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Literature / A Game of Thrones

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When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.
Cersei Lannister

The first book in George R. R. Martin's Doorstopper A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 1996.

After the death of Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, King Robert Baratheon travels to the North to offer the position of Hand to Eddard Stark, Warden of the North and his most trusted friend. When Eddard receives a letter from his wife Catelyn's sister which claims that Jon Arryn was murdered by House Lannister (the Queen's family), Eddard decides to become Hand of the King to protect Robert's life and the realm, even after an accident leaves his son Bran paralyzed from the waist down. Thus, Eddard travels to the South with his daughters, Arya and Sansa Stark. Three of his sons, Robb, Bran and Rickon, are left at Winterfell and he allows his illegitimate son Jon Snow to go with Benjen Stark, his brother, to the Night's Watch.

Due to Switching P.O.V., the novel follows three main plotlines:

  • Honourbound Eddard Stark in the King's treacherous court trying to unravel the machinations behind Jon Arryn's death and House Lannister's motives. Meanwhile, his wife Catelyn foils a murder attempt on the already-crippled Bran, and ends up going after Tyrion Lannister, the queen's dwarf brother who is known as "the Imp," because she believes he is responsible...
  • Jon Snow, bastard son of Ned Stark, decides to join the Night's Watch after his father leaves Winterfell, and defend the realms of men against whatever foes lie Beyond the Wall. For some eight thousand years, the answer to that question has been, "Not much," but today things are different: rangers are lost, dead men begin walking the land and creatures known as "The Others" have been sighted. And the Night's Watch, once a noble order but now mostly an Army of Thieves and Whores, is only marginally ready to stop them...
  • Across the sea, Viserys Targaryen — the last heir of the Targaryen dynasty who fled after the successful rebellion fifteen years ago — is plotting vengeance against the usurper Robert Baratheon, who stole the throne and killed Viserys' family. To achieve his goals, he marries his younger sister Daenerys to a clan of Mongols known as the Dothraki, expecting an army in return. Viserys is a Royal Brat, but things are a bit different with Daenerys...

There are eight POV characters, six of them being from the Stark family: Eddard, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Catelyn Stark present the majority of the events in the Seven Kingdoms and Jon Snow narrates the events beyond the Wall after the Stark family is separated early in the narrative. Meanwhile, Tyrion Lannister provides an insight into the villainous House Lannister while Daenerys Targaryen narrates the events across the sea. Minor character, Will, provides this book's prologue.

The events of the novel were adapted in the first season of Game of Thrones, which takes its title from the book.

A Game of Tropes:

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    A to C 
  • Accidental Truth: Sansa says that Joffrey is a lion, not a stag, and couldn't be more different from his drunken, obese father. This is the final hint that Ned needed to uncover the royal children's true parentage.
  • Adipose Rex: Robert, much to Ned's surprise.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Jon shows his affection to Arya by mussing up her hair.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: King Robert Baratheon dies after getting gored in the stomach by a boar during a drunken hunting trip; he's left in so much pain that he can barely issue his final orders. Needless to say, he's mercifully anesthetized once he's finished, and remains unconscious until he finally expires the next day.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Waking the dragon" starts as Viserys' Unusual Euphemism for his Unstoppable Rage but becomes synonymous with Took a Level in Badass by the end of the book.
    • And the House Stark words: "winter is coming". They basically mean "don't get comfortable because things will go wrong." At the beginning of the book, the decade-long summer is wrapping up, the kingdom is prosperous and at peace and the autumn harvests are just starting. At the end the kingdom is ear deep in debt, a massive civil war is starting, the king is a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk, the fields are burning and winter is coming.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • Janos Slynt, commander of the City Watch, complains to the small council of the crime hitting the city, describing one night where "we had a drowning, a tavern riot, three knife fights, a rape, two fires, robberies beyond count, and a drunken horse race down the Street of the Sisters."
    • According to the Dothraki, if pregnant Daenerys fails to eat the entire raw horse heart her baby may come out stillborn, sickly, weak, deformed, or female.
  • As You Know: A lot of the world building is done with characters regularly going into excessive detail when talking about people or past events, often while speaking to people who should already know the information or to themselves while internally monologuing.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning:
    • In Catelyn's final chapter, the various Stark bannermen reject the idea of suing for peace with the Lannisters or helping Renly (which would simply end up with the North being under the Iron Throne again) and instead declare Robb "THE KING IN THE NORTH!" Note that Robb is not actually crowned in this scene (not least because there was no physical crown as yet). His formal coronation took place some time later, as reminisced by Catelyn at the beginnning of The Clash of Kings.
    • From a certain perspective, Drogo's "crowning" of Viserys.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister, whose union was the result of an Arranged Marriage. Robert's real love, Lyanna Stark, was killed during the civil war of Westeros and he never got over her. Cersei hates Robert since he called her "Lyanna" on their wedding night and spends his days fooling around with other women. She's paying him back by sleeping with her brother, passing off her children with said brother as Robert's and eventually plotting his death.
  • Badass Boast: Dany gets one after Mago and Jhaqo gang-rape and murder Dany's slave Eroeh during the dissolution of Drogo's khalasar near the end of the book.
    Daenerys: I am Daenerys Stormborn, Daenerys of House Targaryen, of the blood of Aegon the Conqueror and Maegor the Cruel and old Valyria before them. I am the dragon's daughter, and I swear to you, these men will die screaming.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Subverted with the Stallion That Mounts the World prophecy. The Dothraki crones predict Dany's son will be the chosen one and Khal Drogo even plans to do what no Khal has ever done before (i.e. sail across the sea, which the Dothraki fear). The child, however, is slain in the womb by the vengeful Mirri Maz Duur.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Used when Arya tries to explain the conversation she overheard. Varys and Illyrio use idioms she isn't familiar with and she isn't aware of anything they're discussing, so what she actually tells her father (who knew enough to work it out if he'd heard it verbatim) is a jumbled mess about wizards and juggling that makes him think she encountered some mummers.
  • Bookends: When Eddard Stark first appears, he is watched by his sons as he executes a deserter, while Bran makes himself look although he wants to turn away. When he appears last, he is beheaded with the same sword, his own, watched by his daughters, with Sansa unable to stop looking although she wants to turn away.
  • Boot Camp Episode: The Jon chapters after he leaves for the Wall have him training, learning the ropes, doing chores around the Wall and establishing relationships with other sworn brothers.
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: After Arya's wolf Nymeria attacks Joffrey, Arya knows Nymeria will be killed if the Lannisters get hold of her, so she throws rocks at her to get her to run off into the woods.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Sansa's admiration of Cersei crumbles when she sees what a cruel, manipulative woman she is. Joffrey is another example, though it takes longer; Sansa is so enamored with him that even as he's framing Arya for attacking him without provocation and had the Hound murder her friend, she can't think of him as evil;
    • The Order of the Night's Watch comes as a considerable disappointment to Jon. It takes him quite a while to adapt;
    • Ned experiences this to King Robert Baratheon several times in the course of the story. In the backstory, it's when Robert condones Tywin's slaughter of Rhaegar's children, and later his indolence as a King and his disappointment at his continued whoring despite his responsibilities.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Jaime and Cersei. All of Cersei's children are conceived with Jaime.
    • This is practically a rule for the Targaryens. In fact, Daenerys's marriage to Khal Drogo is thought of as strange by her, since she was expecting to marry Viserys.
  • The Caligula: King Aerys the Mad, King Joffrey I Baratheon. It's also clear that Viserys Targaryen would have been this had he ever become king.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Ned knew that Robert would try to appoint him Hand. He didn't expect his king to actually travel North.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In her first chapter, Daenaerys is given three fossilised dragon eggs, said to be enormously precious but as dead as the stone they turned into. After being largely ignored for most of the book, all three eggs hatch in Daenaerys' last chapter, giving bith to first live dragons seen in 150 years.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Red Priests and the Unsullied are first mentioned in Daenerys' first chapter before becoming more important in later installments.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: At the end of the book, Robb and Joffrey are proclaimed kings at age fifteen and twelve, respectively.
  • Convenient Coma: Bran finds out about Jaime and Cersei's adultery, and promptly (with a little help from Jaime) goes into a prolonged coma, waking with Laser-Guided Amnesia about the whole thing. All this prevents him from telling Ned, who spends the rest of the book trying to dig up the very same secret.
  • Country Matters: Used fairly freely (especially by men about their wives). However, it's exclusively used for its technical meaning.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Ned's POV constantly mention the events that transpired at the Tower of Joy and the promise he made to Lyanna at her deathbed, and how it has taken a huge toll on him. The exact cause of her death has yet to be discovered and as well said promise.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Mirri Maz Duur bides her time to get her revenge for her rape and the slaughter of her people at the hands of the Dothraki, and eventually does so by killing Daenerys's unborn child in the womb. This is especially unjust, because Dany had rescued her from her rapists and the child was innocent. Mirri defends herself by pointing out she'd had her entire community wiped out and been raped several times before Dany "saved" her, and the child was prophesied to destroy the world. Dany doesn't take it well, and gets her own revenge by burning Mirri Maz Duur alive as a sacrifice to hatch her dragons.

