Sandrilene (Sandry) fa TorenA young noblewoman, and the great-niece of Duke Vedris. Sandry's lineage makes her nearly royalty, but she prefers not to show off her noble status unless necessary. She is a "stitch-witch", having ambient magic with thread. After her parents died in a plague, her nurse hid her underground in a cellar, until she was discovered by Niko and brought to Winding Circle.
Bad Dreams: She sometimes has nightmares related to the plague that killed her parents and the events in the books themselves.
Badass Boast: After another girl says that if Daja is a lady then she is a cat:
"I am Sandrilene fa Toren, daughter of Count Mattin fer Toren and his countess Amiliane fa Landreg. I am the great-niece of his grace, Duke Vedris of this realm of Emelan, and cousin of her Imperial Highness, Empress Berenene of the Namorn Empire. You are Esmelle ei Pragin, daughter of Baron Witten en Pragin and his lady Colledia of House Weelwright- a merchant house. If I tell you my friend is a lady, then you"-carefully she poured milk into Esmelle's plate- "you had best start lapping, kitty."
Badass Teacher: "I tore three people to pieces to save the life of my student."
Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Sandry, the most dutiful and altruistic of the four, gets a scolding from her uncle, the Duke, at the start of The Will of the Empress. He guilt-trips her because she doesn't immediately start reading reports from her cousin in Namorn. Bear in mind that she always reads the reports - she's just a little slower to do so than she is to attend to matters in Emelan, and she has taken over most of Vedris' workload at this point to boot.
She also gets sternly told off whenever she's less than sweet or starts (very much against her will) crying during an argument. Sometimes by Tris, of all people.
Don't Call Me Sir: Insists upon people calling her just "Sandry" instead of "Lady Sandrilene fa Toren" or even "Lady Sandrilene" unless there's a specific reason for being formal.
Heart Is an Awesome Power: Threads. How lame... wait a minute. What's made of thread? Clothes... upholstery... blankets... bandages... saddles and boots are held together by thread... and she can control all of this... and make it all come undone if she wants... or move... or unweave itself and reweave itself in whatever shape she wants... including trussing you up like a turkey... And it can extend to treating other things as thread: light, magic itself, human skin... Okay, not lame! Not lame!
When her uncle was having a heart attack, his guards tried to keep her from getting to him. It took hours to cut them out of the threat cocoons she created around them, since the damned things kept trying to reweave themselves, and after that the Duke's Guard knew better than to argue when Sandry was in a mood.
There's also a passing mention of her using her power to "stitch" the Duke's soul to his body and keep him alive until the healers could get to him.
Heroic Safe Mode: How Sandry has to operate in Magic Steps to weave a net of unmagic.
I Am X, Son of Y: 'My name is Lady Sandrilene fa Toren, daughter of Count Mattin fer Toren and his Countess Amiliane fa Landreg. I am great-niece to His Grace Duke Vedris IV of Emelan, and cousin to Her Imperial Highness Empress Berenene of Namorn...'
Lonely Rich Kid: Before she came to Winding Circle. The children of commoners didn't want to play with a noble girl, and the nobles she met thought their children would get strange ideas from her, leaving Sandry to make friends with anyone who she could (slowly) win over.
Nobles Who Actually Do Something: She had a front row seat and was a key participator battling various perils that befell Summersea including the earthquake, pirate attack, forest fire, and epidemic.
Out-of-Character Moment: Her railing at Tris for the way she saved the caravan in Empress. It's supposed to show how much they've drifted apart, but it's strange for a person who was always described as kind and sympathetic—to the point where Briar thought of her as "too understanding"—to a) be mad at Tris for acting as she did in a situation where there was obviously no time for niceties and b) not notice that Tris is woozy even though all of them have had personal experience with the effects of using big magic.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Probably Pierce's most "girly" heroine, and thus gets a lot of this from the fandom despite being every bit as badass as the other three.
Shipper on Deck: Encourages a romance between Duke Vedris and Yazmín Hebet in Magic Steps.
