Just like in the previous books, there are multiple points of view and the story is placed in different locations all over Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms.
A part of the story takes place in the East and is told from Daenerys’ point of view. Daenerys is traveling with Strong Belwas and Arastan towards Pentos when Ser Jorah expresses his suspicions that Arastan may be more than they think. He advises Daenerys to command the ship to go towards Astapor and buy Unnsulied, trained soldiers with whom she may have a chance of taking the Iron Throne.
Daenerys listens to his advice and commands the ship to go to Astapor. Daenerys speaks to a slave master through a translator, not letting them know that she knows High Valyrian. The slave master tells her that he has 8.000 Unsullied for sale and she asked for time to consider whether she will buy them or not.
Arstan insists that they hire sell swords and not slaves but Daenerys is too proud to return to Westeros a beggar like her brother was. Jorah urges her to buy the Unsullied, telling her that because of their training, they will be less inclined to rape, destroy cities and kill without reason and without being told to do it.
The next day, Daenerys tells the slave master that she will buy every Unsullied even the ones still in training and she was going to pay with the three ships she had and a dragon. She also takes Missandei into her service.
When the time to make the deal arrives, Daenerys has Drogon kill the slave master and then orders the Unsullied to slay all the other slave masters, conquering Astapor and freeing all the slaves in the city.
Next, Daenerys travels to Yunkai, a city guarded by two sell sword companies, The Second Sons and the Stormcrows. They refuse to join her and Daenerys tells them that she will attack them in three days.
Daario Naharis, a commander in the Stormcrows kills the other commanders and pledges to serve Daenerys. Together with the Stormcrws, Daenerys is able to conquer Yunkai and to free the slaves in the city.
Daenerys and her army arrive in Meereen, a city well-guarded by its walls. Realizing that storming the walls will cost her men and resources, she decides to challenge the Hero of Meereen. Strong Belwas kills the Hero of Meereen yet the city remains standing. The commander of the Second Sons reveals an entrance into the city through the sewer system as an alternative way of getting into the city. She sends a few men through the sewers and they open the main gates so her troops easily get into the city and conquer it.
It is during this time that Daenerys finds that Jorah was spying on her hoping to be pardoned of his crimes and that Arstan is actually Barristan the Bold, a former member of Robert’s Kingsguard. Also, problems in Astapor rise where a butcher named himself king and started ruling in her name, making people slaves and returning Astapor to its old ways.
Daenerys decides to pardon Ser Barristan after he begs for forgiveness but exiles Jorah, who continued to claim that he had done nothing wrong.
Instead of marching towards King’s Landing, Daenerys remains in Meereen, thinking that she must first learn how to rule the city before she is to rule the Seven Kingdoms.
In the North, the Brothers from the Night’s Watch are attacked at the Fist by wights. While many died, a small group led by Mormont manage to escape and head towards Craster’s Keep. On the way back, Sam is attacked by a group of wights but survives when he kills one with dragonglass.
At Cratser’s Keep, a few brothers mutiny and kill the Lord Commander. Sam, Gilly and a small group of Brothers escape and return to the Wall but not before being attacked by wights again on the road. They are saved by Coldhands, an enigmatic figure who accompanies them to the Wall.
Meanwhile, Jon is with Mance’s army, trying to find as many things as possible about Mance’s plans. He and Ygritte become lovers which prove to be a protection for Jon. Jon is sent on a mission to scale the Wall and find a way to let the others in. Jon however warns the Brothers and even leads a group of Brothers against the wildlings. Many wildlings die including Ygritte.
The wildling army reached the Wall and attacks it and it seems that they will win in the end. The Wall is saved when Stannis comes with his army and crushes the wildling army. After that, Jon is chosen as the new Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Another storyline that takes place is the North is the one told from Bran’s perspective. Together with Meera and Jojen, the head towards North, behind the Wall to search for the Three- eyed crow that will be able to help Bran learn how to fully use his powers. They are helped by Sam and Gilly to get on the other side through a tunnel and then they find Coldhands who was waiting for them.
In the Riverlands, the story begins with Catelyn Tully who frees Jamie Lannister, hoping to get Sansa and Arya back in exchange. Lady Catelyn sends Brianne of Tarh with him but they are captured by the Brave Companions and taken to Harrenhal. There, Vargo Hoat cuts Jamie’s hand off before Roose Bolton arrives at the castle. Jamie is let go by Roose Bolton but Brienne remains a prisoner at Harrenhal. Jamie returns for Brianne and saves her from the bear pit and takes her with him to King’s Landing despite Vargo’s protests.
Back in Riverrun, Lady Catelyn is briefly put under house arrest because she let Jamie go. When Robb returns to Riverrun, he presents his mother his new bride, a girl from an insignificant house. Catelyn is worried because Robb promised to marry a girl from the Frey family in exchange for the House’s support. The Stark and Tully army is greatly outnumbered and it seems that without Frey’s support, they stand no chance in war. They manage to come to an agreement with house Frey when Lord Walder Frey asks that Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s brother and the new Lord of Riverrun after their father’s death, to marry one of his daughters. Edmure agrees and preparations for the weeding are being made.