    D to F 
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Robert asks Ned if he is a good king. Honest Advisor that he is, Ned hesitates, but grants him that he was better than his predecessor Aerys.
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Ned Stark promises his bastard son Jon Snow that they'll talk about Jon's mother after he returns to the capital, Jon's Uncle Benjen promises to talk about Jon becoming a ranger after he returns from a scouting mission, and King Robert tells Ned they'll discuss the exiled princess Daenerys after Robert returns from a hunt. Ned is unfairly accused of treason and executed, Benjen has been missing for two years and is possibly undead, and King Robert is manipulated by his wife into being killed by a boar.
  • Deadly Environment Prison: The Arryns' cells have only three walls...with a 600-foot drop off the side of a mountain on the fourth side. The Lord of the Eyrie also tries to force the imprisoned Tyrion to leave their castle via the Moon Door (again, with a 600-foot drop on the other side.) When Tyrion manages to get pardoned, Lady Lysa Arryn manages to do Death By Freedom again (he can now leave the castle via the road full of shadowcats and hostile tribes.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tyrion, Tyrion, Tyrion. Honestly, you could not pick his best line. His wit is one of his keenest weapons.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Viserys demands the golden crown that is rightfully his and that the Dothraki have promised him. Khal Drogo proceeds to melt gold into a pot and empty it on Viserys's head.
    • Eddard Stark's first appearance has him beheading a man for deserting the Night's Watch. Ned himself is later beheaded as a traitor to the realm, right after having made a false confession in front of the whole city (with his own sword, no less). Taken even further with the fact that Ned Stark refused to harm Joffrey, even though he is trying to depose him, while Joffrey had no qualms about killing him.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Will, the POV character of the Prologue, who dies at the end of the chapter. Eddard Stark is also this on a much grander scale.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Greatjon Umber is extremely hostile to his new boy-lord, Robb Stark, even baring steel against him in his own tent. Robb (and Grey Wind)'s reaction to this insubordination wins him Jon's staunch friendship and support.
  • Description Porn:
    • In the prologue, Ser Waymar mocks Gared's incredibly detailed description of what modern readers would call hypothermia.
    • Any time a feast or meal happens. Never read this book on an empty stomach.
  • Desperate Plea for Home: Daenerys "Dany" Targaryen's first chapter features her about to be married to Khal Drogo in exchange for military support to her brother's attempt to reclaim the throne of Westeros. Given that she hasn't even turned fourteen yet, Dany is understandably anxious, at one point panicking and blurting out that she wants to go home. Viserys' response doesn't help much, especially given that he just thinks she's talking about Westeros, not knowing that the nearest thing to home that Dany's ever had was the house with the red door.
  • Diabolus ex Machina:
    • Just when it seems like Daenerys will finally get a one way ticket back to Westeros and the Iron Throne, poor care for a minor wound results in Drogo's death and the dissolution of his khalasar.
    • Ned Stark is betrayed and arrested to prevent his naming Stannis as the rightful heir and plunging the realm into another war. He then is forced to make a false confession in exchange for his and his daughter's lives. He is unexpectedly executed. In the sequel, Varys hints to Tyrion (who misses the hint), that someone else might have been responsible for the execution, likely whispering words into Joffrey's ear....
  • Downer Ending: For one character's arc, setting up the conflict for the rest of the series. Eddard Stark's honorable efforts to give the Iron Throne to the true heir result in his execution and the realm being plunged into a brutal war of succession.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sansa imagines doing this will somehow shame the Lannisters for what they've done
  • Dying Clue: "The seed is strong." The dying words of Jon Arryn which he repeated after discovering that every child the Baratheons have ever had with Lannisters in recorded history have black hair... save for the three children of Robert and Cersei.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: In the prologue, Waymar Royce is depicted as a smug Upper-Class Twit, disliked by the men serving under him. However, when the Others show up, he takes charge and bravely (and futilely) fights them.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Sansa's betrothal to Joffrey is a major plot point, but it seems like it's the first time such a topic has been discussed about any of their children. Later books show that there's a lot of discussion about political alliances being created with betrothals and weddings between houses, and the discussions can start early. Alys Karstark later tells Jon Snow that she was brought to Winterfell by her father years before in hopes of arranging a match between her and Robb, but somehow the topic never seems to have come up for Robb (who's about 16) until he needs an alliance with the Freys.
    • Ned mentions that Jaime is the heir to Casterly Rock, but the Kingsguard are later said to forswear all titles as the Night's Watch do — indeed, this becomes a major plot point for Jaime himself.
    • Almost certainly intentional, but with the later focus on multiple concurrent plots scattered among several characters, it can be jarring to come back to the first book and discover that Ned was the main character for nearly two-thirds of its plot.
    • When King Robert arrives at Winterfell, he and Ned have a long discussion about Jaime Lannister becoming Warden of the East. After that, it's never mentioned again for the entire series. Ned acts like being a Warden is a big deal, but while the titles of the various Wardens are sometimes mentioned, the idea that there is any sort of political power associated with the title(s) is never suggested.
    • When Ned hears that King Robert is approaching Winterfell, he is described as giving a loud exuberant "wooping" noise, evoking the image of a fratboy. While it's in-character for Ned to be excited to see his long time friend, this open display of emotion contrasts strongly with his The Stoic and Grim Up North characterization and comes off as weird.
    • The length and time of the recent seasons are given in detail, mentioning the unusually long summer, how many winters Tyrion has lived through, and the Year of the False Spring, among others. In subsequent books, the only winter anyone seems to mention or care about is the upcoming one, and the histories only refer to the seasons in passing, if at all. Given the amount of historical detail given in the books about virtually everything else, this is especially noticeable.
    • Tyrion's bizarre acrobatics when he meets Jon are never brought up again until we're given a vague justification for them in the fifth book. This is more of a correction, as Martin was told by actual dwarves that Tyrion's acrobatics were impossible for an person with dwarfism to do. Martin proceeded to remedy this by showing how Tyrion's dwarfism actually limits his mobility in the later books.
