and she ends up trying to bite off way more than she can chew... this earns her a proverbial dislocation of the jaw.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: Ser Arys Oakheart gets a grand total of one POV chapter before he is killed.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: The Blackfish makes his contempt for the Kingslayer clear.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Cersei's second POV chapter has Kevan give her a good dressing-down, outright calling her a poor ruler and a fool for making Mace Tyrell angry by breaking a promise Tywin Lannister made to him, and a poor mother judging from what he saw of Joffrey. He also refuses her offer to make him Hand of the King without making him regent and returns to Casterly Rock. And he not only tells her he believes the accusations of incest between her and Jaime, he also tells her (having learned a thing or two from Ned Stark, perhaps) that he commands hundreds of knights, and can command more along with freeriders, and tells her it would be foolish to make him an enemy. Cersei, of course, simply spends the entire speech inwardly calling him a traitor.
  • Take a Third Option:
    • Invoked by Asha after Rodrik tells her not to go to the kingsmoot; she implies she cannot accept either her uncles succeeding her father or the Iron Islands' subjugation to the Seven Kingdoms, and that is why she sees the kingsmoot as her only hope:
    If there are rocks to starboard and a storm to port, a wise captain steers a third course.
    • At the kingsmoot, Victarion promises to continue the war against the northmen to victory. Asha then mocks him by sharing as treasure shells and sand from the many empty beaches he has conquered, and instead offers a peace deal she has begun to conclude with one of her noble captives. Euron suggests instead that the ironborn can have both peace and victory, by completely defeating the Seven Kingdoms under his rule, and is then overwhelmingly chosen the islanders' new king.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by Cersei. Arrested by the Faith and facing certain death when her chosen champion inevitably loses her Trial by Combat (due to her own schemes against Margery Tyrell, no less), she attempts to summon Jaime as her champion, intending him to die as well. However, he refuses her request.
  • Temporary Blindness: Part of Arya's Training from Hell with the Faceless Men is this; she's blinded for a while so her other skills can strengthen without the aid of sight. Afterwards, it's temporary deafness, and so on.
  • Villain Decay: While in A Game of Thrones Cersei was introduced as a very ruthless and competent chessmaster; grief, anger, paranoia, and most of all Pride make sure she is soon the cause of her own downfall.
  • Villain Protagonist: The straightest example yet. With almost a quarter of the book dedicated to her, Cersei has more chapters than any other character, and unlike Theon and Jaime, she never feels guilty or remorseful. What's worse is that seeing her point of view actually makes her less sympathetic. In earlier books, she at least had shown affection and love for her children and a few others, including Jaime. This book shows that she scarcely thinks of them as other than tools, and even implies that her concern for her children is somewhat self-motivated, as she reveals that a prophecy indicates that her children will die before her, and thus them dying hastens the time to her own death.
  • War Is Hell: The major theme of this book, more than others, is depicting the horrific consequences of medieval warfare on civilian life, the scattered numbers of "broken men" running around the countryside, the increasing religious sentiment and breakdown of government. The book's title is a reference to carrion birds feasting on the corpses on a battlefield. Septon Meribald's speech on the Quiet Isle illustrates this most famously, as does Thoros of Myr's pithy lament:
    "War makes monsters of us all."
  • Wham Episode:
    • Cersei is arrested by the Faith.
    • Brienne meets Lady Stoneheart, the woman she used to serve, who decrees that she be hanged for treason.
    • Jaime refuses to be Cersei's champion.
    • Doran and Oberyn Martell have always planned revenge for their dead sister. The reason Arianne isn't already married at 23 is that she was secretly betrothed to Viserys Targaryen - and Quentyn has been sent to seal an alliance with Daenerys.
    • Sansa finds out Petyr's plot to have her become the Lady of both the Vale and Winterfell.
  • Wham Line:
    • When Arianne asks Doran what killed her secret fiancée he says a pot of molten gold. He then reveals his "heart's desire".
      Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood.
    • Jaime's response to Cersei's need for a champion.
      Jaime: No. Put this in the fire.
    • The High Septon's beautifully simple and extremely satisfying response to some of Cersei's orders.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Some of the major P.O.V. like Jon, Tyrion or Daenerys disappeared to get back in A Dance with Dragons.
    • Where is the Blackfish?
    • Jaime wonders if his cousin Tyrek Lannister, who disappeared in A Clash of Kings has been kidnapped by Varys.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Cersei sees sending Loras Tyrell to take Dragonstone as this. She knows Loras is too impatient to wait for the keep to starve out, so she hopes he will die storming it. If he doesn't die, she would have still struck a blow against Stannis, making it a win-win situation. What she doesn't predict is the prestige his victory will give House Tyrell, her primary rivals for power at court.


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