Spirited Young Lady: She has status, an elegant bearing, and no hesitation about going into danger if there's a good reason.
Spoiled Sweet: She was raised by a pair of Idle Rich parents for her first ten years and wanted for nothing (except friends) until the smallpox that killed them, but she's a very kindhearted person.
Stay in the Kitchen: Sandry get this fairly often from people in universe through a combination of being a noble,a girl, and having thread magic. She has very little patience for that attitude and isn't shy about telling people to get bent when they try to tell her so. If they try to push it, it doesn't end well. A fair amount of those who tried end up cocooned in their own clothes.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Afraid of the dark thanks to the aftermath of said smallpox epidemic (she was locked away in a small room so she wouldn't catch the smallpox or be killed by the riot, but the woman who locked her away was killed, and her light source ran out, leaving her with nothing to do but try to make light from thread).
Trisana (Tris) ChandlerThe daughter of a merchant family, known for her temper. Tris' powers caused the weather to change around her and brought distant voices to her on the wind, but when she was tested for magic, none was detected. Believing her to be possessed, she was shifted around from family member to family member until Niko met her and brought her to Winding Circle. Tris' ambient power is with weather, particularly lightning, and also extending to geothermal events like earthquakes and volcanoes.
Author Avatar: Pierce isn't afraid to admit this herself. May possibly be why she's so hard on poor Tris...
Bad Dreams: After becoming aware that she accidentally drowned several ships full of innocent slaves, she dreamt about the incident repeatedly, in graphic detail.
Bad Powers, Good People: She could cause enormous amounts of damage (and has-she took out part of a pirate fleet by herself) with her powers, but she refuses to use them for bad purposes.
Black Mage: And she hates it. She's been offered jobs by multiple rulers, but while they may start off as simple positions as a weather mage, they always eventually come down to 'kill people with lightning for me'. She wants to learn magical healing, but her control is nowhere near fine enough for the job.
Blessed with Suck: Being quite possibly one of the most powerful mages in the world has its downsides, to say the least. She can't make a living with her powers unless she wants to be a battlemage or cause weather disasters in other places, which she emphatically does not. The reputation about her abilities makes other mages view her as either a braggart, a liar, and/or terrifying rather than a potential friend. Once she learns wind scrying the previous problem magnifies tenfold, plus she now gets migraines until she learns how to block out the images. Oh, and because her magic works with incredibly powerful forces of nature, overusing it just a little leaves her Asleep for Days at best.
Comes Great Responsibility: She frequently notes that she had to learn iron-hard control and a sense of responsibility faster than her foster-siblings because her powers are so potentially destructive and, after killing numerous slaves in the process of sinking a pirate fleet, she refuses to hurt anyone but her intended targets. She also refuses to alter weather for anything other than minor purposes or correcting what other mages have done because weather moves in a complex, interconnected pattern and it will ruin someone's day eventually.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Particularly in Will of the Empress. When Daja—now rich—offers her a place in her house, Tris immediately declares that she'll be a maid rather than live on Daja's charity.
Fiery Redhead: Lightning redhead, once she starts using her hair as her mage-kit.
Friend to All Living Things: Why she helps save Little Bear the dog. She also adopts a starling named Shriek and immediately lays claim to Chime. Better with animals than people, though.
Friend to All Children: She is pretty good with kids, often treating them with thoughtfulness. She also doesn't approve of dumbing things down when talking to them. The mistreatment she endured from her relatives makes her determined to treat other kids better.
Good Is Not Nice: Even Lampshaded by her student. While Tris has a good heart, she is generally difficult to get along with. In Briar's Book, while stressed over Briar's quarantine, she has an outburst where she derides Briar for hanging out with street kids. Not only was that part of required charity work for the temple, but Briar grew up in the slums and those were his other friends. She also offends Lark, who was homeless for a while.
I Just Want to Be Normal: At the beginning of Empress, Tris wants to study at Lightsbridge, be a normal mage, do normal mage things. It makes a good deal of sense for her; unlike her friends she can't do "everyday" things like simple protective charms, because her natural magic works on such a grand scale.