    • One of Catelyn's earlier scenes involves her walking across a room naked in full view of her husband and Maester Luwin; for the rest of the series, she's never sexualized again. That said, this scene takes place in her bedchamber with her husband and the physician who delivered all five of her children, and takes place after she and Ned finished having sex. The contrast between the warmth and vulnerability of this scene and the coldness and fear she feels throughout the rest of her narrative is made more striking.
  • Enforced Method Acting: An in-universe example. During a major battle at the end of the book, Lord Tywin Lannister tries to lure Robb Stark's army into a trap by having one flank of his own army crumble under assault, with the pikemen to sweep in after the Northmen over-commit themselves. To accomplish this, he composes that flank solely of irregular troops and green recruits, gives command to his Psycho for Hire, and sticks in his hated son Tyrion for good measure.
  • Establishing Series Moment:
  • Exact Eavesdropping:
    • Arya overhears a conversation between conspirators, but the conversation involves the political situation on a different continent, they don't drop many particular details, and speak metaphorically for a large chunk of the conversation. Since Arya's only ten, not only does she misunderstand, she forgets large parts of the conversation (and also misidentifies the dragon skulls being stored in the room she's hiding in as "monsters" when asked.) As a result, when she tries to relate the conversation to someone else, it's garbled to the point of incoherency.
    • Subverted before that, when Bran overhears a pair of political conspirators, who turn out to be Jaime and Cersei. He also uncovers their incestuous relationship. They catch him, and Jaime immediately retaliates by throwing him off a tower.
  • Exact Words:
    • A double-whammy from Khal Drogo. "No blood can be shed" in Vaes Dothrak, the Dothraki people's holy city, and Viserys repeatedly demands that Drogo make good on his promise to give him a "golden crown". When Drogo has had enough of him, he dumps a pot of molten gold over his head, killing him without spilling a drop of blood.
    • Tyrion gets Lysa to let him out of his cell and brought before her so he can "confess [his] crimes". She expects to hear him confess that he ordered Bran and Jon Arynn's deaths, but instead he confesses a ton of minor crimes like gambling and whores.
    • Joffrey tells Sansa that he that he will be merciful. He never said that he would spare Eddard. He gave him a clean death.
  • Failed Execution, No Sentence: Implied by Ned's speech to Bran; if the judge/executioner's will fails, it should be considered a divine pardon, or at least commutation.
  • Fallen Princess:
    • Sansa and Arya at the end of the book.
    • Daenerys has been this her whole life, having been born after her family's dynasty had been ousted.
  • False Rape Accusation: Dareon was sent to the Night's Watch after being caught in bed with the daughter of Lord Mathis Rowan. To preserve her reputation, the woman claimed that Daeron raped her.
  • Fear Is Normal: Early in the opening chapter, young Bran has the following conversation with his father Ned:
    Bran: Robb says the man died bravely, but Jon says he was afraid.
    Ned: What do you think?
    Bran: Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?
    Ned: That is the only time a man can be brave.
  • Fingore: The Greatjon got several of his fingers eaten by Robb's direwolf when he summoned the banners. He laughed about it and became Robb's strongest supporter after that.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Tyrion and Bronn. Ned and Robert are a pre-established example, having fought side by side during Robert's Rebellion.
  • First-Episode Twist:
    • A major shock that kicks off the novel's plot at the end of Bran's second POV chapter: Bran Stark becomes paraplegic after being pushed out of the window of a tower when he discovers Queen Cersei in the act with her brother Jaime Lannister.
    • Many of the events of the book act as this for the series overall, namely the deaths of King Robert and Eddard Stark, Joffrey's rise to power, Littlefinger's betrayal and the birth of Daenerys Targaryen's dragons, all of which are quite well-known in pop culture, as they set up the plot for later books.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Ned Stark suffers from nightmares about the events in Tower of Joy, and his dying sister asking him to keep a promise.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In Bran's first chapter, Ned Stark finds a stag that has been opened up in the belly, and not far away, they find a direwolf that has been pierced through the head with one of the stag's antlers, leaving its six direwolf pups alone. King Robert Baratheon, house sigil being a stag, is killed by a boar ripping open his belly, and his successor Joffrey has Ned beheaded, leaving all six Stark Children fatherless.
    • There is some contention between certain characters over whether Jon Arryn meant to send his son Robert to foster with Stannis at Dragonstone, or with Tywin at Casterly Rock. As she reminisces about growing up in Riverrun, Catelyn also recalls play-kissing Littlefinger with Lysa; Cat didn't care for his attempts to use tongue, but Lysa did. This all foreshadows the eventual revelation in A Storm of Swords that Lysa conspired with Littlefinger to murder Jon due to her insane love for Littlefinger and to keep Robert from being sent away to Stannis.
    • "The Greatjon says that won't matter if we catch him with his breeches down, but it seems to me a man who has fought as many battles as Tywin Lannister won't be as easily surprised". In A Storm of Swords, Tyrion kills Tywin while the latter is on the privy—i.e. Tywin is literally caught with his breeches down.
    • Similarly, when Tyrion tells Bronn the tragic story of his first wife Tysha and what Tywin did to them, Bronn comments that he would have killed the man who did such a thing to him. Tyrion remarks that he yet might, as a Lannister always pays his debts. In A Storm of Swords when Jaime confesses to Tyrion that what Tywin had done was even worse than he'd known, Tyrion does take his revenge on Tywin.
    • In her first chapter Catelyn feels as though the eyes of the weirwood tree are watching her. In A Dance With Dragons Bran learns that greenseers can in fact watch people through a weirwood's eyes.
  • Forging the Will: As King Robert is dying, he dictates his will for Eddard Stark to write. Robert says "to my son, Joffrey", but Ned replaces this with "to my rightful heir", as he had learned that Joffrey is not actually Robert's son.
  • Freudian Slip: When Ned is speaking with Arya about how the wolf blood took his siblings Brandon and Lyanna to an early grave. Brandon found his death by threatening Prince Rhaegar and getting killed by the Mad King, but Lyanna's case sounds weird since the accepted story of her death puts her as a Damsel in Distress rather than dying due to her wild nature. This may indicate something more about her death, but Arya doesn't notice something is off.
  • From Bad to Worse: Catelyn Stark's beloved child apparently falls from a tower. Then someone is sent to kill him because he could have seen something he shouldn't, and then her husband is allegedly framed for treason, executed and one of her daughters is held captive in a Decadent Court; the other is missing. And it gets worse.

