The apparent resurrection of Beric Dondarrion is one of the few instances of genuine magic we’ve seen in the novel, and notably, it is tied to the god R’hllor, which is the same god Melisandre worships. Prior to Sandor’s trial by combat against Beric, Arya hears numerous stories of how Beric died. The suggestion is that these are all unfounded rumors since no man can die in all these different ways. But when Beric reappears after losing in battle to Sandor, and having suffered a blow so lethal that no one could possibly survive it, it’s clear that something supernatural has taken place and that the various rumors may have, in fact, all been true. Arya learns that it is Thoros of Myr, a priest who worships R’hllor, who has been resurrecting Beric each time. In the series, there have been few instances of genuine magic, and even fewer in this particular novel. But some of the most notable cases in which we see actual magic have involved Melisandre, who also happens to worship R’hllor. Whether this coincidence means anything is uncertain at this point, however.

The Brotherhood’s meeting with the dwarf woman that Arya overhears foreshadows a number of important events to come, though what exactly all the events might be and what their ramifications will be aren’t yet clear. The dwarf woman talks about these events she foresees very broadly and almost exclusively in metaphors. She says, for instance, that she saw “a burning heart butchering a golden stag.” The burning heart is the symbol of R’hllor, and the stag is the sigil of house Baratheon, so the event she refers to is Renly’s murder by Melisandre’s shadow assassin in A Clash of Kings. Many of the other events have not yet occurred, leaving the reader to puzzle out their meanings. Those meanings become evident, however, if the reader returns to the prophecies after reaching the end of the book.

Daenerys shows herself to be a shrewd strategist, both in conversation and as a military commander. In her meetings with the leaders of Yunkai’s hired mercenaries and again with the representative of Yunkai she allows the men to think what they want of her. She points out that she’s a young girl with little experience in war and lets their prejudices against women fool them into thinking they have the upper hand. Yet she can see that one of the leaders of the Stormcrows doesn’t agree with the two others and that they will spend the night arguing, that the leader of the Second Sons will bring all the wine she gave him back to his men and that the company will spend the evening drunk, and that the representative of Yunkai will think he has three days before they attack so the city will wait to prepare its defenses. Meanwhile, she has all along planned to attack the city that night and has simply been misleading them. As a result, she is able to take the city quite easily.

Bran for the first time uses his ability to try to control something other than Summer, and the attempt shows he’s becoming more proficient with his psychic skill but also has a great way to go. Bran has previously only slipped into Summer’s skin as an escape or to gather information. It’s never been a matter of necessity. Here, on the other hand, Bran finds himself using his ability in an emergency as he tries to use his ability to quiet Hodor. It turns out to be much more difficult than Bran had perhaps anticipated, however. Unlike Summer, Hodor has no spiritual or psychic connection to Bran, and when he feels Bran encroaching on his mind, he treats it like an invasion. Bran can feel his panic and discomfort, and because he has no deep connection to Hodor, he finds it hard to control him. What essentially takes place is a mental wrestling match between Bran and Hodor as both try to control Hodor’s body. But even though the attempt isn’t wildly successful, it does show that Bran’s abilities are improving, and it suggests that soon, maybe just with more practice, he will be able to slip his own skin and inhabit that of another creature at will.