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Literature / A Storm of Swords

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"Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends."

The third book in George R. R. Martin's Doorstopper A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, released in 2000.

The War of the Five Kings still rages strong upon the land. Stannis Baratheon has been confined to Dragonstone, trying to pick up his pieces after his defeat at Blackwater Bay. With the arrival of Tywin Lannister and the newly forged Lannister-Tyrell alliance, House Lannister's grip upon the Iron Throne grows stronger. The King in The North, Robb Stark, still stands fierce, but has to face the disobedience of his subjects when his mother decides to release the captive Kingslayer in a desperate effort to have her daughters returned. All across the Seven Kingdoms, old grudges begin to rear their ugly heads.

In the east, Daenerys Stormborn finally decides to take things in her own hands and raise an army of her own. To reach Westeros, however, she needs to march on the slave-trading eastern continent. But while men fight among themselves in the South and East, savage wildlings gather under the banner of the King-Beyond-The-Wall to descend upon the Wall. The terrifying creatures known as the Others grow stronger as the nights grow colder, and when the dead walk, walls and stakes and swords mean nothing.

The novel has a total of twelve POV characters. Minor characters Chett and Merett Frey provide the prologue and epilogue respectively. Since the Stark children are completely scattered, they each tell a different tale this time:

  • Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark continue to show us what's happening in King's Landing.
  • Jaime Lannister follows a journey through the dangerous war-torn roads to return to King's Landing.
  • Catelyn Stark shows us what's going on with the Northmen's campaign in Riverrun.
  • Arya Stark wanders the riverlands and meets the Brotherhood without Banners, a band of Robin Hood-esque outlaws.
  • Davos Seaworth narrates the tidings on Dragonstone and Stannis's court.
  • Bran follows his own story, which takes him through the North and the Wall.
  • Samwell Tarly and Jon Snow present differing perspectives on the status of the Wall, the wildlings and the Others.
  • Daenerys Targaryen once again gives the events in Essos.

A Storm of Swords is currently the longest book in the series. Due to length, the UK paperback edition was split into two parts: Steel and Snow and Blood and Gold.

Because it is the longest book in the series, the events were adapted in the third and fourth season of HBO's Game of Thrones.

A Storm of Tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Tyrion Lannister's response to seeing his brother's severed right hand for the first time is to crack up laughing at the apparent conspiracy to chop chunks off of Lannisters. It's at least partly hysterical, given that Jaime is probably his favourite family member.
    • Roose Bolton actually chuckles in response to one of Jaime's witticisms at dinner.
    • Jaime laughs when Ser Balon Swann answers his question about what he'd do if he found himself having to choose between his kin and his king, as Jaime once did, by saying he would not do what Jaime did. Although Balon was certainly not trying to be humorous.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: When Jon is taken to meet Mance Rayder, he initially thinks that Mance must be Boisterous Bruiser Tormund or one of the imposing Thenns, and is surprised when he turns out to be the nondescript bard in the room that Jon (and the text) hadn't paid any attention to up until that point.
    • Stannis also recalls his father taking him and Robert to court as boys, where both of them were awed by the regal and imposing man they saw sitting on the Iron Throne. Stannis then relates that years later, their father told them King Aerys had injured himself on the throne earlier that day, so the man they saw was Tywin Lannister (Aerys' Hand of the King) sitting in his place.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    Ser Axell Florent: Let the false and the fickle feel your flames.
  • Anyone Can Die: This trope applies to the entire series, but major characters go down like flies in ASOS: Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark, Joffrey, Tywin Lannister, Shae, Oberyn Martell, Lysa Arryn, Ygritte, Jeor Mormont, Balon Greyjoy and (unconfirmed) the Mountain and the Hound.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Use by Roose Bolton when explaining why Vargo Hoat erred in accepting lordship of Harrenhal as a bribe to betray the Lannisters.
    Roose: Our goat should have consulted the Tarbecks or the Reynes. They might have warned him how your lord father deals with betrayal.
    Jaime: There are no Tarbecks or Reynes.
    Roose: My point precisely.
  • Arc Words: Ygritte constantly tells Jon, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," for various reasons, but usually just to be playful. In the third book, they are her dying words. Afterwards, Jon hears this phrase from Melisandre, though she has no way (other than perhaps supernatural means) to know that Ygritte used to say this to him. It also becomes the phrase he thinks to himself when his doubts about his decisions as Lord Commander trouble him.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Maege Mormont asks Catelyn Stark if anything is amiss. Catelyn thinks about how stupid a question that is, since she's lost her father, her husband and (supposedly) two of her sons, both her daughters are missing, and her remaining son and brother are angry with her.
  • Attempted Rape: Vargo Hoat tries to rape Brienne, who bites off his ear.
  • Autocannibalism: Vargo Hoat gets hacked to pieces one part at a time by Gregor Clegane while he is imprisoned. The flesh is then fed to Hoat and the rest of the prisoners.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Mereen's champion keeps trying to spit Strong Belwas on his lance dramatically, which the pit fighter easily evades and ultimately uses to kill him. Onlookers remark that he would have been better off riding the big man down.
  • Awful Truth: Jaime reveals that Tysha, Tyrion's first wife truly did love him and was not a prostitute. The minute Tyrion learns this, he attacks Jaime, cuts off all ties with him and then murders Tywin.
  • Back from the Dead: Lady Catelyn's corpse is revived by Beric Dondarrion, who forfeits his own unlife to pay for it.
    • Came Back Wrong — she's still sentient, but cold, utterly ruthless and singlemindedly bent on revenge. The Brotherhood nickname her "Lady Stoneheart".
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: After Joffrey's death, Stannis tells Davos and Melisandre about an incident where an infant Joffrey once disembowelled a pregnant cat and then, still covered in gore, brought the kitten fetuses to where Robert and Stannis were having dinner to show off. According to Stannis, Robert was so genuinely shocked and disgusted by this, he hit Joffrey so hard that Stannis briefly believed Robert had killed the boy.
  • Bait the Dog: Littlefinger helps Sansa build a snowcastle memento of Winterfell, then forcefully kisses her.
  • Ballistic Discount: A large-scale example: Daenerys Targaryen goes to Astapor to buy an army of slave-warriors who are conditioned to be utterly loyal to their owner, then proceeds to conquer Astapor and take her payment back. The slavers realize that selling all of their Unsullied would leave them relatively defenseless, but their greed wins out, and they apparently didn't anticipate Dany's immediate attack while still inside their walls. It helps that the dragon she bought them with also remains on her side, having imprinted on her as its "mother."
  • Bathtub Bonding: Brienne and Jaime's bath in Harrenhal, where a delirious Jaime reveals things to Brienne that he's never told anyone. Namely, he reveals that he killed Aerys II Targaryen (an act which earned him the derisive moniker "Kingslayer") because the Mad King intended to burn the city to the ground as a last spiteful act rather than suffer defeat on his enemies' terms.