Minored In Ass Kicking: She is first and foremost a mage and scholar, but Briar and Daja taught her a number of useful fighting techniques.
Neat Freak: After being used as a free maid by several of her relatives, Tris takes great pride in her cleaning abilities and can't abide a messy space. She has a habit of pitching in to help the staff of whatever household she's a guest in.
Parental Abandonment: Gave her up because they were afraid of her, as did just about every other member of her family.
Power Incontinence: Oh, so very much. She wears her hair short in Daja's and Briar's books because after her own she started breeding baby thunderstorms in her hair whenever she got upset.
Quirky Curls: Lightning tends to accumulate in them. Eventually she takes advantage of this and uses a complicated pattern of braids to store her magic.
Redheads Are Uncool: Tris has curly red hair (her friend Briar calls her "Coppercurls"), gray eyes, and wears spectacles. She believes herself to be fat and is called "Fatty" a few times by some of the series' crueler characters. Before she learned control over her magic, strange things would happen when she got angry or emotional, such as causing it to hail indoors or to strike lightning nearby.
Shock and Awe: Her weather magic allows her to attract, create, and control lightning.
Superpower Lottery: She seems to have a measure of power in every force of nature, from weather to geology. This is due to her ability to control energy that comes in currents or waves: tides in water, electrical currents, seismic movements, convection currents and air currents.
You Can't Go Home Again: When Keth asks why she doesn't return to the Chandlers, Tris says that her accreditation is the only reason they'd want her back, and she has no fond memories of them.
Daja KisuboA young Trader (a heavily ostracised merchant race). Daja's family ship sank, leaving her the only survivor. As a result, she was declared unlucky by all other Traders, and became an outcast. Niko took her to Winding Circle Temple, where she quickly became friends with Sandry. Daja is an ambient smith-mage, which also grants her immunity to fire.
All of the Other Reindeer: Traders are an outcast race who keep to themselves. Many believe that they steal from others and kill others for their own profit. When Daja first comes to Winding Circle, the other children frequently attack her because of this prejudice.
Badass: She held off a firestorm, alone, to save a Trader caravan full of people who detested her.
Carry a Big Stick: She carries her Trader staff wherever she goes. And she knows how to use it.
Companion Cube: The suraku (survival box) from her ship, which she calls to her by the metal in it and becomes attached to before her rescue. She later turns it into her mage kit.
Doom Magnet: Because she was the only survivor of her family's shipwreck, the Traders diagnose her as this and cast her out accordingly.
Green Rocks: The living metal of her hand is very useful for magical workings, although it does have limitations. It grows slowly, apparently using minerals from her body.
God Guise: Unintentionally. In Cold Fire, Ben Ladradun's POV of her initially has him thinking she's some sort of goddess.
Honor Before Reason: When dealing with the Trader Polyam, who is at the bottom of her caravan's pecking order. Daja bends over backwards to make sure their deal increases Polyam's stock with them, to Polyam's bewilderment.
So Happy Together: She hooks up with Rizu, her first love, and they spend a summer in perfect bliss... until Sandry gets abducted and freed, and the Circle decides to go home. Rizu picks the Empress, who did her many kindnesses, over Daja; Daja refuses to pick the Empress, even for Rizu. Neither takes it well.
Unperson: Declared such by her entire race. Other Traders pretend she isn't there and will only speak to her through another, with the hypothetical assumption that there is a trangshi in the room.
Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Daja was keenly interested in smithing from a young age. Her family was always quick to remind her (sometimes physically) that a Trader can never be lugsha.note artisans
Briar MossBeginning his life as a street-rat named Roach, this young man was caught stealing three times, which meant he was sentenced to a hard life working on the docks. Niko found him being sentenced, and seeing the ambient magic in him, decided to take him to Winding Circle; because he needed a new name, and liked plants, he chose the name Briar Moss. Briar's power, naturally, is with plants.
Ambiguously Brown: Briar is described as darker-skinned. From his description, he probably comes off as vaguely Asian or Mediterranean.
