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The youngest son of Tywin Lannister. He is a little person, or dwarf in the parlance of the book, and is regularly mocked by those around him. He's also incredibly shrewd and intelligent, and he's often able to turn others' perception of him to his advantage. Tyrion is cynical and sarcastic, but he also has moments of mercy and kindness. He marries Sansa Stark during the course of the novel.
Read an in-depth analysis of Tyrion Lannister.
The youngest daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. Arya is 12 years old and tomboyish. She likes to fight and craves independence, but she is repeatedly taken captive throughout the book. Although she is fierce and has killed before, her youth and small size make her vulnerable.
Read an in-depth analysis of Arya Stark.
A knight devoted to King Stannis who is mockingly called The Onion Knight. Originally a smuggler, Davos is forthright and exceedingly loyal. For these reaons, Stannis makes him his Hand.
Mother of the Stark children and widow of the deceased Lord Eddard Stark. Catelyn has lost much of her family to war, and she hopes to retrieve her captive daughters, Arya and Sansa. Long-suffering and desperate to retrieve her girls, Catelyn makes life complicated for her son, Robb, who rules the House of Stark.
The eldest son of Tywin Lannister. Sardonic and reckless, Jaime is notorious for his romance with his twin sister, Cersei. He is known as the Kingslayer for having murdered the so-called Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, and he is renowned for his skill as a fighter and for his looks.
Read an in-depth analysis of Ser Jaime Lannister.
Second son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. Bran is paraplegic due to a fall from a tower in the first book, but he has also discovered that he has the ability to inhabit other creatures, notably his direwolf, Summer. He is young and uncertain of his power but growing more mature quickly.
The last of her dynasty and considered by some to be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Daenarys believes her destiny is to return to Westeros and retake the throne, which her family held for generations. She has become a strong leader, and she possesses three young dragons, thought to be the last dragons in the world.
Read an in-depth analysis of Daenerys Tagaryen.
The oldest daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. A prisoner in the House of Lannister, Sansa is brutally mistreated. The cruel reality she endures often contrasts with her romantic notions of how life should be. She marries Tyrion Lannister during the course of the novel.
The bastard son of Eddard Stark and a brother of the Night's Watch. Because he was a bastard, he was never treated as a true member of the Stark family, leaving him feeling uncertain of his identity. Jon joins the wildlings and pretends to be a turncoat, but the more time he spends in their company, the more he respects them, leading him to further question his identity.
Read an in-depth analysis of Jon Snow.
A sworn brother of the Night’s Watch. Unlike the other members, Sam is overweight and clumsy. He considers himself a failure and fears everyone, his comrades included. But Sam is also incomparably decent and highly intelligent.
The oldest son of Eddard and Catelyn Stark. Robb is only 16, yet he has won numerous battles. Somewhat foolhardy, he marries Jeyne Westerling despite his promise that he would marry a Frey girl, a move that proves disastrous. Robb is ultimately assassinated during the Red Wedding, a massacre of his family and court.
The son of Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon, and current King of Westeros. Young, obnoxious, and sociopathic, Joffrey has reigned cruelly since Game of Thrones, and even some of his own family members find his behavior objectionable. He is ultimately poisoned at his own wedding.
Former member of the Night’s Watch and now the chief leader of the wildlings. Known as the King Beyond the Wall, Rayder chafed at the restrictions of the Watch and fled. He is clever and leads the wildling invasion against the wall.
One of the self-proclaimed kings of Westeros. Stannis has been beaten repeatedly in battle, but he is convinced that he is destined to rule all of Westeros. He is hard and stubborn but arguably fair in his judgment.
A priestess of R’hllor and Stannis Barantheon's chief counselor. She believes that Stannis is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, a messianic figure.