The weeding proves to be a revenge scheme orchestrated by Roose Bolton, Lord Walder Frey and Tywin Lannister and Stark and Tully’s supporters are killed including Robb and Catelyn. Their bodies are mutilated after death, Robb’s head being cut off and then his direwolf’s head being sawed on Robb’s body and Catleyn’s body is threw into the river.
Catelyn’s body is taken out of the river by Nymeria and is resurrected by the leader of the brotherhood without banners. Lady Catelyn becomes Lady Stoneheart and takes over the brotherhood without banners.
Another part of the story that takes part in the Riverlands is told from Arya’s point of view.
Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie managed to escape from Harenhall and were heading North, Arya hoping to find her brother. They advance slowly and have no map to guide themselves after. Apart from being plagued by fear of being followed, they have to endure the harsh weather and lack of food.
After a few days, they are discovered and taken to an inn by three men. There, Arya recognizes Harwin and they head South together. At first, Arya thinks that maybe Hawin will take her to Riverrun but realizes quickly that her assumption was wrong. Harwin tells her that he was now a member of the Brotherhood without Banners and that he was actually taking her to their Commander.
They continued their journey until they reached Acorn Hall where they find more about Thoros’ whereabouts and the Kingslayer’s escape.
During one night, the stay at a brothel named The Peach. During the night, a prisoner is brought in and Arya recognizes him as being Sandor Clegane. It is decided that there will be a trial by combat and if Sandor were to win, he would be free. Sandor kills Dondarrion only to appear a little bit later alive again.
Gendry decides to join them while Arya is mad that Sandor was left to leave. Arya manages to escape, but is quickly captured by the Hound who plans to take her to the Twins and maybe enter Robb’s service. The Hound tells Arya that he saved Sansa once but that he won’t hesitate to kill his own brother.
They arrive at the Twins disguised as farmers. Before they could reach Catelyn, the Frey men already killed Robb and Catelyn so the Hound was forced to knock Arya out before she could run inside the castle, the Hound plans to take Arya to her aunt Lysa but realizes that it is too dangerous so instead they choose to head back to the Twins and try to ransom Arya to the Blackfish. They stop at the Inn at the Crossroads where they meet with the Tickler, Polliver and a squire. A fight breaks between them and because the Hound was drunk, he wasn’t able to fight properly. Arya kills the squire and the Tickler and recovers her Needle. It soon becomes obvious that the Hound was badly wounded and that he will eventually die. He asks Arya to kill him, but she refuses and goes alone to a port where she hopes to find a ship that will take her to her uncle. She finds only one ship, going to Braavos so she ends up giving the captain the coin Jaqen H'ghar gave her in exchange for free passage and a cabin.
In King’s Landing, King Joffrey broke his engagement with Sansa and decided to marry Margaery Tyrell instead. Sansa is married to Tyrion as a way to not lose the North and even though she is not happy with it, Tyrion treats her well and refuses to force her to consummate their marriage. Tyrion is replaced as Hand of the King by his father and is given instead the position of master of coins after Lort Petyr is sent to Eyrie to wed Lysa Tully.
News regarding the Red Wedding and King Balon Greyjoy’s deaths reach King’s Landing and Joffrey is pleased at how things managed to turn out.
Margaery and Joffrey's wedding is held but Joffrey is killed presumably by poison. Cersei blames Tyrion and he is put under arrest. Sansa Stark escapes from the Queen when she is smuggled from King’s Landing by Petyr who tells her that he and Lady Olenna, Margaery’s grandmother, were behind Joffrey’s death.
Jamie arrives in King’s Landing shortly after his son’s death and in time for Tyrion’s trial.
Tyrion demands trial by combat as a way to prove his innocence and Prince Oberyn Martell agrees to be his hero after he finds that the Queen’s hero will be Gregor Clegane, the one who murdered his sister and her children during Robert’s Rebellion. Oberyn wounds Clegane with his spear but he is killed when he doesn’t deliver the final blow.
Tyrion is not executed however because he is helped to escape from his cell by Varys and Jamie. Before he leaves King’s Landing, Tyrion kills Tywin and also Shae, a prostitute who Tyrion felt in love with.
Jaime frees Brienne, giving her the sword Lord Tywin had forged out of Eddard Stark's Valyrian steel blade. He tells her to fulfill the oath he gave to Lady Catelyn, to find Arya and Sansa and return them home. He also tells her that the real reason he betrayed his oath and murdered King Aerys was because Aerys had hidden wildfire barrels all over King's Landing and planned to destroy the city during the Sack. He carried out his most infamous act to save the innocent, not that anyone would believe him. Brienne departs on her quest.
In Eyrie, Petyr weds Lysa who eventually tries to kill Sansa. She is saved by Petyr who throws her aunt through the Moon Door and blaming her minstrel for the crime.
The book ends with an epilogue, which reveals that Catelyn Tully became the new commander of the brotherhoods without banners and was looking to avenger her killed children.