Animated Tattoo: To hide the two X tattoos that means he's been arrested twice, he decided to tattoo vines over them with vegetable dyes. His magic over plants plus the fact that he used the needles from Sandry's sewing basket, which also doubles as her mage kit, turned the vines into living ones that move around his hands.
The Artful Dodger: Was a street thief under the leadership of an older boy before his discovery.
Badass: Green magic is surprisingly dangerous. For other people. Briar is also probably the most skilled of the four in a plain fight, though it's a close race with Daja.
Bad Dreams: From Empress onwards. It's implied (though not outright stated) that he's suffering from PTSD.
RosethornA dedicate at Winding Circle, and an ambient plant mage; she acts as a "mother" to Discipline Cottage. She is known for her sharp temper. Briar becomes her student, and later on she takes on the teaching of Evvy, Briar's student.
Abusive Parents: Revealed in Battle Magic to have been physically and emotionally abused by her father.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She acts very abrasively, but when someone's sick or genuinely in a bad position, she'll do anything to help them.
Meaningful Rename: Her childhood name was Nivalin Greenhow, though she went by the more informal 'Niva'. She chose "Rosethorn" on taking her vows, reflecting both her Green Thumb powers and her personality.
Rags to Riches: A milder, Zig Zagging example. She started out as a dancer and was likely middle-class to fairly comfortable, then contracted asthma and had to live in the slums, then eventually settled down in Winding Circle Temple, which was definitely better but not Riches.
"I can't think of the last time I held dragon vomit in my hand," Niko remarked, his voice dry. "Why, never, in fact. There are no such things as dragons. Need I also point out there are no such things as living glass dragons?"
He's noted as snarking "dryly" sometimes, but you know he's being especially snarky when it notes his voice as being "very dry".
Meaningful Rename: Like most secular mages, he chose his last name himself, describing his powers as a Seer.
Not so Above It All: When he and Tris have to go into the sewers, she realizes that he's probably freaking out more than she is at their disgusting surroundings.
Seer: While avoiding all associated tropes, though a character or two have suggested that they think he has shades of Mad Oracle.
Sugar and Ice Personality: While not as irritable as Rosethorn, Niko is quite aloof and unapproachable at first, and only really opens up to close friends.
FrostpineA well-known ambient smith-mage and dedicate of Winding Circle. He becomes Daja's teacher.
Berserk Button: Giving one's magical powers to someone else. It's because his parents allowed the village shaman to use his powers (without his consent) from when he was born until he was a teenager; the day he found out he had magic was the day the shaman keeled over dead, and Frostpine found that his magic was so out-of-control he couldn't even pick up a smith's hammer without melting it.
The Blacksmith: Quite possibly the greatest smith-mage in the world. He and Daja are the only two smith-mages known to have an affinity for all types of metal.
Gentle Giant: He raises his voice about twice in the first series.
Meaningful Rename: Subverted. Like all dedicates, he took a new name when he took his vows, but he chose it because he thought frostpines were pretty trees. Later in life, he discovered that he hated the climate that went with them.
Scary Black Man: Subverted, since he's one of the nicest characters in the series.
Dedicate CraneA dedicate at Winding Circle Temple. He is a plant-mage. He is known for being stubborn and having a temper, but he is an expert in healing and discovering cures for diseases, and is willing to give respect where it is due.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He doesn't like trespassers in his greenhouse and bickers with Rosethorn, but when the epidemic strikes he's working as hard as anyone else to find a cure.
Meaningful Rename: His childhood name was Isas; he chose the name Crane upon becoming a dedicate.
Rich Bastard: Briar immediately identifies him as a "bag" for his haughty bearing and expensive taste in clothes.
The Smart Guy: He and Rosethorn have done a lot of work on diseases together, and they were part of a team that devised 'human essence', which allowed them to test potential cures without potentially hurting the test subjects.
Pasco AcalonPasco Acalon is a twelve-year-old from Summersea. He has ambient dance magic, though his family wishes him to become a police officer ("harrier"). Sandry discovers his magic and becomes his teacher.
