It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, and one of the things I love most about it is how well-developed, complex and believable the characters are, despite the series having one of the largest casts of characters of any other fantasy series. So here I decided to do a list of my ten favourites, complete with their character highlights! Some are POV characters, and kind of obvious, but I’ve also included a few more minor characters who I feel brighten any scene they’re in, so enjoy!
An obvious one, but who doesn’t love the most resilient Stark? Whilst powerful female characters are often somewhat lacking in the fantasy genre, ASOIAF is packed full of them, and Arya is perhaps the strongest of them all. Despite her age and size, she survives where the rest of her family and allies don’t, and makes her way in what is a big bad world on her own (and with a hit list!).
Character highlights: ‘Dancing’ lessons with Syrio Forel, naming names to Jaqen H’ghar, adventures with the Hound, sticking the Tickler with the pointy end.
Another obvious one, but it’s impossible not to like Tyrion’s sense of humour, wit, and astuteness. His weakness for drinking and whoring combined with the fact he’s a dwarf, and not exactly a warrior, make him an unlikely fantasy hero, but if the series has one at all then it’s him. He certainly demonstrates bravery on several occasions, even if it isn’t appreciated by those around him.
Character highlights: Negotiating his way out of the Eyrie, leading the sortie out at the Battle of Blackwater, his last confrontation with his father.
If anyone is really playing the game of thrones and winning then it’s Tywin Lannister (well…until that toilet incident, anyway!), the cunning, utilitarian head of the powerful Lannister family who will do anything to keep his family at the top. His duties as the unofficial ruler of the Seven Kingdoms range from waging wars, to wedding planning and telling off bratty boy-king Joffrey, but his ultimate goal is to eliminate all those who threaten to topple his family and loosen their hold on the Iron Throne – and for the most part, he’s successful. Just ask the attendees of the Red Wedding!
Character Highlights: Pretty much all of his tense talks with his children, showing Joffrey whose really in charge, aforementioned toilet incident.
In a world full of bullies, backstabbers, and let’s face it, total bastards (and not in the Jon Snow sense!), the honourable Ned Stark is a rare breed. After all, it’s weird to see a man in Westeros who loves his wife and kids, doesn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne and has a sound moral compass! However, it’s this sense of morality and honour that sees him lose his head in the first of many shocking deaths in ASOIAF, and although he is admirable, you do occasionally want to shout at him to just stab some of the snakes in King’s Landing in the face or something!
Character highlights: Fight with Jaime Lannister, confrontation with Cersei Lannister, execution.
Brienne of Tarth
As one of only two honourable people in the series, and as another kick-ass lady, the list wouldn’t be complete without Brienne of Tarth. Although her morality and dogged loyalty occasionally crosses the irritating ‘goody-two-shoes’ line, she also knows how to fight! And whilst strong women in fantasy are usually ridiculously attractive for some reason, Brienne definitely bucks this trend, being described as tall, muscular and ugly.
Character highlights: Fight with Jaime Lannister, bath scene with Jaime Lannister, fight with a bear.
His tenure was short, but packed a punch, with the Dornish Prince’s untimely (and rather gruesome) demise spelling trouble for another of my favourite ASOIAF characters. From our first encounter with the ‘Red Viper of Dorne’, we see style, swagger and a thirst for revenge, and his open contempt for the Lannisters promises tension from the beginning.
Character highlights: His surprise arrival at King’s Landing in place of his brother Doran Martell, fight with the Mountain
The Hound (Sandor Clegane)
Sandor Clegane is a bad guy, and he knows it! He’s under no illusion as to what he and the nobility he is surrounded by really are (after all, even the honourable Ned Stark is just a ‘killer’), and refuses to pretty it up with a ‘Ser’. However, despite his rough edges, a glimpse of a softer side occasionally comes through in his dealings with the Stark girls, and his fear of fire is a sizeable chink in his ‘tough warrior’ armour.
Character highlights: Fight with the Mountain at the Tourney of the Hand, telling Sansa how he burnt his face, asking Sansa to leave with him, adventures with Arya.
As a ruthless, money-grabbing sellsword with a dark sense of humour, Bronn makes the perfect sidekick to the clever, but less violent Tyrion Lannister. I really liked their friendship, especially the way that despite their genuine regard for one another, they are both perfectly clear on the fact that their relationship revolves around money. There certainly isn’t any hard feelings when Bronn refuses to champion Tyrion for a second time – whilst Tyrion describes him as ‘an insolent black-hearted rogue’, he says that’s what he likes about him.
Character highlights: Fight with Sir Vardis Egan at the Eyrie, general banter with Tyrion, naming his wife’s bastard son Tyrion.
Despite being a small, wizened old woman, the sharp-tongued ‘Queen of Thorns’ is a force to be reckoned with, even holding her own against the formidable Tywin Lannister. Her barbed comments are always hilarious, and she is probably the one who killed Joffrey – how could you not like her?
Character highlights: Pretty much any conversation she has with anyone, killing Joffrey.
‘Dolorous Edd’ (Eddison Tollett)
A member of the Night’s Watch, Edd is a fairly small character, yet he still manages to steal most of the scenes he’s in with his pessimistic but nevertheless humorous remarks.
Character highlights: For him, these all had to be quotes!
– ‘There’s always a bear. One killed my brother when I was young. Afterward it wore his teeth around its neck on a leather thong. And they were good teeth too, better than mine. I’ve had nothing but trouble with my teeth.’
– ‘There are worse ways to die than warm and drunk. I knew a brother drowned himself in wine once. It was a poor vintage though, and his corpse did not improve it.’
– ‘I just want to say to whoever is voting for me that I would certainly make an awful Lord Commander. But so would all these others’.
Honourable mentions to Cersei Lannister, Sam Tarly and Davos Seaworth.
So, fellow ASOIAF fans, who are your favourites?