  • Beardness Protection Program:
    • Jaime keeps the beard he acquired in captivity, then shaves his head for good measure. It doesn't fool anyone who's seen him before.
    • Arstan Whitebeard, aka Ser Barristan Selmy. He originally grows it in order to flee the Seven Kingdoms unrecognised.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Jaime Lannister, previously a cold-blooded villain, saves Brienne from the Bloody Mummers, which is basically the beginning of his Heel–Face Turn (although we later find out he wasn't as much of a Heel as we suspected to begin with).
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: Gilly's baby is born as Bannen, a Night's Watch ranger, dies from an infected wound.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Invoked by Kevan on the night before Tyrion's scheduled execution. While telling Tyrion that he completely understands why Tyrion has always hated his father, Kevan reminds him that Tywin restored the family's reputation, which Tytos Lannister had allowed to decline in his later years, and Tyrion himself benefited from that.
  • Broken Pedestal: All her life, Daenerys has believed her brother's insistence that their father being dubbed "The Mad King" was just propoganda created by Robert and his allies to justify overthrowing Aerys, so she's left shaken when Barristan Selmy, a former member of her father's Kingsguard confirms that Aerys truly was a deranged tyrant whose cruelty united all of Westeros against him.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Sandor Clegane has trouble recalling who Mycah (a poor butcher's boy he hunted down at Joffrey's orders) was when accused by Arya of his murder.
    • When Oberyn Martell duels the Mountain, he brings up the murder of his sister Elia. The Mountain's response is "Who?" Considering he then proceeds to recall and repeat the exact circumstances of her murder, it can be assumed this is a deliberate taunt; it's hard to imagine even Gregor would forget raping and murdering the wife of the heir to the throne...
    • Tywin Lannister doesn't remember Tysha's name; neither can he recall what happened to her after the gang rape.
  • Call-Back: Jaime wore his gilded Lannister armor instead of his white Kingsguard armor when he killed The Mad King but he supposes nobody remembers that. According to book 1, Ned Stark did.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Robb's numerous political mistakes catch up to him when the combination of Theon's betrayal, his marriage to Jeyne and his execution of Karstark put him at the mercy of Walder Frey.
  • The Cavalry: Stannis's army comes to help the desperately outnumbered Night's Watch defend the Wall at the end of the book.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first chapter after the prologue, Catelyn learns that Hoster's fevered deathbed mutterings include the mysterious word "Tansy". While Catelyn is curious to know what it means, the matter is left alone by Catelyn and the narrative itself until the final chapter before the epilogue. The flower tansy is an ingredient in moon tea, which Hoster forced Lysa to drink so her child by Littlefinger would be aborted.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Mormont's raven, who disappears shortly after the mutiny at Craster's Keep, and reappears during the election of the next Lord Commander to turn the tides in favor of Jon.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: In addition to the already established Joffrey Baratheon and Robb Stark, the book ends with Joffrey dead and Tommen as the new king and with Jon Snow's election to Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
  • Clawing at Own Throat: Joffrey does this during the Purple Wedding, shortly before his death.
  • Completely Unnecessary Translator: Missandei to Dany in Astapor. Dany is fluent in several languages including Valyrian, but lets the slavers assume she isn't so they'll talk freely in her presence about things they really wouldn't want her to know.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Jaime, after losing his sword hand.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When the Tyrell women inquire Sansa about Joffrey, Sansa is unable to think of anything good to say about him except that he is "comely".
  • Dark Horse Victory: Jon Snow didn't seek leadership of the Night Watch, but wins it thanks to some astute campaigning by Sam Tarly, pointing out to most of the other candidates how much worse it would be if any of the other candidates won (and Stannis locking them in until they came to a decision).
  • David Versus Goliath: Prince Oberyn v.s. Ser Gregor.
  • The Dead Have Names: At the Hound's trial, the members of the Brotherhood give a long list of names of people slaughtered by the Lannister armies.
  • Death by Childbirth: Dalla gives birth to Mance's son and then dies.
  • Death by Irony: toned down to Mutilation by irony. The notoriously brutal sellswords (called the Brave Companions by themselves and the Bloody Mummers by everyone else) who cut off Ser Jaime Lannister's sword hand had been previously employed by Ser Jaime's father Lord Lannister who had brought them to Westeros with the express aim to let them terrorise his enemies.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Tywin Lannister tries to put the blame of Elia Martell's murder on the recently deceased Amory Lorch. Oberyn Martell does not believe it and he's right.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Beric Dondarrion, the altruistic warrior fighting for the good of the smallfolk who has the blessing of the Lord of Light Himself, has all the markings of a major player in the series to come. Psych! He's just there to make space for the resurrected Catelyn Stark (though we don't actually find out he died to give her life until the next book).
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The Red Wedding.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Tyrion laments to himself that he let Joffrey execute the Antler Men note  after discovering as Master of Coin how much money they owed the crown, particularly since trying to get the money from their heirs will be an exercise in futility.
    • Tyrion regrets having baited Joffrey by hinting that he knows Joffrey was behind the attempt on Bran Stark's life, since Joffrey will likely try to kill him now for it.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Sam Tarly kills an Other (not a wight), when he stabs it with the first thing to hand, a dragonglass dagger. He puts it all down to luck, and assumes everyone who calls him "Sam the Slayer" is mocking him, even though he personally discovered their sole Kryptonite Factor.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Joffrey dies in his crying mother's arms, and Ygritte dies in Jon's arms.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Red Wedding is the result of a hodgepodge of various old grudges, resentments and jealousies: Walder Frey has Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn and half his bannermen murdered because Robb broke a promise to marry one of Frey's daughters.
  • Divide and Conquer: Oberyn implies his family is trying to convince Princess Myrcella to press her claim as queen of the Seven Kingdoms by Dornish law after Joffrey's death.
  • Doorstopper: Even for this series. Martin likes to point out that its word count is similar to The Lord of the Rings. As in, all of it. In the UK it was originally published in two parts, titled "Steel and Snow" and "Blood and Gold".
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: After Meera finishes telling Bran the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree (while repeatedly questioning whether Ned had ever told it to him before), Bran criticises parts of it, making suggestions about how he thinks it should have gone. He failed to realise that it wasn't a fable, but a true recounting of the events of Lord Whent's great tourney at Harrenhal involving his own family, and all the characters she mentioned (the little crannogman, the she-wolf, the quiet wolf and so on) were real people (her father Howland Reed, his aunt Lyanna Stark, and his father Ned).
  • Dramatic Irony: While staying at an inn/brothel called the Peach, one of the "serving girls" jokingly tells Arya and Gendry that she might be King Robert's bastard. Arya does note her Baratheon-esque black hair, but internally dismisses the notion- "That didn't mean anything though. Gendry has the same kind of hair too. Lots of people have black hair."
  • Drunken Song: At the Red Wedding, the Greatjon gets drunk and sings "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"... while the musicians are playing a different song.
