The Lord of Winterfell and new Hand of the King. A devoted father and dutiful lord, he is best characterized by his strong sense of honor, and he strives to always do what is right, regardless of his personal feelings.
Ned’s wife and Lady Stark of Winterfell. She is intelligent, strong, and fiercely devoted to her family, leading her to seek out the person responsible for trying to kill her son Bran.
The Dothraki khaleesi (queen) and Targaryen princess. She and her brother are the only surviving members of the Targaryen family, and she grows from a frightened girl to a confident ruler, while still maintaining her kindness, over the course of the novel.
Ned Stark’s bastard son. Since Catelyn is not his mother, he is not a proper member of the Stark family, and he often feels himself an outsider. He is also a highly capable swordsman and thinker, with a knack for piercing observations.
Read an in-depth analysis of Jon Snow.
A small man with a giant intellect and sharp tongue. Tyrion does not pity himself but rather accepts his shortcomings as a little person and turns them to his advantage. He loves his family but recognizes their greed and ambition.
One of the youngest of the Stark children. Bran is fascinated by stories of knights and adventure, but when is paralyzed in a fall and realizes he is no longer able to become a knight, he is forced to reconsider his life.
The elder Stark daughter and a beautiful, but extremely naïve, young girl. The twelve-year-old Sansa imagines her life as though it were a storybook, ignoring cruel realities around her and concerning herself only with marrying Joffrey Baratheon.
The youngest Stark girl and a wild, willful, but very intelligent child. What the ten-year-old Ayra lacks in her sister’s refinement, she makes up for with skill in swordfighting and riding. Arya rejects the idea of a woman’s role being to marry and have babies.
Queen of the realm and wife of Robert Baratheon. She despises Robert (as well as most other people it seems), and she is cunning and extremely ambitious.
Brother to Tyrion and Cersei, as well as Cersei’s lover. Jaime is arrogant, short-tempered, and rash, but he’s also a gifted swordsman. He is widely mistrusted and called Kingslayer because he murdered the previous king.
The Red Keep’s master of coin. He is shrewd, conniving, and selfish, and he keeps informed about everything that goes on in King’s Landing. He holds a grudge against the Starks because he wanted to marry Catelyn when he was younger.
The Red Keep’s master of whispers and a eunuch. His role in the court is to run a network of spies and keep the king informed, and he often uses what he knows to manipulate those around him, including the king.
The corpulent king of Westeros. He loves to fight, drink, and sleep with women, and he hates the duties of ruling. He and Ned are long-time friends, and he was engaged to Ned’s sister until she died.
An exiled knight who serves unofficially as Daenerys’s chief advisor. Though he was exiled by Ned Stark for selling slaves, he is intelligent, valiant, and a great fighter. He swears allegiance to Viserys as true king of Westeros, but he also feeds information about the Targaryens back to Varys.
Brother of Daenerys and son of the murdered King Aerys Targaryen. Having lived in exile for many years, earning him the nickname of The Beggar King, he wants to return to Westeros and retake the throne. He is arrogant, cruel, easily angered, and foolish.
A powerful khal (king) among the Dothraki people and the husband of Daenerys Targaryen. Stoic and brave, Drogo is an exceptional warrior who shows his enemies no mercy. He controls a massive nomadic tribe, or khalasar.
The repulsive prince of Westeros. The twelve-year-old Joff is the eldest child of Cersei and Robert, and he is spoiled, impulsive, and cruel when using his power as prince and heir to the throne.
Prince Joff’s unofficial bodyguard. Proud that he is not a knight, The Hound appears to have no scruples whatsoever and does what Joffrey orders, however cruel or unjust, without question. His face is scarred on one side by extensive burning inflicted by his brother, Gregor.
The eldest Stark son and thus heir to Ned Stark. Though just fourteen, he is mature beyond his age as well as being brave and dutiful like his father.
Counselor to Ned, Catelyn, and Robb. Luwin is old and wise, and his advice proves indispensible to the Starks.
