Jon Snow and Arya are definitely my two favorite. They have Eddard's stalwart honour without the sad temper and sadder history to drag them down. We haven't seen enough of Robb yet to place him so high, but the most exciting part of the whole book was when the knights and lords that Robb led into battle made him King of the North. Watching him outwit and crush the Lannisters' armies was pretty satisfying, too.
Daenerys started out as a sympathetic character. I understood all her feelings towards the new life that was forced on her. She was strong and brave in the face of it all. I was rooting for her as her strength and boldness grew. I was happy to find her making the most of the lot she had been given, but I never really approved of her relationship with Khal Drogo. Relationships so entirely focused on sex are worthless to me. Give me meaningful conversation, equality, mutual self-sacrifice and respect. The sex is just an expression of that. Not so with Drogo. He ignored her most of the time, hardly spoke with her even when she learned Dothraki, and had no interest in her as a person until she learned how to act like a whore. Needless to say, the Dothraki culture I never understood, and liked even less. I began to dread each new chapter that bore Dany's name. There was sure to be some mention of rape, murder, bloody raw food, or orgies. By the end of the novel, her storyline made my heart ache and my skin crawl. I keep thinking over and over, "What have they done to this poor girl?" She is cruel, ruthless, perverse, and psychotic. She's a powerful, clever, non-whiny version of her brother Viserys. I can only hope that she will be redeemed by the honourable people across the sea.
I have mixed feelings about Tyrion Lannister. I pity him. I pity the way people have viewed him, how they have treated him, and what they have done to him. I can clearly see the way he has shaped his views and habits to find pleasure in a harsh world, but that doesn't mean I approve of them. In some cases I find his dry wit humorous. Other times it's only vulgar. I enjoyed his conversations with Jon. I think that was really what made him sympathetic in my eyes. He's obviously not vicious, but he's not honourable, so I can't really like him properly.
Catelyn is kind of the same. I don't suppose she ever did anything dis-honourable per se, but the way she treated my favorite Jon turned me against her from the start and I could never really forgive her for that. I understand her feelings about her husband's supposed unfaithfulness; I would probably feel the same way. But it was not Jon's fault for his parents' actions and she treated him terribly. She was mean and spiteful and Jon was innocent and kind. Besides that, she kidnapped Tyrion - who the audience knew to be innocent - and caused all sorts of trouble. Unlike Jon, she couldn't see past the Lannister name to judge Tyrion as an individual, and her blind anger turned me against her once more. I can still sympathize with her, but I can't say I really like her.
King Robert was as bad as the Lannisters. He was headstrong, stupid, and selfish, and his constant drunkenness and whoring was revolting. Why he tried to be king in the first place was a mystery even to himself. Why Ned was his friend was an even greater mystery. Two friends could hardly be more different. Two people could hardly be more different. I rejoiced when he died.
As for the queen, I think I could forgive her and accept her if she wasn't an incestuous slut. She has great reasons for believing and wanting the things that she does. She's married to a fat, lazy, selfish, drunken, unfaithful man who never loved her and she's had to put up with him, bow down to him, and obey him for years. She wants to live and love and raise a family. She wants to protect and provide for her children. But she's a slut who sleeps with her brother. Ew.
Speaking of the gross out factor, I thought the TV pilot was bad, but I've come to think that the incessant graphic sexual references in the book are at least as bad if not worse. Then again, I've only seen the pilot, so who knows. Whatever the case may be, Martin has serious issues regarding his "manhood". There are so many phallic references it's pathetic. Issues. He haz 'em.
Still, somehow I don't think I'd mind if Sansa severed Joffrey's manhood. Gross, yes, but fair. Sansa was a frivolous creature for most of the book, but her future's looking up. Now that she's disillusioned, my hope is that she'll look, learn, listen, and make the Lannisters taste their own poison. I want her to prove her worth as a Stark, as her sibling have done. For all their failings, they really are any awesome family.