  • Dye or Die: Sansa Stark has her hair dyed brown for hiding her identity.
  • Dying Clue: Hoster Tully's last word is "Tansy", which all of his family is baffled by. They spend a few chapters looking around for someone named "Tansy" before giving up. Then at the end, it's revealed that he forced his daughter Lysa to drink tansy tea (an abortive drug) after he found out that she was pregnant with Littlefinger's child. Lysa and Littlefinger have been lovers since the first book... which is why Lysa was the one who killed Jon Arryn and blamed the Lannisters at Littlefinger's insistance.
  • Enemy Mine:
    • Jaime and Brienne's team-up and eventual friendship;
    • Arya's brief stint in the company of the Hound could also qualify, since she passed up several chances to run away, and continued to help him until his death seemed imminent;
    • Despite hating the Lannisters Oberyn Martell becomes Tyrion's champion in his Trial by Combat because it's the only way he can avenge his sister.
  • Especially You: An exchange Mance Rayder has with Tormund Giantsbane on two occasions in which he (Mance) tells other wildlings to leave so he can talk privately with Jon Snow. In both instances, Tormund asks, "Even me?" and Mance replies "Particularly you."
  • Everything's Worse with Bears:
    • One of the wights that attacks the Night's Watch at the Fist of the First Men is a bear.
    • At Harrenhal, Vargo Hoat throws Brienne in the bear pit with the bear that previously tore apart Amory Lorch. This time Jaime manages to save her.
  • Exact Words: Used for a darkly humorous moment in the epilogue, when the Brotherhood Without Banners captures Merrett Frey. Lem Lemoncloak is preparing to hang him, but Tom Sevenstrings presses him for information about the war, promising to tell Lem to let him go if he tells them anything useful. Merrett cooperates, so Tom honors his promise. He tells Lem to let him go, and Lem tells him to go bugger himself. Tom shrugs and starts to play "The Day They Hanged Black Robin".
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Attempted with Brienne, until Jaime breaks in to save her.
  • Facepalm of Doom: How Gregor Clegane kills Oberyn Martell, described in gory detail. Also a Thwarted Coup de Grâce.
  • Failed State: Daenerys overthrows the slaver aristocracy of the city-state of Astapor, installs a government of freedmen, and moves on to conquer the other cities of Slaver's Bay. Not long afterwards, a man named Cleon claims the new government to be plotting to return power to the slavers, has them excluded, and names himself king. Cleon proves to be an inept ruler and, under his attempted oversight, Astapor rapidly degenerates into an anarchic state, where each ziggurat palace becomes an independent armed camp and the markets grow empty of food and necessities.
  • False Reassurance: Whitebeard tells Daenerys that Westeros still remembers her brother Rhaegar as being wise, and noble and brave. When Daenerys asks about her father, he hesitates and replies that they remember him too.
  • Fan Disservice: Twins Jaime and Cersei having sex next to the corpse of their son, Joffrey. And as if this wasn't enough, it is also noted that she's on her period.
  • Fear of Thunder: Hodor's almost gets Bran and Rickon's party discovered by wildlings, until in a moment of panic Bran discovers he can warg into people.
  • A Fête Worse than Death: Two of the four weddings in this novel have body counts.
  • Finger in the Mail: The Brave Companions cut off The Kingslayer's sword hand, intending to send it to his father with a ransom demand.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: At Edmure's wedding, Robb and Roose Bolton discuss the disastrous Battle of Duskendale, and Roose puts the blame for planning it on Helman Tallhart. Thanks to Arya's chapters in the previous book, we know that the entire thing happened at Bolton's orders. Immediately thereafter, Roose takes part in the Freys' betrayal and murder of Robb.
  • For Want of a Nail: Oberyn Martell tells Tyrion in conversation how his elder sister Elia was smitten with young Baelor Hightower, until Baelor had the misfortune to fart in the presence of the Martell siblings . Oberyn promptly nicknamed him "Baelor Breakwind" and after that Elia couldn't be in the same room with the poor boy without laughing at him, wrecking any chances of an Arranged Marriage between the two. After hearing this story and knowing that Baelor Hightower is now a renowned knight, heir to an extremely powerful noble house and considered one of the most eligible bachelors in Westeros, Tyrion thinks that had Oberyn kept his mouth shut, Elia might still be alive and happily married to Baelor, instead of going on to marry Rhaegar Targaryen and ending up being murdered with the rest of the royal family during the final battle of the civil war her husband started when he abandoned Elia to elope with Lyanna Stark.
    Tyrion wondered how many lives had been snuffed out by that fart.
  • Forced Miscarriage: It is revealed that Lisa Tully of Riverun (widowed Lady Lysa Arryn of the Vale in the present) became pregnant as a very young girl after she slept with her father's ward Petyr Baelish. Lysa revealed her pregnancy to her father, hoping that Hoster Tully would let them wed, but Hoster considers Petyr too lowborn to marry a Tully. Instead he forced Lysa to abort her child — she was tricked into drinking moon tea.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In her first chapter, Catelyn hears her father muttering about Tansy in his sleep and wonders if it's the name of a woman he impregnated while he was off at war. Shortly afterward, a raven arrives with the message that Robb has been injured. While Cat decides that Hoster was actually talking about something else, Robb does take a girl to bed while recuperating. The actual meaning of "Tansy", as it turns out, is the flower tansy, an ingredient in the abortion-inducing moon tea Hoster forced Lysa to drink when she was pregnant with Littlefinger's child, which is eventually revealed in the final chapter of the book.
    • Jon hears "The Dornishman's Wife" in the wildling camp. The lyrics parallel Oberyn Martell's fate.
    • Mance Rayder telling Jon how he infiltrated Winterfell. He said it didn't matter if he was discovered since he was already protected by Sacred Hospitality. The Freys break this in a big way.
    • In Tyrion's second chapter, Tywin tells him that "Some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens" as he writes some important letters. In Tyrion's third chapter, Tywin turns down Balon Greyjoy's offer to fight the Starks in exchange for their territory, as "a better option may well present itself". Both of these scenes foreshadow Tywin's alliance with the Freys and Boltons to wipe out the Starks with the Red Wedding.
    • When The Hound tells Arya that he's taking her to The Twins to ransom her to Robb rather than back to King's Landing like she feared, he finishes by telling her to stop making trouble "and maybe we'll even be in time for your uncle's bloody wedding." As it turns out, they do arrive literally just in time to catch what turns out to be a very bloody wedding indeed.
    • "The Rains of Castamere", a song about the Lannisters annihilating a vassal house that dared to defy them, is introduced and featured a lot in this book.
    • Arya finally meets up with one of the stableboys from Winterfell after escaping from Harrenhal. When he doesn't immediately recognize her, she has a minor identity crisis, worried if her already long list of pseudonyms has somehow erased her identity as Arya Stark. Arya will later travel to Braavos and train as one of the Faceless Men, who discard their own identities and assume those of others.