    G to J 
  • Good Is Dumb: Ned Stark spends a good chunk of the book proving this, making increasingly unwise decisions that lead directly to his own hardship and downfall. Perhaps the worst Honor Before Reason moment is telling Cersei and no one else what he learned about Joffrey's parentage, under the belief that she'd just flee. This leads directly to his men being slaughtered, him being captured and then executed.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Ned Stark's advice is often dismissed as just being Honor Before Reason, but there are often very good reasons for his choices.
    • He strongly protests Dany's assassination attempt and is called an honorable fool for it, but if they had followed his advice Drogo wouldn't have had any reason to care about invading Westeros, never would have run afoul of Mirri Maz Duur, and Dany never would have hatched the dragon eggs in his pyre. Dany and Drogo would probably have just led a simple life of horsemeat and the occasional raiding, raising their kids.
    • He doesn't back Renly's bid for the throne, but Renly's a diplomat with no combat experience in a situation that will require winning a war. Sure enough, Renly does nothing but divide the forces against the Lannisters. There's also the issue that legally, supporting Renly is treason, as even if Robert and Cersei's children are bastards, this still leaves Stannis as the rightful heir to the throne.
    • He attempts to Take a Third Option regarding the impending succession crisis by warning Cersei that he will reveal the truth about her incest and the illegitimacy of her children in order to persuade her to flee with the capitol] to avoid bloodshed. This action ends up costing him dearly. However, the seemingly obvious option of simply allowing Robert to find out, which would likely have lead to him killing Cersei in a fit of rage, and the children killed as abominations, who are the family members of the most powerful lord in Westeros (Tywin) and an infamous dishonorable knight who has already slain his previous monarch (Jaime) would have horrific consequences as well.
  • Grim Up North: The prologue makes perfectly clear that there's something very off in the far north.
  • Helping Hands: After Jon hacks the arm off a wight, he notices it clawing its way up his leg.
  • The Hero Dies: Ned Stark.
  • Heroic Blue Screen of Death: Eddard went into a catatonic state after his sister Lyanna died in his arms.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jon and Sam, Robb and Theon, Ned and Robert, Tyrion and Bronn...
  • History Repeats: Like it happened in Robert's Rebellion, a civil war starts when the head of House Stark is executed by a cruel king.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Used by Bronn when fighting Ser Vardis Egan. The knight is slow because of his equipped armour, losing to Bronn's speed.
  • Honor Before Reason: Eddard Stark might as well be the poster child for this trope. His modest and stubborn humility and insistence on feudal obligation might fly in the north, but everyone plays dirty in King's Landing. The only thing that can possibly convince Ned to put his honor aside is threatening the safety of his daughter.
  • Hope Spot: When Cersei arranges Robert's death, she decides that Ned Stark must be silenced. Eventually she decides to let him live and have him sent to the Night Watch instead, in exchange for a public false confession. Ned Stark agrees, but then her son decides to go off-script at a pivotal moment...
    Joffrey: "My mother bids me let Lord Eddard take the black, and Lady Sansa has begged mercy for her father. But they have the soft hearts of women. So long as I am your king, treason shall never go unpunished. Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!”
  • Hunting "Accident": How Robert meets his end.
  • I Have Your Wife:
    • Catelyn takes Tyrion as an hostage when she thinks he's responsible for Bran's attempted murder;
    • Sansa as leverage against Ned in an effort to get him to submit to the Lannisters' bidding;
    • Jaime Lannister is held captive by Robb and Catelyn at the end of the book.
  • Important Haircut
    • Yoren cuts Arya's hair so she can leave the city disguised as a boy.
    • Dany's hair burns off after hatching her dragons.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Viserys Targaryen is one of the last Targaryens, but he's basically penniless and living with Magister Illyrio at the start of the series.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The prologue is seemingly disconnected with the intricate machinations of the court and the upcoming civil war, but it sets up the true threat: the oncoming winter and the Others.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Ned sees Robert slap Cersei hard in the face and Cersei replies that she will wear the bruise as a badge of honor. Later in the novel, Cersei slaps him, and he sarcastically repeats her badge of honor comment.
    • Tyrion tells Jon to embrace his illegitimacy and wear it like armor so it can never be used against him. Littlefinger later uses the same armor metaphor for Eddard Stark's honor. He thinks it can protect him but it just weighs him down.
    • Mirri Maz Duur tells Daenerys "Only death can pay for life" before performing the blood magic spell that kills Dany's unborn child and leaves Drogo a vegetable. Dany later repeats the words back to her as she prepares to sacrifice Mirri to hatch her dragon eggs.
  • Irrevocable Order: The dying King Robert tried to call off the assassination he ordered on Daenerys Targaryen, but some made sure his message didn't go through. While the assassination does fail, the attempt does a lot to motivate Dany to invade Westeros and retake the throne.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Robert, as Ned and Cersei remember. As a young man, he was Tall, Dark, and Handsome with a Heroic Build tall, handsome and "muscled like a maiden's fantasy." By the beginning of the first book, he... isn't.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish leans heavily on the Jerk with a Heart of Gold trope, leading Ned to think he's really being helpful despite being rude and sarcastic all the while. It turns out that this is quite deliberate and Littlefinger is being antagonistic because he correctly determines that Ned would trust him more than if he was trying to be friendly, and he uses this assumption to betray Ned For the Evulz.