The Starks’s ward and Robb’s best friend. Ned Stark took the young Theon, now nineteen, as a ward after putting down a rebellion led by the Greyjoy family, and Theon consequently grew up with the Stark children as something like a brother.
Winterfell’s master-at-arms. He escorts and defends Catelyn on her journey to King’s Landing and to the Eyrie, tugging anxiously or thoughtfully at his whiskers the whole way.
The calculating lord of Casterly Rock and the richest man in the realm. A fierce general, Tywin will go to great ends to protect the honor of the Lannister name.
A sellsword, or mercenary, who saves Tyrion’s life many times over. Bronn is smart and skilled, and he knows a good deal when he sees one. Though he is an unscrupulous mercenary, he develops something of a friendship with Tyrion.
The inconstant and irrational ruler of the Eyrie and sister of Catelyn Stark. Her paranoid, obsessive care of her only son, Robert, consumes her after her husband, Jon Arryn, the former Hand of the King, is murdered. Though she grew up with Catelyn, the two are now very different.
Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch at Castle Black. Commander Mormont is tough, old, and wise, and his men call him “The Old Bear.”
The chief man of learning at Castle Black. Despite his blind white eyes, Maester Aemon sees and speaks the truth in cryptic ways. Though few people realize it, Aemon is one of the few surviving members of the Targaryen family, but he has always put his vows to the Night’s Watch ahead of any family loyalties.
A new recruit to the Night’s Watch who is fat and cowardly but very smart. Sam loves to read and eat but hates to fight, and he quickly becomes one of Jon Snow’s closest companions at the Wall.
Castle Black’s resentful master-at-arms. He hard on the new recruits to the Night’s Watch and seems to enjoy making them suffer, causing Jon to rebel against him. During Robert’s rebellion against the former king, he was a Targaryen loyalist.
An obese merchant from the Free Cities who helps Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen. Illyrio is very rich and very well-informed. He is quick to please, especially when there is a possibility that his kindness will help him avoid trouble or gain greater fortune in the future.
Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. He has served kings Jaehaerys, Aerys II, and Robert. Though he has grown old, Barristan “The Bold” is a formidable fighter. He is, and has always been, an honorable knight.
The youngest of the three Baratheon brothers. Renly is lighthearted and opportunistic, and unexpectedly ambitious. He serves on Robert’s royal council.
The middle brother of the three Baratheons. Stannis does not appear in A Game of Thrones, but as the brother of the king, he is a potential heir to the throne. Stannis does not seem to be well-liked.
The King’s Justice, meaning executioner. He has a frightful appearance, and he cannot speak since Aerys had his tongue ripped out with hot pincers. Though he is the king’s executioner, his family is loyal to House Lannister.
The Hound’s older brother and a knight of the court. Called The Mountain that Rides, Ser Gregor is even larger and crueler than the Hound himself. He is also a sore loser and a marginal commander in battle.
A wildling woman who becomes a ward of the Starks after trying to kidnap Bran. She is tough and strong, and she takes care of Bran after her capture, telling him stories about life in the wild and warning him about what is happening north of the Wall.
The youngest of the Stark children. Three-year-old Rickon is wild and undisciplined, as is his pet direwolf.
King of Westeros before Robert Baratheon. He was known as The Mad King because of his cruelty. Aerys murdered Ned’s older brother, Brandon Stark, in the Red Keep’s throne room. At the end of the war that followed, Jaime Lannister slew Aerys in the same room.
The heir to Aerys and older brother of Daenerys and Viserys. Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark, Robert’s betrothed, helping to set in motion the events that led to Robert’s Rebellion. The war effectively ended when Robert slew Rhaegar with his warhammer on the Trident River.
The recently deceased Lord of the Eyrie and Hand of the King. Jon Arryn fostered Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon at the Eyrie. When Robert became king, Jon Arryn served as his Hand until his murder.