    • When Tyrion asks Bronn how he'd go about fighting Ser Gregor, Bronn answers that he'd try to wear Gregor down by constantly moving around him and/or try to knock him off his feet, but also that he'd be taking a serious risk, even then: one wrong move and Gregor would kill him. This is exactly how Oberyn tries to fight him, and exactly how Oberyn dies.
    • When Jaime is thinking about his family while the Bloody Mummers are taking him and Brienne to Harrenhal he thinks of Tyrion as "his little brother, who loved him for a lie". Later, when he hears from Roose Bolton that Tyrion has been married to Sansa he remembers how happy Tyrion had briefly been with his first wife Tysha, who Jaime remembers as "his little crofter's daughter". At the end of the book he admits to Tyrion that Tywin had forced him to lie to him about Tysha really being a whore he'd hired to pretend to love Tyrion, with devastating effects on Tyrion's psyche, their relationship, and Twyin's bowels.
  • Frame-Up: Tyrion and Sansa are framed for Joffrey's murder.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: The ultimate result of Daenerys' Sack of Astapor: a former slave declares himself King and kidnaps noble children to train new Unsullied.
  • Glass Slipper: In the Knight Of the Laughing Tree tale, the knight mysteriously disappears as the king declares him his enemy and sends the Dragon Prince (aka Rhaegar Targaryen) to find him. He could find only his shield. Though it's also possible that the prince covered up his identity and lied...
  • Going Native:
    • Jon Snow pretends to go native when he joins the wildlings, and at the very least gains a lot of insight and respect for them in the process.
    • Mance Rayder in backstory really does go native when he joins the wildlings and eventually becomes their king.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Maester Aemon sends out so many requests for men for the Wall for so long that most of the characters, not to mention the readers, have given up on anyone answering by the time Stannis shows up.
  • Heir-In-Law: Lord Tywin's desire for Tyrion to go through with a marriage to another member of the Stark family, Sansa, since she's supposed to be the last heir of the family and also Tywin has no wish of ever letting Tyrion inherit Casterly Rock. Robb Stark goes so far as to name Jon Snow his heir in the event of him dying childless.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: Oberyn Martell uses these tactics in his duel against Gregor Clegane. His long spear and light armour keep him out of Clegane's reach. It worked, up until he assumed that being run through with a spear would be enough to render Gregor helpless.
    • To be fair, the spear was also poisoned. Also, he was about to finish him off, while the spear was still in Clegane, with Gregor's own sword. So he also had no weapon.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Good Masters of Astapor are brought down by their own slave army, which they'd just sold to an ambitious foreign queen within their own city walls. There's a reason they're not called the Ingenious Masters.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Before attacking Astapor, Daenerys thinks to herself, It is time to cross the Trident, referencing a fateful moment in Earth history as well as the largest river in Westeros.
  • Hope Spot:
    • The fight between Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper and the evil, evil Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides, includes not merely a hope spot but a giant hope searchlight. At first the Viper looks rather outclassed by the Mountain. Then the Viper turns it around and puts the Mountain on his back, badly wounded by a poisoned spear. He steps on the Mountain's chest to finish him off — and the Mountain grabs his foot, yanks him down, and taunts him horribly before smashing his skull with one enormous fist.
    • After breaking his word to marry the daughter of his ally Walder Frey, King of the North Robb Stark tries to salvage the alliance by suggesting a marriage between his uncle and a Frey daughter in his place. Frey's alliance is desperately important to Robb's campaign. After sulking and rubbing Robb's face in the fact of his broken promise, Frey appears to acquiesce and mend the fences. Then comes the Red Wedding, where Robb and a good number of the Starks and their supporters are massacred by the Freys and the Boltons, including many characters we had come to like.
    • Sansa looks like she's about to escape King's Landing and Cersei with Ser Dontos, who gets her off the grounds, through a forest, and to a ship, where she finds out the one behind her rescue was none other than Littlefinger, the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad who's already given off some creepy vibes for her. A Downplayed example, though, as she does still get out of King's Landing, and she's still arguably better off with Littlefinger than she was under the Lannisters.
  • Hunting the Rogue: A number of Night's Watch brothers commit mutiny at Craster's Keep, murdering Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and Craster, chasing out any loyalists, and setting up the place as their base in the Lands Beyond The Wall, where they can eat, drink, and fuck to their hearts' content. They are all exterminated by Coldhands.
  • Hyperlink Story: All the books boast this, but A Storm of Swords is perhaps the most ensemble novel of the series.
    • A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings largely followed Ned Stark (15 chapters) and Tyrion Lannister (15 chapters) but A Storm of Swords has Arya Stark with the most chapters (13) followed by Jon Snow (12), Tyrion (11) and Jaime (9), while the first section of the novel has Catelyn Stark (7) as the Decoy Protagonist until the Red Wedding. Daenerys herself gets 6 chapters but since they are the only ones set in Essos, take on greater resonance.
    • The Riverlands section of the book is a case in point, since Catelyn, Arya and Jaime traverse the region and briefly overlap the same location, and same characters, the other characters pass by, but all of them have parallel plots by the end of the book. And while Arya has most of the chapters of the book, she is more an observer (of the Brotherhood without Banners) than a protagonist and participant in action (unlike A Clash of Kings)
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Roose Bolton chides Jaime for threatening to kill him under his own roof, pointing out that in the North they still observe the laws of Sacred Hospitality. Days later, he is an active participant in the Red Weddingnote .
    • When Loras complains that Brienne only defeated him through a trick, Jaime remarks that he remembers someone else who won a tourney by riding a mare in heat against a stallion.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: We are eventually introduced to Lord Beric, Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood without Banners (who had small cameos in the first book), Prince Oberyn Martell, Coldhands, Mance Rayder, Tormund Giantsbane, Val the Wildling Princess, Olenna Redwyne.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: To test Jon has truly defected from the Night's Watch, Ygritte sets him one of these that effectively boils down to "If you're really a wildling, fuck me".
  • I Gave My Word: Catelyn has a dark example. She takes Aegon "Jinglebell" Frey hostage to demand that Walder Frey let her son Robb go. After Walder refuses, and Robb is killed, Catelyn executes the hostage, with the narrator noting that Catelyn had kept her word.
  • I Lied: In the epilogue, Merrett Frey goes to ransom Petyr, a relative of his, from the Brotherhood Without Banners... then he sees that the Brotherhood already hanged him.
    Merrett: You said if you had the gold by sunset he wouldn't be harmed...
    Tom Sevenstrings: Well, you've got us there, my lord. That was a lie of sorts, as it happens.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Lysa on her wedding night to Littlefinger, loud and long enough that everyone at the feast below can hear it (in fact, they can't not hear it), to their immense continuing amusement.
    • Lampshaded by her asking him to make her scream at the bedding ceremony just before it.
