The “Song of Ice and Fire” books by George R. R. Martin are pretty much the epitome of “epic fantasy.” When I was younger, I realized that if the book has a map of the world in it, then I was probably going to like it. That’s why I was excited to read “A Game of Thrones.” A little pathetic, I know. But I make no qualms about being a dork. I actually got “A Game of Thrones” for a wedding present (my friends … they understand me), and when I sat down and started reading, I grew a little hesitant. These books are very politic-heavy and less, well, dragons and walking and magical swords. Then, suddenly, Bran catches Jamie Lannister having sex with his sister, and I couldn’t put the book down.

On that note, with the televised version of Game of Thrones wrapped up, I feel like it is now “OK” to talk about Game of Throne spoilers. I gave you guys at least a week here. However, I will do my best not to flub about later happenings in the books. So, keep in mind, these are the Top 10 characters of the first book. Whatever they do in the following books is not kept in mind just so I don’t ruin anything for the television viewers.

10. Osha

Osha is a wildling that threatened Bran and Robb. While her companions were killed by Theon (you’ll want to remember him, trust me), she was allowed to live.Osha works in the kitchens. She’s ratty. She’s odd. She gives the readers a little insight into what a wildling is. But soon, she is one of the only companions Bran ends up with. She doesn’t seem to pity him for being crippled. When she is introduced, Bran’s chapters become a lot more readable.

 

9. Samwell Tarly

Sam is a self-professed loser. He’s a coward. He’s soft. The only reason he joined the Night Watch is that his father threatened to kill him. He doesn’t have any illusions about the kind of person he is, and I find that … rather refreshing. He’s a complete sad sack, and if Jon Snow hadn’t stepped in to defend him, he would have utterly floundered.But you just can’t help but root for him.

8. Cersei Baratheon

I love to hate Cersei. She is one of the most corrupt characters in the book, and she kind of gives me the hibbie-jibbies. Martin tries to redeem her a bit when she talks about how Robert never loved her. I don’t think it worked. It is hard to feel sympathy for her. Sleeping with your brother, producing three children, and letting the king think their his is pretty low.She is very cunning and ruthless. I just really like that Martin has a character that is so loved and respected by people who don’t know her and so loathed by the people close to her.

7. Lord Varys

Lord Varys is a fat eunuch. He is also nicknamed The Spider because he knows everything. The characters around him don’t like him and don’t trust him, but they need him. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it makes the job need you. Then you’ll never disappear.I sometimes wish Martin would give us a chapter from Varys’s perspective, but I don’t think that would happen. He knows too much, and it would show too many cards.

Varys’s and Littlefinger’s interactions with each other are right up there with Tyrion and Jon’s conversations when it comes to entertainment and insightfulness.

6. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish

I enjoy Littlefinger’s backstory more than Lord Varys, which is the only reason he is ranked higher. Littlefinger is in love with Eddard Stark’s wife, Catelyn. Unfortunately, he’s been friend-zoned. Plus, his name isn’t important enough for him to get married to Catelyn.That doesn’t stop him from rising in the ranks and becoming council to King Robert and handling the kingdom’s money. There’s something there you have to respect, despite the fact that he is weasely as all get out. I don’t think there’s a single thing that he’s said that is the full truth and, honestly, having a character like that around makes things interesting.

5. Arya Stark

Arya doesn’t really start to shine until the second book, which is why she is only fifth on this list. However, you’ve got to love a girl who fights against society’s norms. It reminds me a lot of the first fantasy series I read as a kid, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series. Unfortunately for Arya, she is not a character in a kid’s book, so her quest to be a strong woman doesn’t quite work out as well. Society is very strict about their norms and Arya is punished when Joffery and Sansa find her practicing swordplay with the butcher’s boy. Joffery, being a sniveling piece of crap, lies about the encounter and Sansa’s direwolf Lady is put to death, the butcher’s boy is killed, and Arya has to force her direwolf to run away.The fact that Arya doesn’t “learn her lesson” from that encounter, and instead fights back even harder, is why she is such a great character.

4. Daenerys Targaryen

Being a woman in Martin’s world would suck. You’re either a whore, married to a tradesman or you’re royalty. Being royal doesn’t mean ruling, either. It means popping out babies and watching your husband ride off when duty calls (just ask Catelyn Stark).However, Daenerys defies all that. Eventually. I would give her a “most improved” award. When we first meet her, her brother is marrying her off to savage tribesmen who kill during weddings. However, marrying Klah Drogo gives her something that she’s never had in her life: respect, independence, choice. She is a queen, and she takes to the role very well (much to her brother’s discontent).

Allowing Drogo to order her brother’s killing is a turning point for her. She has accepted the role as a leader. She will bring her family’s name back to glory. She constantly says to herself that she has the blood of the dragon in her, and she proves it by bringing three dragons into the world.

3. Eddard Stark

If I weren’t teaching sixth grade, I would use Eddard Stark as an example of a character with a tragic flaw. He is never meant to go to King’s Landing, but his loyalty to his drunken, whore-mongering friend leads him there anyway. He needs to see the just thing happen. He rejects Renly’s offer; he warns Cersei of what he knows when he sentences a man to death, he does it himself. He is a good man. Unfortunately, being a good man isn’t the best survival tactic. As Cersei says to him, “When you play the game of thrones, you win, or you die.”

2. Jon Snow

Jon Snow, I feel, is one of the more fantasy-esque characters in this book series. His chapters were always a relief to read because they took you completely away from the politics (unfortunately they always seem to come in during a big reveal). I would definitely read an entire book devoted just to The Night Watch and their struggles with what lies beyond The Wall.Out of all of Eddard Stark’s children, I think Jon is the one who has the most of his father’s traits. He is loyal to a fault. He is proud. He is understanding. Martin doesn’t exactly have fantasy archetypes in his books but Jon is closest to the unsullied hero that he has.

Plus, having Ghost as a companion is pretty awesome.

1. Tyrion Lannister

I almost have to smile every time Martin describes Tyrion’s walk as a “waddle.” Truly, Tyrion’s character design is very flawed. Obviously, he’s a Lannister. A HUGE strike against him. He whores around a lot. To top it all off, he also has some serious daddy issues, highlighted in his discussion with Jon Snow: “All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes.”So why is he at the top of this list? Because despite all that, he is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful characters in all of the books. His chapters are usually some of the most insightful chapters in the entire book, giving you hints to things going on behind the scenes that no other character understands. He makes quips that go over everyone else’s heads. He lives through a situation where he should surely die. Plus, all those flaws make him one of the more relatable and real characters in the entire series.

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