    K to M 
  • Kangaroo Court:
    • Tyrion Lannister is the victim of the court of the Eyrie. After being kidnapped and taken to an impregnable fortress, he has to offer to confess in order to be let out of a cell specifically designed to make its occupant commit suicide, and then has to demand a trial by publicly shaming his accusers to avoid going back there. The trial in question would be judged by the six-year old son of the man he's accused of murdering (who already shows a fondness for having people executed), and presided over by the child's mother (who, in addition to being the one to accuse him of murdering her husband, is sister to his other accuser, and is quite clearly mad). To avoid this, his only option is trial by combat (he's a dwarf and his opponents are seasoned knights,) and when he demands a champion he is denied his first choice and has to ask for a volunteer from the rabble of soldiers and mercenaries employed by his accusers.
    • One strange example comes from an unambiguously heroic character, and is just one more example of what a Crapsack World Westeros is. After Gregor Clegane is accused of heinous crimes, Ned Stark hears the testimony of the victims (who could only describe Clegane in general terms and by reputation, rather than positively identify him), immediately sentences him to death in absentia, and sends men to execute him, without putting him on trial, giving him a chance to defend himself, or hearing any sort of counter-witnesses. The fact that all the accusations, along with worse things, are true softens any blows to Ned's character.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Viserys gets his own golden crown. Liquefied gold.
    • Mirri Maz Duur gets revenge for her mistreatment at the hands of the Dothraki by killing Daenerys' child in the womb. Since Daenerys had rescued Mirri and shown her kindness, and the child was completely innocent, Daenerys is enraged. She responds by burning Mirri alive as a sacrifice to hatch her dragon eggs, using the very principles of blood magic Mirri had taught her, complete with Ironic Echo: "Only death can pay for life."
  • Karmic Nod: After being mortally wounded by the boar, Robert regrets ordering the assassination of Daenerys and tells Ned: "that's why, the girl... the gods sent the boar... sent to punish me...".
  • Kick the Dog: When her son Joffrey, gets mauled by Arya’s pet direwolf, Nymeria, who was in defense of her master, Cersei believes his lies over his role in the fight and demands Nymeria’s pelt. Arya forced her to run away, but Cersei spitefully forces Sansa’s pet direwolf, Lady, to be the one killed in her place. Eddard forces himself to be the one to do this, knowing Cersei will relish in his family’s sorrow by making Lady’s pelt as some sort of trophy.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror to save the North. His descendant Eddard refuses to do the same for King Joffrey and it ends badly.
  • Loving a Shadow:
    • Sansa instantly falls head over heels for Joffrey because he looks exactly like the Prince Charming she has always dreamed to marry, despite pretty much everyone in her family (Arya, Jon, Robb and even Ned) sees that he's actually a Prince Charmless instead. She gets disillusioned in the cruelest fashion possible, when Joffrey orders the execution of her father at the end of the book and starts openly abusing her.
    • Even years after her death, Robert is still in love with Lyanna Stark (or at least the impression he had of her before his rebellion). It's heavily implied that the reason he never got over her it's because he never got to live the reality of marriage with her, not to mention that had he ever got her back like he wished, their marriage would be ruined anyway since there would be Rhaegar's ghost always between them, much like Lyanna's own ghost has been always between Robert and Cersei. And as things turned sour with Cersei, he keeps pining for a woman he actually never knew intimately. This is lampshaded by Ned when Robert has a quarrel with Cersei:
    Robert: The woman tried to forbid me to fight in the melee. She’s sulking in the castle now, damn her. Your sister would never have shamed me like that.
    Ned: You never new Lyanna as I did, Robert. You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath. She would have told you that you have no business in the melee.
  • Loose Lips: Sansa Stark. Unintentionally helped the queen's plot against Eddard, which cost him his life.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Daenerys manages to resurrect the dragon race. The lasting impact of this big event will be explored in the next books.
  • The Marvelous Deer: King Robert went hunting after hearing of a white hart in the Kingswood. Instead, he ran into a boar...
  • Meaningful Echo: "I did warn you not to trust me." Said by Petyr Baelish when the city watch he had promised to secure for Eddard turns on him.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Ned is set up as the Decoy Protagonist. After his death, you see in the following books that he was really the doomed mentor to all of his children (including Jon and Theon) who are a good portion of the main characters going forward.
  • Mirror Character: Lysa and Cersei. Cersei is quickly shown to be a bitter, petty, paranoid tyrant who assumes anyone who isn't a fawning Yes-Man is out to get her, smothers and spoils her eldest son rotten, and inflicts swift Disproportionate Retribution on anyone she perceives as wronged her family in any way. Once Catelyn gets to the Eyrie, she quickly learns that her sister Lysa has become petty and paranoid, constantly believes that anyone who gives advice she doesn't want to hear is against her, has spoiled and smothered her son so much he still breast-feeds at age six, and leads such a blatant Kangaroo Court against a man merely accused of killing her husband that even his accuser, Cat, thinks it unjust. Oh, and Lysa and her son enjoy carrying out executions as much as Cersei and Joffrey do. It's later revealed that both Lysa and Cersei arranged to get their lord husbands killed with wine.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Jon grew up not knowing who is mother is, Ned has never told anyone her name or origin and this has always been source of angst for Jon.
    • Also, Daenerys and Viserys' mother died by giving birth to Daenerys and left her child living as a refugee after their family was deposed.
  • Mistaken for Disease: Jon Arryn is believed to have died from a chill of the stomach, having lapsed into a deadly fever and succumbed quickly due to old age. However, it soon becomes clear from the testimonies of both Jon's widow and the Master of Whispers that Jon was poisoned with the Tears of Lys - a rare poison that attacks the bowels in a way that will not seem unusual in old or sickly victims.
  • Monster Munch: The prologue features three characters, two of whom immediately die at the hands of the Others, proving that they do exist after all.
  • Murder by Cremation: The witch Mirri Maz Duur tricks Daenerys Targaryen to sacrifice her son and bring her dying husband into a state between life and death. After putting Drogo out of his misery, Daenerys executes Mirri Maz Duur by strapping her to Drogo's funeral pyre.
  • Mysterious Parent: Jon's mother is officially unknown. Catelyn, and even Cersei, believe Jon's mother was the late Lady Ashara Dayne. When Robert presses Ned for her identity, Ned tightly tells him that her name was Wylla and refuses to say anything more. In addition, after Ned brings baby Jon home with him to raise alongside his trueborn children at Winterfell and acknowledges Jon as his son, Catelyn observes Ned's protectiveness of Jon, hears rumors of who Jon's mother may be (Lady Ashara Dayne), and asks Ned for the truth of Jon's mother. This leads to the only time Ned ever scared the shit out of her when he replies Jon is "my blood" and that is "all you need to know". This and Ned's Beneath the Mask POV may suggest there's something big about Jon's biological mother.
    Ned (to Catelyn): “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know.”