  • Instrument of Murder: Sort of, at the "Red Wedding", wherein most, possibly all of the musicians were actually disguised soldiers.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Jaime first meets Brienne, he continually annoys her by referring to her as wench, ignoring her demands to be called Brienne. After his Heel–Face Turn (and once they're both on first-name terms with each other), there are occasions where someone else will refer to Brienne by an insult and Jaime will emphatically tell them to call her Brienne.
    • Tyrion's false accusation and trial for killing Joffrey is a dark echo of his earlier trial in A Game Of Thrones when falsely accused of killing Jon Arryn and the attempted murder of Bran. Basically, everything that went right in the latter, goes wrong the former, and in both, Tyrion "pleads guilty" of being himself (humorously in A Game of Thrones and bitterly in A Storm of Swords).
  • Just Like Robin Hood: The Brotherhood Without Banners starts out as this, with some pretty clear expies of the Merry Men (including a revered leader Shrouded in Myth, an alcoholic Badass Preacher, The Big Guy, the Archer Archetype, and The Bard). After a change in leadership, the group increasingly become Knight Templars, changing its goal from protecting and aiding the victims of war crimes to hanging war criminals, people suspected of being war criminals, and relatives of war criminals.
  • Kangaroo Court:
    • Tyrion is again put on trial for murdering Joffrey, and on this occasion the judges either hate him or have a political interest in the affair. Although the trial is conducted according to custom, all of the evidence against him is either circumstantial, half-truths or lies told by bribed witnesses and the reader is aware that he's innocent.
    • The Brotherhood Without Banners puts every person they capture on trial before executing them, though it's clearly just a formality. Sandor Clegane calls them out on it during his own trial. However, they do accept the decision of the Trial by Combat.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: The Freys for the most part are a Karma Houdini for the Red Wedding. Then Lady Stoneheart starts kidnapping Frey heirs and children, hanging them despite receiving ransom money, and turning the noose on Freys that deliver the coins.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Gregor Clegane dies in horrific agony due to Oberyn's poison. Winning the duel only prolonged his suffering.
    • Tywin's death just oozes this. His abuse and contempt for Tyrion, as well as his near suicidal refusal to see beyond his son's whoring, boozing exterior finally comes back to kill him in the most embarrassing way possible. And believe it or not, it only got worse for Tywin afterward.
    • The Tickler tortured people to death, while constantly asking them questions. Arya eventually stabs him to death, while asking the exact same questions.
    • After having been gloating about the Red Wedding for most of the book it's deliciously satisfying seeing Joffrey dying at his own wedding, when he thought to be the winner.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Invoked metaphorically by Varys after Tyrion says he should kill him even though he's come to break Tyrion out of jail the night before his execution:
      The faithful dog is kicked, and no matter how the spider weaves, he is never loved.
    • Also invoked by Sandor Clegane when he tells Arya why he's done with serving the Lannisters.
      Even a dog gets tired of being kicked.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: Denys Mallister and Cotter Pyke are convinced by Samwell to vote for Jon Snow, as they each refuse to allow the other to become Lord Commander and don't like any of the other candidates.
  • Laughing Mad: Tyrion after Ser Gregor kills Oberyn and Catelyn after Robb is killed at the Red Wedding.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Meera and Jojen tell Bran about The Mystery Knight at Harrenhall and they're very surprised that Bran has never heard this story at Winterfell. Probably because of a certain She-Wolf of Winterfell and a Dragon Prince...
  • Leitmotif: "The Rains of Castamere" quickly becomes a mark of Lannister strength.
  • Lightbulb Joke: Joffrey delivers one: "How many Dornishmen does it take to shoe a horse? Nine. One to do the shoeing, and eight to lift up the horse!" This becomes an Ironic Echo when The Red Viper, the most notorious Dornishman of them all, comes on the scene.
    How many Dornishman does it take to start a war? Tyrion thought. One.
  • Love Ruins the Realm:
    • The Starks and the Northern rebellion are brought down when Robb Stark has a tryst with Jeyne Westerling and breaks his marriage pact with the Freys to marry her.
    • Tyrion kills his father Tywin to avenge an old wrong done to him and his former wife Tysha.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The Night's Watch based at the Fist of the First Men have this reaction when a horn blows three times...warning that the Others are about to attack.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: By the end of the book, all those cursed by Melisandre are dead (Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey Baratheon and Robb Stark). None by explicitly supernatural means, and at least two with thoroughly-explained mundane causes, but it remains ambiguous whether magic had any influence on things. One possible compromise is that she magically foresaw their deaths and used that to claim credit for causing them.
  • Mercy Kill: A recurring motif in Arya's arc with Sandor. "The gift of mercy," most notably given by Sandor Clegane to a mortally wounded soldier. Arya refuses to give it to Sandor himself after one of his battle wounds festers. She abandons him to his suffering.
  • Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Discussed by Oberyn and Tyrion and definitely played for drama given the horrible consequences it caused. Elia Martel had been visited by numerous suitors, the best of whom was Baelor Hightower. However, her brother Oberyn had a habit of making fun of them all, and when Baelor farted in their presence, Oberyn dubbed him "Baelor Breakwind", and after that, Elia couldn't look at him without laughing, which put the chances of them marrying at zilch. Elia ended up marrying Rhaegar Targaryen instead, with negative consequences. In the present, Tyrion idly wonders how many lives were snuffed out by that fart.
  • Mirroring Factions: When characters come across a burnt out ruin of a village, it's explained that the lord of the area was on the wrong side, and as punishment, Hoster Tully sent soldiers to Rape, Pillage, and Burn and basically kill everyone. It shows the moral greyness of the series that the head of the Tullys (seemingly one of the "good guys") dealt with enemies just as ruthlessly as Tywin Lannister.
  • Morton's Fork: After demanding Trial by Combat to escape the Kangaroo Court his father was trying him in for Joffrey's murder, Tyrion takes some comfort in the fact he's dropped Tywin in a major one of these; if his champion, Prince Oberyn Martell wins, then the Tyrells will be outraged, damaging their relationship with his father. If Oberyn dies, however, the Dornish are likely to be outraged to the point of civil war.
  • Mood Whiplash: The story of Edmure's wedding is presented as Lady Stark suffering through an extremely tedious party while her mind wanders... until suddenly it isn't.
  • Mr. Exposition: Kraznys mo Nakloz, when we first meet him, gets the job of giving us necessary background information on the Unsullied in paragraph-long answers to Danaerys' and Arstan's questions and comments.
  • Mrs. Hypothetical: Lame Lothar Frey mentions that his sister has been taking part in this after hearing of her engagement to Edmure Tully.
    "Queen Jeyne has a loving heart, I see," said Lame Lothar Frey to Catelyn. "Not unlike my own sisters. Why, I would wager a guess that even now Roslin is dancing around the Twins chanting, 'Lady Tully, Lady Tully, Lady Roslin Tully."
  • Musical Episode: Several of the most notable in-page songs in the series are first introduced in this book, many of them acting as Foreshadowing, Leitmotif, commentary and counterpoint. This includes "The Dornishman's Wife", "The Last of the Giants", "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", "The Kingswood Brotherhood" and most famously of all, "The Rains of Castermere".
