Tyrion Lannister is the Rodney Dangerfield of Westeros. He's funny, witty, and gets no respect, no respect at all. Well, not in Westeros at least. Readers simply love this guy, and A Clash of Kings is his moment to shine, since Tyrion will be taking over for Ned Stark as most prolific point-of-view character.
You might recall Tyrion from A Game of Thrones. He was a smart and funny guy, who lived the playboy lifestyle thanks to his father's fat checkbook. But because he was an unattractive dwarf, life could be pretty difficult for him, too—people tended to treat him harshly, and he had to use his smarts to get out of some tight situations.
Tyrion still has all that going for and against him, only now he has the added responsibility of being the Hand of the King. With Lord Tywin fighting the Starks, Tyrion has taken the position in his father's place. Tyrion must protect the people of King's Landing and also try to keep Joffrey from, well, being too Joffrey.
And what does he think of all this? He loves it (26.Tyrion.35).
Tyrion has never been the one with power before. His sister, Cersei, is the Queen, so she has political clout; his father is the richest man in the kingdom, so he has economic sway; and his brother is one of the most talented knights in the Kingsguard, so he has strength. Tyrion? Nothing doing until he becomes the Hand.
In a telling moment, Tyrion thinks about what makes him and his predecessors, Jon Arryn and Ned Stark, different:
Men like that… too honest to live, too noble to s***, Cersei devours such fools every morning when she breaks her fast. The only way to defeat my sister is to play her own game, and that was something the Lords Stark and Arryn would never do. Small wonder that both of them were dead, while Tyrion Lannister had never felt more alive. His stunted legs might make him a comic grotesque at a harvest ball, but this dance he knew. (30.Tyrion.64)
And he certainly gets an A for effort: He takes control of the city guard by replacing Janos Slynt with Jacelyn Bywater; he roots out Cersei's informant on the small council, Grand Maester Pycelle; he moves Tommen and Myrcella away from King's Landing to safer places; and he commissions a chain boom and a ton of wildfire to strategize a way to defeat Stannis's superior fleet. Perhaps most importantly, though, he keeps King's Landing from falling apart under Joffrey's rule.
Of course, Tyrion might grow a little too enamored of power. At one point, he slaps Joffrey in the face for inciting the crowd to riot (42.Tyrion.43), and while we sure love it, Joffrey seems to take it personality. And we have a hunch Joffrey doesn't readily forget moments such as this.
The secret to Tyrion's success is that he doesn't shortchange the power of knowledge. He shows his love by studying late into the evening, reading and learning (30.Tyrion.2). But his power of knowledge is more than just memorizing a bunch of facts.
Tyrion knows how people think, he knows what people think about him, and he uses both to his advantage. When speaking with Tyrion over breakfast, Pycelle can't keep his gaze on Tyrion's mismatched eyes. Tyrion knows his "green-and-black eyes [make people] squirm" and so he makes "good use of them" (18.Tyrion.26). In this case, he gets Pycelle nervous and, like a bad poker player, easier to read and manipulate.
He pulls a similar move during the assault on the King's Gate. When the knights and sellswords are too afraid to attack Stannis's forces, Tyrion rallies them, and in the rally, he springs a trap. If Tyrion is going to fight, then he knows the other men must also fight, or else they will be considered "less than dwarfs" (60.Tyrion.38). Way to read the situation quickly and accurately, Tyrion, and then take charge.
Time and again, Tyrion uses knowledge to turn his disadvantages into advantages. Well played, sir, well played.
Now, let's talk about Shae. Tyrion can be totally in love with her one moment and thinking "it is only the gold and jewels the whore loves" (45.Tyrion.101) the next. But we learn there is a reason in Tyrion's past for his wishy-washy love.
When he was thirteen, Tyrion married a woman named Tysha, but his father quickly spoiled the honeymoon. He reveals the truth: The girl was a prostitute Jaime hired for Tyrion (45.Tyrion.96), and Tywin then forced Tysha to, let's say, work the barracks, and made Tyrion watch to teach him a lesson. Given what happened back in the day, then, Tyrion is a bit disgruntled with himself for falling in love with a prostitute and disobeying his father again.
With that said, he still seems hung up on Tysha. During his fevered dreams, he imagines he and Tysha are back at their seaside cottage, enjoying their short summer together.
Unfortunately, being the Hand of the King is kind of like taking the Defense Against the Dark Arts position at Hogwarts: The turn around is one character per book. Jon Arryn died as Hand of the King; Ned Stark died as Hand of the King. Tyrion doesn't die—which is kind of lucky for him—but his fate is still very unlucky.
Instead, Tyrion is severely injured by Ser Mandon Moore in a murder attempt during the Battle of the Blackwater. After days of drug-induced sleep, he wakes up with a gash "long and crooked, starting a hair under his left eye and ending on the right side of his jaw" (68.Tyrion.43), along with three quarters of his nose missing. He fears Cersei attempted to have him whacked. Worse, though, Tywin has come to King's Landing and taken over the responsibilities of Hand of the King—so Tyrion has lost all the power he worked so hard to achieve.
Thanks to having milk of the poppy pumped into him for days, Tyrion can't think straight, and his tongue has "forgotten how to shape words" (68.Tyrion.36). Remember: These two aspects of Tyrion's character—his knowledge and his use of language—are what allow him to obtain his power in the first place. So their absence represents Tyrion's loss of power as much as losing the title of Hand of the King.
Lacking the ability to defend himself, Tyrion calls Pod to his bedside, the only person he can trust, and he enters the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire in really bad shape.