Meddling Parents: His family thought that he should be sent to Lightsbridge to study proper harrier magic. Sandry had to get cross with them.
Dance Magic: He's already dancing good-luck spells over fishermen's nets when Sandry finds him.
Perception Filter: He invents a spell that causes others to ignore him. It works fine, until the unmagic assassins catch him grabbing a snack while invisible.
Evumeimei (Evvy) DingzaiA ten-year-old from Yanjing. Her parents sold her into slavery; eventually she escaped and became a street-rat in Chammur. Briar discovered that Evvy is an ambient stone mage, and he became her first teacher. At Winding Circle, she was able to be trained by stone mages. After Briar went to Namorn with Sandry, Daja and Tris, Rosethorn took Evvy with her to the Battle Islands to investigate the dying plant life.
Crazy Cat Lady: When you're not part of a gang, cats are the best sources for companionship.
Crocodile Tears: Can force herself to cry on cue... by remembering her mother's face as she told the slavemasters to sell Evvy for as much as possible.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: Rosethorn has to point out to Myrrhtide that when she told him not to touch her to wake her, he respected her wishes, but he has to remember that Evvy was in the same war as Rosethorn, and she's only a child.
Taking the Veil: Decides to become a novice in the Living Circle religion at the end of Melting Stones- not precisely out of a vocation to serve their gods, but because she believes in their philosophy and wants to be a better person.
Niamara (Nia) and Jorality (Jory) BancanorA pair of twins from a well-to-do family. Daja discovers that they both have ambient magic: Nia has woodworking magic, while Jory has cooking magic. Nia is soft-spoken and shy, while Jory is outgoing and constantly moving. Daja is able to find suitable teachers for both of them, but still must teach the two meditation.
Bad Dreams: Nia has bad dreams about fire. Daja explains that it'll get better with more training once Nia stops thinking like she's wood.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: There's got to be some kind of subversion in the fact that the outspoken, brash, and just plain more physical Jory has cooking magic, while Nia the shy has woodworking magic, which should be "manlier."
Considering the personality type which fares best in the hustle and bustle of a kitchen the size of Olennika Potcracker's, and the type of person who can happily spend hours sanding and days applying incredibly thin layers of stain and varnish, this may be less a subversion than Reality Is Unrealistic.
Nia initially is upset about having wood magic, believing it would seem 'unladylike' and would make her less attractive as a bride. Her parents point out that the various shipbuilding clans * including the clan of a boy Nia finds quite fetching... would pay her weight in gold for a daughter-in-law who can instantly detect wood rot in a ship.
Twin Telepathy: They always know where the other one is, and if the other one is in danger of some sort. It isn't connected to their magic, since other twins they know can do the same.
Kethlun (Keth) WarderA twenty-year-old glassmaker. Keth was skilled at his craft until he was struck by lightning, making many physical actions difficult for him for a while, and imbuing him with lightning magic in addition to his ambient glass magic. Tris discovers his magic after he accidentally creates Chime, a glass dragon, and serves as his teacher. He eventually becomes the Imperial Glassmaker in Namorn.
Achievements in Ignorance: After creating Chime, he chases it around the shop and then vehemently argues with Tris when she tries talking to him about the magic he doesn't think he has.
Black Sheep: A minor case, Keth's family (many being glass mages) would often bemoan the fact that he had very little magic himself. He did point out however that while he lacked much magic, he had considerable talent and that did seem to satisfy them.
Solid Gold Poop: Or rather, colored glass poop, influenced by the things she eats. It also works with her other excretions; she likes eating colored sand because it lets her blow colored flames (which solidify instantly), and she's also been known to eat herself sick and vomit up glass.
Bennat (Ben) LadradunA firefighter in Kugisko. After his wife and children are killed in a fire, he goes to live with his witch of a mother, and organizes fire brigades to fight the city's fires, despite not having any magic.
Badass Normal: He fights fires without so much as a drop of magic to help or protect him. Daja quite openly admires him for this.