  • Mundane MacGuffin Person:
    • A male example is Edric Storm, King Robert's bastard son. Some people just want to protect him; his Strong Family Resemblance to his father is considered evidence for the illegitimacy of Cersei's children; and one faction wants to burn him alive to bring a stone dragon to life and save the world.
    • After the death of her older brother and the presumed deaths of her younger brothers, Sansa Stark becomes this as several factions try and get their hands on her claim to Winterfell.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: In the climactic duel between Oberyn Martell and Gregor Clegane, Oberyn is out to avenge his sister's murder. It ends with Gregor gloating over his horrible crime and re-enacting it on Oberyn, though Gregor ultimately dies an agonizing death from Oberyn's poison. Word of God has confirmed that this is a deliberate Shout-Out to The Princess Bride.
  • Nasty Party: The Red Wedding, where Robb Stark, his mother and many of his bannermen are murdered by their hosts.
  • Never Say That Again: Tyrion does warn Tywin to stop throwing the word "whore" in his face in regards to a certain woman. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't listen.
  • Next Thing They Knew: Robb, injured after a difficult battle and grieving after hearing of Bran and Rickon's supposed deaths, is "comforted" by Jeyne Westerling.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jaime's lie about the wealth of the Sapphire Isle saves Brienne from immediate rape, but causes the Brave Companions to believe they're being fleeced when her father offers a ransom less than Brienne's weight in sapphires. She ends up getting thrown in a pit with a bear.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Averted spectacularly in the death of Tywin Lannister.
    "...the oft repeated jape about his father was just another lie. Lord Tywin Lannister in the end did not shit gold."
  • No Name Given: Sharna's husband and adopted son at the Inn of the Kneeling Man. Even the appendix calls them "her husband, called HUSBAND" and "BOY, an orphan of the war".
  • Not Helping Your Case: Tyrion Lannister grows increasingly angry and snarky in the face of the witnesses and judges when he's accused of murdering Joffrey because he knows his sister has basically set it up so that all witnesses will incriminate him. He finally snaps.
  • "Not So Different" Remark Sandor Clegane calls out the Brotherhood Without Banners in what's both an example of this as well as At Least I Admit It:
    A knight's a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady's favours, they're silk ribbons tied 'round the sword. Maybe the Sword's prettier with ribbons hanging of it, but it'll kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I'm the same as you. The only difference is, I don't lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don't call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other your shit don't stink. You hear me?
    • Once again, Lysa and Cersei. The moment Sansa is reunited with her aunt Lady Lysa, the latter wastes no time dispensing with sentimentality and critically appraises her beauty and suitability as a wife, and arranges for Sansa to marry her own badly pampered Royal Brat of a son. When Sansa demurs, Lysa goes into a motive rant about how she had suffered an abysmal arranged marriage with a man she loathed, so Sansa will just have to live with hers. Lysa then proceeds to explain all the things her son likes and how he's been accustomed to always getting his way, so Sansa will have to learn to be a "grateful and obedient wife." Wait, has Sansa been reunited with her aunt and betrothed to her cousin, or is she still back under the guardianship of Cersei and betrothal to Joffrey?
  • Not What It Looks Like: The truth about Ned Stark catching Jaime Lannister sitting the Iron Throne in book 1 is explained here.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The conquest of Meereen, accomplished by breaking down the ships and using them as rams to batter down the gates, is described when Danaerys recalls it a week later, having taken the city's throne.
  • Pity Sex: Inverted with Tyrion's wedding night with Sansa, where pity is described as being "the death of passion." Though this might be partly due to his past experience.
  • Planning for the Future Before the End: Jon has something of a one-sided version of this with the dying Ygritte. He tells her that she'll be fixed up, that she'll see a hundred castles, and that they'll return to their cave together. Her response is simply, "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
    • Also Oberyn and Tyrion before his duel with Gregor. He tells Tyrion after it's over that he can come to Dorne and involve himself in some kind of conspiracy with Doran, with the implicit promise of being made Lord of Casterly Rock added as a cherry on top.
  • Promoted to Scapegoat: House Frey gets promoted to scapegoat by Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister as a "reward" for the Red Wedding. To a lesser extent, Roose Bolton is also Promoted To Scapegoat by Tywin, who makes him Warden of the North so he'll have to deal with the Ironborn invaders and Stannis Baratheon and probably die in the effort—which will conveniently leave leadership of the North open for Tyrion and Sansa's future sons in the spring.
  • Punctuated Pounding:
    • Oberyn punctuates his spear-thrusts at Gregor Clegane with the repeated line "Elia of Dorne. You raped her. You murdered her. You killed her children."
    • Arya, when frantically stabbing the Torture Technician Tickler, repeats the lines of questioning he used when torturing villagers.
  • Rape and Revenge:
    • Lysa has sex with Petyr Baelish where he is not in a fit state to give consent and believes she is her sister Catelyn, on at least two occasions: once when Catelyn rejects him and he drinks until he passes out, and the other after his duel with Brandon Stark where he is injured and feverish. Lysa appears to think of it as having been consensual, but she's insane; Petyr appears to genuinely believe he had sex with Cat on at least one occasion. He later ends up killing Lysa, although his motivation is not made clear.
    • Oberyn Martell wanted nothing more than to kill Ser Gregor Clegane, the man who raped and murdered his sister Elia at the Sack of King's Landing. He eventually exacts his revenge years later, but at the cost of his own life.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: Jaime's Heel–Face Turn comes at the price of his sword hand.
  • Red Herring: Although Robb agonizes over the decision about whether or not to execute Rickard Karstark for his treason and what that will mean to his campaign, the decision ultimately has no impact because most of Karstark's soldiers had already secretly left by that point and it's some of Robb's other allies that prove his doom. Even two books later, the only reference to the decision is a bare nod to it by Karstark's daughter who ends up asking Robb's brother Jon for help anyway and doesn't seem to show much concern about it.
  • Reforged Blade: Rare villainous example, in which Tywin has Ice, the ancestral Stark greatsword, reforged into two smaller blades. 'Oathkeeper' is intended for Jaime, but he passes it to Brienne, and 'Widow's Wail' is a gift for Joffrey's marriage.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Littlefinger gives this to Sansa as an excuse for killing Ser Dontos, who was Littlefinger's spy pretending to be her confidant. To a more cynical reader, it's because He Knows Too Much about Sansa's whereabouts.
  • Rhetorical Request Blunder: It is revealed that the attempt to kill Bran after his injury in the first book may have resulted from one of these. King Robert, while drunk, remarked how Bran would be better off mercy killed instead of living as a comatose cripple. Hearing that, Joffrey (who looks up to his supposed father), sent a sellsword to kill Bran, viewing it as an act of kindness.