     N to P 
  • The Needs of the Many: Ned Stark is twice confronted with this.
    • Should he have Viserys, Daenerys and her unborn child killed to prevent them from invading Westeros? He chose no.
    • Should he proclaim Stannis Baratheon as the rightful king even if it invites civil war? He chose yes, but eventually recanted after a Break the Haughty process that involved Sansa's life being threatened.
  • Never My Fault: Sansa blames Arya for Lady's death, despite the fact that if she had told the truth about Joffrey trying to hurt Arya and her friend without provocation, Lady wouldn't have died.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod:
    • Zig-Zagged. The maegi Mirri Maz Duur magically kills Daenerys Stormborn's unborn son in utero, both for revenge against the father and because the unborn child is prophesied to be the Stallion That Mounts the World, an unstoppable city-smashing warlord. While it doesn't exactly turn out well for Mirri in the end, she DOES successfully prevent the boy from being born and fulfilling whatever his Super Special Destiny was supposed to be. However, Mirri's actions wind up resulting in the rebirth of dragons into the world, and Daenerys's march toward Westeros.
    • Played straight a little earlier. An assassin sent by Varys tries to kill Daenerys. The attempt fails, but the assassination attempt provokes Khal Drogo into declaring war on Westeros, which, by the way, leads into the above zig-zagged example.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Ned has recurring dreams about the death of his sister Lyanna and of the mysterious promise that he made to her. Later on, after being thrown in the dungeon, he has a particularly creepy nightmare of the late King Robert mocking him for putting Honor Before Reason and endangering his family, only Robert's face begins to crack and then shatters, revealing a horrifyingly surreal image of Littlefinger.
  • Not a Game: Jon brings up how Daeron Targaryen conquered Dorne at the age of 14 to show what people that age can accomplish. Benjen isn't impressed.
    Benjen: Your Boy King lost ten thousand men taking the place and another fifty trying to hold it. Someone should have told him that war isn't a game.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Arya overhears a conversation between two of the major schemers when it comes to the fate of Westeros. It involves a plot to kill Ned, but her disconnected and fanciful-sounding description of events leads him to disbelieve her.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After the sack of King's Landing and the death of the Mad King, Eddard found Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne. This convinces him that the Lannisters were doing a power play. Robert disagrees and thinks Jaime was just tired. In A Storm of Swords, we find out Robert was right. Jaime's actions were more honorable than what people may think.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens quite a few times (the first proper chapter features Eddard Stark beheading a deserter from the Night's Watch), most notably to Eddard Stark himself for supposed treason and trying to usurp Joffrey's throne.
  • Old Soldier: Barristan Selmy, Jeor Mormont, Tywin Lannister, Brynden Tully.
  • Out of the Inferno: The final chapter features Dany walking into her husband's funeral pyre and emerging naked and bald but otherwise unharmed with her three dragons born in the flames.
  • Pattern-Coded Eggs: Daenerys receives three dragon eggs as a wedding gift from Illyrio, one cream and streaked with gold, the second deep green with bronze flecks, the third pure black with scarlet ripples and swirls. They hatch into the cream-and-gold dragon Viserion, the green-and-bronze dragon Rhaegal, and the black-and-red dragon Drogon.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage:
    • Ned and Catelyn, although they weren't at first supposed to get married because Cat was betrothed to his older brother Brandon, who died before the story started.
    • Another unexpected case are Daenerys and Drogo.
    • Sansa and Joffrey's engagement until he shows his true colors.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Sansa tries one of these to save her father's life and Cersei obliges, because he's an important hostage. Then Joffrey has him executed anyway.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Jon Arryn's death may have set the process in motion, but it's Ned's execution that ultimately plunges Westeros into all-out, bloody war.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Subverted with Lysa Arryn's letter pointing to the Lannisters as the ones who killed her husband was a warning, telling them to stay away. Instead, it convinced Ned to accept Robert's offer of being Hand. However, after reading A Storm of Swords, you realize that Lysa (acting on Littlefinger's orders) really was trying to start a war between the Starks and Lannisters based upon false pretenses. So, less Poor Communication Kills and more Lying Communication Kills.
    • Related is when Catelyn takes Tyrion as a prisoner to the Eyrie and brings him to her sister. Prior to this point, Catelyn has spent a lot of her thoughts wishing she could talk to Lysa to ask for more information on why Lysa believes the Lannisters are responsible for Jon Arryn's death. Yet after she spends several weeks with her sister (with little else to do), she never brings the subject up. The only reference to it is when she thinks about how Lysa initially fingered Cersei for the murder, but has changed the murderer to Tyrion. Considering that Catelyn is supposed to be assisting her husband with bringing evidence against the Lannisters for Jon Arryn's death, it's absurd how she never has the conversation with Lysa. The reason for this trope is simply that even asking Lysa about evidence or why she sent a letter to Catelyn would break the plot, as Lysa has no answers (Lysa was the murderer, was told by her lover to blame the Lannisters, and isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer).
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Ned Stark recalls when he fought and killed Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy. Though it is downplayed in that Ned doesn't mean it as boasting or a taunt; he is rather ruminating on the sad fact that it means more men are going to die in battle today:
    Arthur: And now it begins. (unsheathes his sword)
    Ned: (with sadness in his voice) No. Now it ends.
  • The Promise: Ned Stark promised something very important to dying Lyanna. What is this promise is still unknown.
  • Precursor Heroes: Eddard Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn.
  • Present Absence: Discussed in Catelyn's POV. She thinks that there are two ghosts in her otherwise happy marriage with Ned: Ned's older brother Brandon, whom she was set to marry, and Jon Snow's mother.
    • Both Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen have been dead for fourteen years but Lyanna's death is still very much present in Ned's thoughts and actions, and along with Rhaegar they've cast a shadow on the current events.
  • Princess in Rags: Daenerys at the beginning.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The aftermath of Robert's Rebellion. The Mad King is dead, Ned and Benjen are the only Starks left, and The Lannisters become powerful allies of The Crown as Lord Tywin wanted at the cost of his family's reputation.