Evil Feels Good: At first, he ensures that the buildings he targets are empty of people, but one night he misses someone. The realization that he has killed a person gives him such a thrill that he starts setting fire to populated buildings deliberately.
Freudian Excuse: His wife and children died in a fire, and his mother is an A-grade bitch.
Karmic Death: Because he was an arsonist, the manner of his death sentence was that he would be burned alive at the site of one of his worst crimes.
Manly Tears: When he sees victims of a fire. They're tears of joy.
Mercy Kill: All the fire-capable mages present at his execution decide to make his death quick, rather than letting him suffer as the fire slowly, painfully consumed him.
Mommy Issues: He's under the heel of his verbally abusive mother after his family dies.
Pyro Maniac: It gets exponentially worse after he accidentally kills someone.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Started as one, and frequently justifies his arson to himself this way. It's somewhat justified in that the people of Kugisko refuse to take his warnings about fire to heart, and it's only when he started setting fires that they actually formed some kind of fire-fighting team. He loses the good intentions after he accidentally kills a homeless woman and stops making any effort to set fires that will only burn property.
Olennika PotcrackerAn ambient cooking mage - one of the best. She cooked for the Empress before working for a hospital in Kugisko and setting up a soup kitchen.
Awesome yet Practical: Developed a spell that made any poisoned food instantly change color and, as an added bonus, caused said food to roll towards whoever poisoned it.
Famed in Story: She cooked for the Empress until she got said Empress and some of her nobles to fund a hospital/food kitchen in the slums of Kugisko. Someone made a play about why and how this happened.
Good Is Not Nice: She does her work for charity, but if you can't keep up with her she will kick you out.
Never Mess with Granny: She retired from making poison-detecting food for the Empress only to take over a hospital kitchen. When the hospital is attacked by an arsonist, she stays in there to control the blaze as long as possible.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Exhibits this attitude in-universe. Get kidnapped and forced into marriage? Why, you must have deserved it for not trying to escape.
Deconstructed further when it's noted that she was probably given the chances to escape when she was kidnapped, which most such brides are not. Sandry certainly wasn't.
Sandry did at least have the fact that they weren't inclined to risk serious injuries to the empress's cousin going for her. A poor woman without powerful connections would be in far more danger fighting back.
ZhegorzA man who initially appeared unnamed in the mental health ward at Yogiry Hospital in Kugisko when it was on fire. He sees and hears things on the winds, and these uncontrolled visions, in addition to the healers' "helpful" potions, have convinced everyone, including himself, that he is crazy.
Blessed with Suck: He was born with power that roughly only one person per generation is able to learn. Too bad he can't control it.
Cassandra Truth: He kept telling his traveling companions that there were Imperial soldiers after them...
LuvoThe living heart of a mountain. Luvo met Rosethorn, Evvy, and Briar on their travels through Yanjing. He is thousands of years old, wise, and patient. He is shaped like a bear and is made out of crystals.
Animate Inanimate Object: He's basically a sentient rock. You could make a drinking game out of the number of times characters call him a "talking rock".
Does Not Know His Own Strength: He says he's powerless to do anything with the volcano spirits, since they'd melt him. That might be true, but his voice alone is enough to scare the bejeesus out of them. Evvy is pretty disgruntled with him.
Jerkass: He's quite rude and abrasive to Evvy (who he knows only as a pet of Rosethorn who delights in being rude to people), and lords it over the people of Starns. At least some of this is justified in that most mages of Evvy's age really aren't that powerful; and unlike Rosethorn, Myrrhtide likely never met the Circle and would have no idea of what they were capable of; so once Evvy actually proved her worth, he was much less bitchy. Also, he and Evvy have naturally conflicting personalities.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: After Evvy discovers that the volcano is due to erupt he becomes much less rude to her, standing up for her at the council, agreeing with her assessment of the situation and telling her not to get herself killed because she is 'beginning to grow on [him]'.
Not to mention, he's a lot happier when in non-contaminated water, as opposed to the poisoned, acidic water on Starns.
Smug Super: Give him his due, he is actually a decent water-mage, and when the emergency becomes clear, he does everything he can to help.