  • Rule of Three: There's a detailed description of how Robb bids farewell to Jeyne Westerling thrice before departing to his uncle Edmure's wedding, which turns into the Red Wedding, making it the last time the couple bid farewell to each other.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Defied by House Frey, to their very great cost. After the Red Wedding (conducted under their roof) essentially everyone in the Seven Kingdoms hates them.
    • To a lesser extent Craster being killed by Night's Watch Mutineers.
    • A third example comes when Bran remembers the legend of The Rat Cook who was transformed into a rat and cursed to eat his own young, the gods cursed him not for committing murder, or for serving his victim in a pie to his father, but because the prince was his guest.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: Catelyn Stark strongly insists that Robb specifically ask Walder Frey for bread and salt, to invoke the Westerosi tradition of guest-right against Frey's known grudge over Robb having broken his engagement to one of his daughters. Walder, however, has conspired with Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister to kill Robb and decapitate the Northern rebellion, and simply ignores guest-right and attacks anyway.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: "Bowls of Brown", the cheap stew served at pot shops in King's Landing is made of anything the cooks can find or catch. There are rumors that this includes the occasional dead body. When Tyrion sends Bronn to kill a blackmailer, Bronn says he'll dump the guy's body into a stewpot with no one the wiser. Tyrion is slightly disturbed when he meets a mercenary who enjoys brown.
  • Sewer Gator: Though not identified as an alligator, the sewers of Meereen contain some large white lizard-like creatures that will attack humans if they encounter them, surely inspired by this.
  • Sex Is Violence: Jaime and Brienne have a fight that Jaime's POV describes in very sexual terms, particularly afterward where he focuses on her clothing being disarranged and heavy breathing and "looking like they had been fucking, not fighting".
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Catelyn notes that Action Girl Dacey Mormont looks very nice at the wedding in an elegant dress. When this turns into the Red Wedding, it evolves into Kicking Ass in All Her Finery, as Dacey takes a couple of Freys down until she is dispatched.
  • The Siege: The Battle of Castle Black, where very few sworn brothers stood against an army of thousands of wildlings until Stannis arrived to save the day.
  • Somber Backstory Revelation: Everyone already knows that Jaime betrayed and murdered the previous king, with him being known as the Kingslayer. He's frequently mocked or derided for it. However, while he's badly wounded and feverish at Harrenhal, he ends up talking about it in-depth to Brienne, explaining why he did it. It turns out that Mad King Aerys had refused to surrender to Tywin despite Jaime's pleas, resulting in the city being sacked, at which point the king ordered Jaime to kill his father and gave orders to blow up the city with wildfire. Jaime was unable to kill his own father and watch thousands of innocent people be burned alive, so he killed Aerys to protect them. When Brienne asks why he never told anyone this, Jaime says he doubts he would be believed and that everyone already assumed the worst of him, given kingslaying and treachery are considered heinous actions in his culture (even against a king like Aerys). Brienne views Jaime more sympathetically after this and Jaime starts becoming kinder.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Sansa idly muses on what an "unsatisfactory sister" Arya had been and how much better the ladylike and beautiful Margaery is. Ouch.
    • When Brienne asks Jaime why he's ordering her to find and protect Sansa if Jaime believes she killed Joffrey, Jaime's thoughts on his late son are clear.
    Brienne: Why protect Sansa?
    Jaime's thoughts: Because Joffrey was nothing more to me than a squirt of seed in Cersei's cunt. And because he deserved to die.
  • Spotting the Thread: An innocuous comment made by or about Joffrey in their presence clue Tyrion and Jaime into the fact that Joffrey was behind the attempt on Bran Stark's life in the first book. Tyrion figures out the how (after Joffrey brags about knowing his way around Valyrian steel, Tyrion works out Joffrey stole the Valyrian steel dagger used in the assassination attempt from among King Robert's weapons and paid a random cutthroat to do the deed) while Jaime works out the why (when Cersei mentions that Robert drunkenly said it would be kinder to put the crippled Bran out of his misery in Joffrey's presence, Jaime realises Joffrey arranged the killing in a bid to gain Robert's approval.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: Ygritte is in the middle of telling Jon Snow he knows nothing as per usual, only to trail off when he starts performing oral sex on her.
    Ygritte: You know nothing, Jon Sno-oh. Oh.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: While Tyrion and Sansa suffer more horrific and relentless abuse under Joffrey than anyone else in King's Landing, they feel perhaps more genuine pity for his death than anyone else (except his mother), as they realize during his dying moments, as he's choking to death that in the end he's just a spoiled, helpless 13-year-old boy.
  • Tactful Translation: Seen in the hilarious discussion between Dany and the Good Masters of Astapor when she goes to buy an Unsullied army. The Good Masters act very condescending and insulting but the translator passes their messages in the politest way possible. However, Dany actually understands everything she's been told and is struggling to keep a straight face at times.
  • Taking You with Me: Jaime reveals to Brienne why he killed the Mad King. After a succession of military defeats, Aerys started to fear Robert's rebellion could actually defeat him, so he had caches of wildfire buried beneath King's Landing, intending to detonate them if the rebels laid siege to the capital and take the entire city with him, rather than suffer defeat on his enemies' terms (Jaime also speculates Aerys was so deranged by that point, he believed he wouldn't die in the blaze, but would be transformed into a dragon.
  • Tap on the Head: Arya is knocked unconscious by the Hound while the Red Wedding takes place so that she won't enter the Twins. For a book series that's frequently praised for its realism and deconstructions of fantasy tropes, it's jarring that she doesn't suffer long term brain damage.
    His axe took her in the back of the head.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Tyrion arranges for one, although he doesn't actually die. Tywin arranged for House Tyrell and House Martell to be his chief allies despite the fact that they'd been at war for centuries. The way Tyrion arranged it, Tyrell and Martell would be at war again regardless, and either Tyrion would live (and piss off House Tyrell) or he would die (and piss off House Martell). Either way, he shoots a hole through Tywin's alliance.
  • Tournament Arc: The story told by Meera to Bran involves a tourney with a mysterious knight, which is heavily implied to be the Tourney of Harrenhal, where all the major players of Robert's Rebellion met, and most of all where Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark met, while the mysterious knight is speculated to be Lyanna Stark herself. All these things are probably the reason why Bran has never heard such story.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The slave masters of Astapor not only sell their entire army to the leader of a group known for sacking cities, they even suggest using it against a few neighboring cities in her path to get them bloodied. The reward they were promised is a dragon. They paid dearly for it.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Sansa still keeps the Kingsguard cloak Sandor left to her before leaving King's Landing.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Arya has another one inflicted on her again to make her look more like a boy - and she grumpily notes that the Hound showed less care than Yoren and left her nearly bald on one side of her head.
  • Troubled Toybreaker: After Arya witnesses the betrayal and murder of her mother, older brother, and their House's soldiers at the Red Wedding, she comes very close to falling into the Despair Event Horizon. While she and Sandor are staying at a nameless Riverlands village, the village elder's daughter takes to following her around, no matter how many times Arya tells her to go away. When the girl shows Arya her soldier doll and boasts that it will protect her, she tears out its stuffing, throws it in the river, and snaps, "Now he looks like a real soldier!"