    Q to T 
  • Questionable Consent: Considering Dany has been married off against her will to the huge, powerful warlord Drogo, their marriage night is surprisingly tender, with Drogo softly caressing her and at least trying to gain her consent despite the language barrier. However, keep in mind all the circumstances, and also that he begins roughly raping her in a more stereotypical manner the nights afterward. Eventually Dany decides to learn some techniques from her handmaidens so she can exert some control in the bedroom, and her marriage with Drogo progresses into increasing fondness.
  • Redshirt Army: Eddard's household guard.
  • Rule of Three: "...for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man's life must be done beneath the open sky." Repeated three times in the narrative; at Khal Drogo's wedding, the conception of his child, and his death.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Ned Stark's death sets the major events of the following books.
  • Sadistic Choice: Either Robb Stark kills his own direwolf or Bran will die.
    • Sansa being asked what happened between Joffrey and Arya at the Trident, when you think about it. She's essentially being asked to either side with her fiance (though lying goes against the Stark code of honor) or her sister (at the high risk of alienating him and her future mother-in-law). She claims to not remember what happened, maybe to Take the Third Option.note 
    • The singer who writes a song about Robert's death by boar is given a choice by Joffrey- he can keep either his fingers, or his tongue.
  • The Scapegoat: Cersei demands to have Sansa's wolf put down in place of Arya's wolf, and Sansa chooses to blame Arya instead of the queen who ordered the unjust slaughter. (Or Joffrey for picking the fight against Arya and Nymeria, or herself for lying about Arya's and Nymeria's guilt, which gave Cersei cause to call for a wolf execution in the first place.)
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Ned Stark attempts to use King Robert's last will and testament to take regency of Westeros so that he can prevent Prince Joffrey from being coronated, having realized that he and his siblings were conceived by Brother–Sister Incest. To Ned's shock, Queen Mother Cersei simply rips the will up right in front of him. Ned probably should have realized that the fact Cersei didn't care overmuch that she'd been caught when he confronted her about the incest earlier (before Robert was reported wounded) meant that she had no intention of playing by the usual rules.
  • Secret Legacy:
    • Gendry the apprentice smith is King Robert's bastard;
    • Crown Prince Joffrey and all his siblings are actually the product of Cersei's incestuous affair with her twin brother.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Sansa refuses to see Joffrey as anything but noble and gallant, and Cersei as The High Queen, even after witnessing the former maliciously bully and threaten to kill an innocent peasant boy for sport and the latter give the order for Sansa's wolf butchered for something Arya's wolf (rightly) did. It takes Joffrey ordering her father's execution for her to finally see their true colors.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The Rebellion's effects are visible in Ned's POV, particularly when the deaths of Rhaegar's family and Lyanna are concerned. Ned's recurring nightmares and obsessive flashbacks — mostly concerning Lyanna, the Tower of Joy and the Sack of King's Landing, his avoidance tendency towards anything that would recall those events — which strongly suggest he suffers from PTSD. Along with his Honor Before Reason, it has a strong influence on his his decision-making, as he tries hard to avoid every possible bloodshed and subconsciously avoid having to re-experience the traumatic days that shaped him.
  • Sherlock Scan: Sansa, at Renly's invitation, identifies him as a Baratheon based on the stag on his armor, and concludes based on his age that he's the youngest of Robert's brothers.
  • Shoo the Dog: Arya must throw rocks to force Nymeria to flee because Arya knows Joffrey wouldn't let her "insult" to him go so easily.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Ned and Brandon, Robb and Jon, Jaime and Tyrion, Robert and Stannis, Catelyn and Lysa, Sansa and Arya, Viserys and Daenerys.
  • Snipe Hunt: Robert has a bit of fun with his squires, sending them in search of a "breastplate stretcher." He gleefully speculates about the possibility of keeping them at it all day.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Robert's bastard offspring all show a strong resemblance to him both physically and in being headstrong. This proves to the missing piece of the puzzle for Ned's research, as his supposedly legitimate offspring all take heavily after their mother, despite the fact that in all other documented cases Baratheon genes are clearly dominant over Lannister ones. This leads directly to question the real parentage of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: A minor example in the discovery of the direwolf pups in the first chapter. Jon persuades his father Ned that they're an omen as there's one for each of his children, which only works because he's discounted himself from the count (despite his illegitimacy being his fundamental source of angst) so his siblings can have a direwolf each. Bran notices this and finds it very moving while Ned, also moved, asks Jon if he doesn't want a pup too but Jon omits himself from the count again for the sake of his siblings. However, as they set off, Jon discovers a pup for himself, a sixth pup in the snow — a mute albino pup found a little way off from his siblings.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Ned towards Cersei, he feels bad for Robert's Domestic Abuse and especially for his Wrong-Name Outburst of "Lyanna" on their wedding night. Too bad Cersei is having none of it.
  • Take a Third Option: After the Battle of the Camps, the Northern Lords are confronted with declaring between an evil boy-king (Joffrey) or for a king who has support of arms but has no legitimate claim to the throne (Renly). Robb Stark notes that if they go against Joffrey they are essentially traitors even if their cause is just, while declaring for Renly goes against the line of succession, which is the basis for every Lord's inheritance in the Seven Kingdoms. What do they finally decide? Declare for Robb Stark as King in the North and secede from the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Robert's last request to Ned. Too bad that said kid doesn't want to be being taken care by Ned.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by Sansa when Joffrey shows her the heads of her father and household on spikes and she almost moves to push him off the bridge they're on. She's stopped by Sandor Clegane.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Sansa throws a tantrum when Ned informs her that he is sending her back to Winterfell and will end her betrothal without explaining why.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Ned relinquishes his post as Hand of the King after Robert orders the assassination of Daenerys Targaryen, who is at the time a thirteen-year-old girl in the far east. After Jaime injures Eddard in retaliation to Catelyn arresting Tyrion, Robert gives Ned back his position.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Arya & Sansa in their first appearance. Jon Snow also jokingly tells Tyrion to tell Robb that he can rest easy and take up needlework with the rest of the girls now that he's on the Wall defending the realm.
  • Those Two Guys: Sansa's BF Fs Jeyne Poole and Beth Cassel.
  • Thread of Prophecy, Severed: When Daenerys is pregnant with her and Khal Drogo's son Rhaego, a Dothraki shamaness prophesies him to be "the stallion that mounts the world", a mighty conqueror. That goes wrong when Mirri Maz Duur kills him in the womb with Blood Magic to avenge the Dothrakis' attacks on her people. Given the series' penchant for Prophecy Twists, though, it remains to be seen whether this one has truly been averted.
  • Title Drop: The expression "game of thrones" is first dropped by Jorah: "It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are." Cersei also says it later when she warns Eddard Stark from going against her. It's mentioned several times throughout the other books.

