In interviews, Martin has mentioned that Tyrion Lannister is his favorite character, and it’s hard not to be captivated by Tyrion’s witty comebacks, intelligence, and sense of justice. A dwarf with mismatched eyes, Tyrion is regularly mocked, even by his own family. To compensate, he jokes about his height and appearance, but he never forgets the way others perceive him. In fact, he often uses the prejudice he encounters to his advantage, allowing people to underestimate him while he clevely outmaneuvers them. Over the course of the novel, he also proves himself to be brave in battle and an astute and shrewd military commander, surprising even himself. Tyrion, accordingly, is among the most complex characters in the novel. He can be callous toward those he sees as enemies, but he also demonstrates that he is thoughtful, regulalry showing concern for people he sees suffering.
Even as Tyrion tries to behave justly, he also fully belongs to his family, the power-hungry House Lannister. Tyrion wants to both ensure that the kingdom is well run and promote his family’s interests, and the two goals do not always coincide. He also frequently finds himself battling his sister, Cersei, who dislikes and distrusts Tyrion. Tyrion's struggle to wrest power from Cersei while still doing right by the kingdom and doing what's best for his family forms much of the political and psychological drama of his story.
Unlike her sister, Sansa, Arya Stark rejects the role society has determined for her based on her gender. She prefers practicing with her sword Needle to needlework, breeches to dresses, and fighting to almost anything else. At just nine years old, she must avoid being captured by the Lannisters or any of the evil bands of men roaming the land who would love to have a highborn girl to ransom—or worse—as she tries to find a way back to Winterfell. Brave and intelligent, she reassures herself by repeating aphorisms from her fencing teacher, such as “fear cuts deeper than swords,” and by regularly chanting a long list of people she’d like to kill. Over the course of the novel, Arya learns that violence needs to be used wisely, maturely, and with an awareness of its consequences. Her development from a willful, aggressive girl to a responsible but dangerous warrior forms the backbone of her story.
A terrible fall in Game of Thrones crushed Bran Stark’s dreams of becoming a knight. Without the use of his legs, Bran must rely on Hodor and others to move around. He feels much shame and frustration about his situation, but he knows that he must set his feelings and old ambitions behind in order to supervise Winterfell in Robb’s absence. Bran displays an ability to inhabit the body of his direwolf, Summer. Confused about these dreams, he does not want to face the truth about himself, that he is a warg. Jojen Reed encourages him to accept his true nature, but for much the novel Bran wars against himself, doubting whether Jojen is right. His ultimate embrace of his identity shows Bran’s growing maturity and his recognition that losing the use of his legs has not stripped him of his worth.
The bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark and an unknown woman, Jon Snow grew up feeling out of place in Winterfell, as Lord Eddard's wife, Catelyn, always considered Jon a reminder of Eddard's affair. These feelings persist for Jon even after he joins the Night’s Watch, where he learns that many men were once criminals. Sensitive and honorable, Jon initially finds it hard to accept his position as squire to Jeor Mormont. He would rather be a ranger, presumably doing the dangerous, and in Jon's mind, more valuable work for the Watch. He resents the role he must play as a squire, much as he resents being a bastard, with no right to inherit land or fight for his house. Much of his growth as a character in the novel involves him maturing as a man and learning how to value himself and his position. Though he may be Eddard Stark’s illegitimate son, Jon has a strong connection to the northern realm of the Starks, and like his half-brother Bran, he seems able to enter into the mind of his direwolf.
With purple eyes and silvery hair, thirteen-year-old Daenerys Targaryen looks like the queen she longs to be and the mother of dragons she actually is. And much like the three dragons she is raising, Daenerys is learning the extent of her power. The young Daenerys becomes increasingly authoritative over the course of the novel as she learns to wield the power she has been given as a former Dothraki queen and mother of dragons. As the last living descendant of House Targaryen, she has spent her entire life in exile in the lands across the narrow sea. At the end of Game of Thrones, Daenerys lost her husband and, with him, much of her authority over her Dothraki followers. Now, she has to hold onto them while she attempts to find a way to gather support as she plans to conquer Westeros, avenge the deaths of her family, and reclaim the Iron Throne. Intelligent and perceptive as well as beautiful, Daenerys must weave her way through a nest of men trying to take advantage of her in one way or another.