  • Turn Out Like Her Father: When Daenerys confronts Barristan Selmy over why he posed as Arstan Whitebeard, Barristan confesses he wanted to observe Daenerys for a time, to make sure she hadn't inherited her late father Aerys's capacity for cruelty.
  • Undignified Death: Tywin Lannister dies with his last pooping.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sansa seems to remember the Hound kissing her when he was in her bedchamber during the Battle of the Blackwater in A Clash of Kings, but the text in ACOK doesn't mention a kiss. Word of God is that this is deliberate, because her brain is tricking her to cope with all of the extended trauma she's dealing with.
  • Viking Funeral: A tradition of the Tullys. Lord Hoster Tully is placed on a boat and sent down the river until someone shoots an arrow to set him aflame and lay him to rest.
  • Villain Ball: Tywin Lannister. His death was akin to someone walking towards a banana peel, then thinking "other people might slip on it and fall, but never me!". And then he steps on the banana peel. And he falls and breaks his neck. Telling the son he's always shunned and outright reviled (while said son is holding a crossbow, no less) that his first wife was a whore even after Tyrion warned him not to wasn't particularly clever for a master strategist.
  • Villain Has a Point: While the mutinous Night's Watch and their decision to kill Craster and Commander Mormont, and raid Craster's larder and rape his wives are genuinely despicable, they do raise some valid points. Their small party just barely survived a one-sided massacre against The Others and are literally freezing, starving, and dying of untreated wounds on Craster's doorstep, yet the man will barely spare them a few crumbs and blankets, and keeps hurrying them to leave where they'll no doubt just starve and freeze and die in greater numbers in the snow. While Craster and Mormont counter that he doesn't technically have to give them anything, still...
  • Villain Respect: Stannis called Tyrion "dangerous" when he had been accused of killing Joffrey. He also gives him his due for his actions at the Battle of the Blackwater.
    • Tywin also regards Stannis with grudging respect, if only because of his sheer refusal to give up. When word reaches Tywin that Stannis and his followers have left Dragonstone, he concludes it's only because he intends to keep fighting somewhere else.
  • Virgin Tension: When Jaime rescues Brienne from the Bloody Mummers, there's some concern that she may have been gang raped, so Jaime checks on the status of her maidenhood by joking about how he only rescues maidens.
  • Wedding/Death Juxtaposition: At the wedding of Edmure Tully to Roslin Frey, Robb Stark, his mother, and a significant chunk of Northern and Riverlander nobility are murdered by the bride's family alongside their Bolton allies. The event gets such a reputation as a Nasty Party that it is called the Red Wedding after the fact.
  • Wham Episode: This novel itself is one for the entire ASOIAF series, easily taking the cake for the highest number of major character deaths (so far). Let's review:
    • Robb and Catelyn are betrayed and slaughtered, along with their entire army, at the Red Wedding.
    • Joffrey is poisoned and killed at the Purple Wedding.
    • It is revealed that Littlefinger and Lysa were behind John Arryn's murder. Littlefinger then kills Lysa.
    • Jaime's motive for killing the Mad King are revealed as stopping Aerys from razing King's Landing to the ground as a spiteful last gesture of defiance.
    • Catelyn is resurrected as Lady Stoneheart.
    • Tywin is killed by Tyrion, who goes on the lam.
  • Wham Line: Though savvy tropers can probably see it coming.
    Littlefinger let Lysa sob against his chest for a moment, then put his hands on her arms and kissed her lightly. "My sweet silly jealous wife," he said, chuckling. "I've only loved one woman, I promise you."
    Lysa Arryn smiled tremulously. "Only one? Oh, Petyr, do you swear it? Only one?"
    "Only Cat." He gave her a short, sharp shove.
    • When Jaime reveals the truth about Tysha to Tyrion:
      She was no whore. I never bought her for you. That was a lie that Father commanded me to tell. Tysha was... she was what she seemed to be. A crofter's daughter, chance met on the road.
  • Wham Shot: The sign that things have gotten really dark is when a Frey child is kidnapped and held for ransom; Merrett Frey delivers the money but sees the boy has already been hanged, much to his dismay as he's captured. Then he really goes Oh, Crap! when seeing a familiar woman with a rotted face and slashed throat, who can testify that Merrett was at the Red Wedding. Catelyn Stark is alive, only she's calling herself Lady Stoneheart and likes hanging people who crossed her.
  • Whip of Dominance: When Daenerys buys the slave army of Unsullied, it's represented by the transfer of an ornate whip, symbolic of her status as the dominant leader of the slave army. As soon as she has it in hand, she lashes the slave master across the face and orders the Unsullied to kill its former owners.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Joffrey is murdered at his wedding, leaving a widowed Margaery.
  • With My Hands Tied: Brienne is amazed at how well Jaime Lannister fights after a lengthy imprisonment, with his hands still chained together. Also, Strong Belwas intentionally allows his opponents to slash his belly before he kills them, a bit of showmanship he picked up as an arena champion.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Jaime recovering from imprisonment with his hands chained versus Brienne with two arrows in her and sworn to keep him alive. They're so evenly matched that she wins by sheer endurance.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain:
    • Seems that Sansa is going to marry a Tyrell and finally run away from King's Landing. She ends up marrying Tyrion Lannister.
    • Various members of the scattered Stark family come within inches of reuniting multiple times throughout the book. Circumstances always prevent them from meeting.
    • The Red Wedding. It looks like Robb will regain the alliance of the Freys and go retake Winterfell by just having his uncle marry. The Freys and the Boltons proceed to butcher Robb's bannermen under their very house.
    • The duel between Oberyn and Gregor Clegane. Just when it looks like Oberyn Martell is going to kill Gregor Clegane and free Tyrion, Gregor manages to grab the careless Oberyn and kill him in cold blood.
  • You Are in Command Now: Donal Noye leaves the Wall to Jon, when he has to go and defend the gate. Then Jon becomes Lord Commander.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Littlefinger kills Dontos when he has no further use for him and couldn't risk him leaking any information.
    • After Gregor Clegane declares his guilt in the murders of Elia Martell and her children for all to hear, Tywin orders Pycelle to heal Gregor enough for him to be publicly executed. Pragmatic Villainy is also in effect, since Tywin has always denied Gregor's involvement in the murders of Elia and her children, and now the world knows otherwise, a combination of this and Oberyn's death at Gregor's hands might tip Dorne into backing Stannis unless Tywin placates them.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Tywin doesn't seem particularly worried that Tyrion has him at crossbow-point, and flat-out tells him he doesn't have the courage to do it. The only thing he manages to say when he's proven wrong is "You shot me."
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Others send waves of wights at the Night's Watch's position at the Fist of the First Men, and not just humans; an undead snow bear gets sent in as a shock weapon against the crows. Barely a handful of Night's Watchmen are able to fight their way free.