    U to Z 
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The direwolf. While everybody is temporarily concerned about it as an omen, they seems completely unphased by how staggeringly unlikely it is. The first direwolf seen south of the wall in a century happens to die right by the Stark's return journey, is killed by a stag (snapping an antler off in the process) to cause maximum symbolism, and the pups left behind have the exact number and gender ratio to match up with the Stark children including an oddball for Jon. Only Theon even questions how it got past the wall, and everyone unquestionably accepts receiving the pups as providence.
  • Values Dissonance: An in-universe example: Viserys believes he sold Dany to Drogo and thus is outraged when Drogo won't pay him via retaking Westeros. From a Dothraki perspective, Viserys did Drogo a favor that should be repaid, but doesn't need to be repaid immediately, or when the recipient demands it.
  • Villain Ball: Viserys is so deluded by belief in his superiority that he totally underestimates the brutal barbarian horde that he believes should serve him and foolishly thinks that their rules of Sacred Hospitality will save him when he violates their taboos and threatens the lives of their rulers. Instead, they get creative.
  • Vorpal Pillow: How Daenerys puts an end to Drogo's misery.
  • Wax On, Wax Off: Syrio's strange methods for teaching Arya to swordfight include chasing cats, hopping around on one foot and walking on her hands.
  • Wham Line: "Ser Ilyn, bring me his head!" Said by Joffrey, sealing Ned's death even though the action is basically a declaration for war.. It's also quite shocking given that, up to this point, Ned has been one of the closest things to a main protagonist the book has, but not even he is safe.
  • Womb Horror: Daenerys has a run-in with some Blood Magic, which causes her to give birth to a stillborn deformed winged reptilian fetus. It's also implied that the damage was extensive enough that Danerys is unable to bear another child.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Played with regarding Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen's wedding. It's seen as massively successful by Dothraki standards and Drogo enjoys it, but Daenerys is miserable and terrified; she's alarmed by Dothraki warriors fighting and killing each other ("A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is seen as a dull affair") and by revellers openly having sex. She's also only thirteen and had no choice in marrying Drogo. The only time she's happy during the wedding is when she rides the horse Drogo gifted her, though Viserys immediately ruins it by threatening to hurt her if she doesn't please Drogo on their wedding night. Viserys himself is seething for most of it, both because he resents giving his sister to another man and because he has to sit lower than Dany and eat her leftovers (even at her wedding he still expects to be the center of attention).
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • At the end of Robert's Rebellion, Tywin Lannister ordered his men Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch to kill three-year-old Rhaenys Targaryen and her infant brother Aegon (and their mother Elia).
    • Robert orders the death of thirteen-year-old Daenerys and her unborn child.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst:
    Ned: I remember Robert as he was the day he took the throne, every inch a king. A thousand other women might have loved him with all their hearts. What did he do to make you hate him so?
    Cersei: The night of our wedding feast, the first time we shared a bed, he called me by your sister’s name. He was on top of me, in me, stinking of wine, and he whispered Lyanna.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: It looks like Ned will be able to take the black and see Jon again if he only confesses to his crimes...which is blown to pieces when Joffrey decides to execute him against everyone's better judgement.
  • You Should Have Died Instead:
    • Catelyn tells Jon this after Bran's fall puts him in a coma. It doesn't make sense, as Jon had nothing to do with Bran's accident, but she was just bitter with grief and wanted to lash out.
    • Sansa says it to Arya, telling her that she, and at one point Nymeria, should have died instead of Lady.
  • Your Worst Memory: Ned Stark is haunted throughout the story by his sister's death, continuously remembering a "bed of blood" and her last words to him: "Promise me, Ned." After getting his leg crushed under his horse in a street brawl with Jaime Lannister, Ned is given milk of the poppy for the pain, and experiences a dream in which he relives both Lyanna's death and the events leading up to it.

Alternative Title(s): Game Of Thrones