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  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • Balon Greyjoy declares himself King of the Iron Islands and has set up a major campaign to raid the North, but dies off-page before he ever does anything. His brothers, however, take up the cause.
    • Tywin, as head of the Lannisters and chief adversary for many of the other characters, but his death has nothing to do with his domination of the continent. His abuse of his son Tyrion finally catches up to him and he dies an ignominious death on a privy.
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  • Catharsis Factor: Most readers wanted Joffrey dead since the first book.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Oberyn Martell to the max for many readers of this book and the primary example over all in this book. His bout with Gregor is often herald the best duel in the series thus far and Oberyn himself is seen as a Lovable Sex Maniac whom despite being a bit of a Jerkass initially opts to act as champion for Tyrion to fight his (Oberyn's) sister's killer. The fact he's so popular even after he dies not long after being introduced speaks volumes of his character.
    • For readers, it was clear that archetypal Villain Ball holder Jaime Lannister had more to his story than had yet to be told; and, when he is the narrator for the first chapter of the book, it becomes reasonable to believe that his story will be told. What readers were not necessarily expecting was the sheer depth of his Character Development — so extensive that, not only had he accomplished an impressive Heel–Face Turn by the end of the novel, he had gained a spot in many readers' top 5 favorite character lists.
    • Beric Dondarrion's fight with Sandor was yet another highlight from the book and as such he's got a respectable fanbase himself despite the fact like Oberyn, he too dies in this book... after six times before.
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  • Harsher in Hindsight: Cotter Pyke dismisses the choice of Ser Denys Mallister as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch because, among other reasons, he's so old they'd have to hold another election not long afterwards. The actor who was cast to play Mallister in the TV show died right after his first few days of filming.
  • He's Just Hiding!: The Hound's death is unconfirmed and the body not recovered, so some fans hold out hope he survived.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the epilogue, the Brotherhood argue among themselves about whose turn it is to pretend to be Lord Beric, and Tom of Sevenstreams jokingly asks if he has to be Thoros. In the TV show, Tom was Adapted Out and his traits of singing and being amiable were given to Thoros
  • It Was His Sled: We learn that Jaime killed The Mad King to save the realm. There's also the Red and Purple Weddings, and Catelyn comes back as the vengeful, zombified Lady Stoneheart.
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  • Moral Event Horizon: Walder Frey and Roose Bolton both crossed this with the Red Wedding. Walder crosses it for having Robb and his bannermen murdered for the petty excuse of Robb breaking a marriage vow and for laughing as the entire thing unfolded and Roose Bolton for personally killing Robb himself. In-universe, Walder Frey is also considered to have crossed this for the Red Wedding, but less so for the wholesale murder (which is excusable) but more for having broken the rules of hospitality.
  • Narm: Stannis and Melisandre talk about "waking the great stone dragons" on Dragonstone... just like the Ancestors wanted Mushu to do in Mulan.
  • Nausea Fuel: The dishes at the Red Wedding are either bland (onion broth) or just revolting (jellied calf's brains?!). This is an early clue that the Freys don't care to put on a real feast and are adding extra spite before the massacre.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Oberyn Martell doesn't appear past this book and still doesn't feature in that many chapters before his death by the hands of Gregor Clegane. Doesn't stop him from being just that memorable.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Jaime's development in this book drastically increased his popularity among readers.
  • Shocking Moments: The highest in the series, with the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, the Red Viper vs. the Mountain, Ygritte's death, the battle for the Wall, Tyrion's murder of Tywin and Shae, Sam killing an Other, Stannis arriving at the Wall, Littlefinger revealed as being the Big Bad of the first three books, Lady Stoneheart, to name a few.
  • Squick:
    • Jaime and Cersei Lannister have rough sex next to their son Joffrey's tomb. While Cersei bleeds from her period.
    • Tywin Lannister in the end of book three is shot in the gut with a crossbow while sitting naked on the privy, and takes a postmortem dump. Tyrion later suggests that shit was dripping from the wound.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Jeyne Westerling. She's a girl from enemy territory who treats Robb after he was injured in a siege when he heard of Winterfell's sacking and tended to him. Being honorable to a fault, Robb breaks his engagement to a Frey girl to marry Jeyne and preserve her honor. Despite the marriage being borderline shotgun, Robb seems fond of her. We don't get much insight into her character, details about her relationship with the King in the North beyond sleeping with him, or much interaction with mother-in-law Catelyn beyond their one scene together in Lord Hoster Tully's room, with Jeyne asking Catelyn for tips on aspects of her relationship with Robb, but it is from Cat's perspective, and she is kind of sort of more focused on the fact that her dad is going to die soon, so we still don't get much info. Even when Cat sees her brother's fiancé who might have wed Robb if he hadn't broken his vows with the Freys, Catelyn's main comparison between Roslin and Jeyne is that Jeyne has better hips for child-bearing. Unsurprisingly the TV series expands Robb's wife into a main character - though Jeyne is replaced by a Canon Foreigner called Talisa Maegyr.
  • Tough Act to Follow: While still well-reviewed, neither of the books that followed are regarded nearly as highly as this one. So many game-changing events and deaths occurred in A Storm of Swords that the next two essentially had to take up the role of going over the aftermath.
  • What an Idiot!: Walder Frey's decision to collaborate in the Red Wedding in the way he did. In the process he's joined sides with two backstabbing houses and taken most of the blame for the atrocities committed there. Although House Frey gained a big jump in nominal power, it's also received a bad reputation throughout the kingdom and had some of its members picked off by bandits as a result. Some fans believe that the cons vastly outweigh the short-term gains that his house has received.
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