Empathic Weapon: Godslayer, which can change from a sword to a dagger, heal Vlad, and nullify or turn back magic; is destined to kill Vlad's patron goddess Verra; and contains the soul of Lady Teldra.
Fantastic Racism: It's defined his whole life, being a despised human in a majority-Dragaeran society. Later books often feature, to greater or lesser degrees, Vlad's realization that he himself has become more Dragaeran than human in personality. And always was one, in soul.
Pragmatic Hero: Best illustrated in "Teckla" where, while he admits to wanting the Empire overthrown sees, correctly, the revolution as doomed and refuses to support it. At the end he uses money he's accumulated to buy the disputed neighborhood and put it under his protection.
Unnamed Parent: "Noish-Pa" is simply Fenarian (=Hungarian) for "Grandfather".
Vlad's Familiar, a jhereg — a small, venomous flying lizard, something like a miniature wyvern. He's fully sentient, and spends most of his time making snarky telepathic comments to Vlad. Raised from an egg by Vlad, he's completely at home in cities and among people, less so in the wild.
Simple-Minded Wisdom: Loiosh isn't as clever as Vlad, and his motivations are fairly basic (safety and food), but he's a lot more sensible. A key part of his job is warning Vlad when his emotions are interfering with his thinking or are too stirred up for him to safely perform witchcraft.
The Watson: We aren't always privy to the details of Vlad's plans, but he always has to explain them to Loiosh.
A wild-born female jhereg which Vlad summoned to help him when in dire straits, Rocza opted to remain with "the Provider" and become Loiosh's mate. She doesn't understand "soft ones" or their ways very well, so Loiosh acts as a middleman when Vlad needs to communicate with her.
Country Mouse: Having lived wild before pairing with Loiosh, Rocza enjoys Vlad's time as a fugitive in the wilderness a lot more than her mate or Vlad.
More Deadly Than The Male: Female jhereg are larger than males, and Loiosh sometimes has to remind Rocza to only distract Vlad's opponents, not necessarily poison them to death.
Xenofiction: Portions of Athyra are written from Rocza's point of view.
Verra, the Demon Goddess
The god of Elder Sorcery, Verra has been the patron goddess of Vlad's family for a long time. She was once a slave of the Jenoine, but rebelled against them and helped to force them off the planet. She appears as a very tall Dragaeran woman with an extra joint on each finger.
The Chessmaster: She's playing some kind of very long game, but nobody knows the details yet.
Deadpan Snarker: Even — actually, especially — in council with the other gods.
The Hecate Sisters: Verra and her two sisters are the gods of the three branches of magic.
Interspecies Romance: Well, they're both gods, but her lover Barlen appears to be some kind of reptilian...thing.
The Scottish Trope: The only one of the gods who doesn't believe in it. At one point, the Jenoine are described as "Those We Do Not Name Except For Verra Who Does."
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Verra does plenty of ethically dubious things, but it's hard to argue with her apparent goal of keeping the Jenoine off the planet.
Vlad's secretary, known for being so mysterious and gifted with uncanny stealth that he is a major source of Epileptic Trees, including the belief that he is actually the legendary assassin, Mario Greymist which he's not. Before joining House Jhereg, he was a Dragonlord.
Cursed with Awesome: His amazing but unintentional ability to fade into the background made it impossible to command troops like a proper Dragon. It comes in very handy as a Jhereg, though.
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: the House of Dragon isn't really treated as evil, but Kragar is an example of a character who is an exile because he doesn't at all fit his group's "hat". Dragons are known for their ambition and military prowess — while he's no pacifist (he works for Vlad, after all), he is totally unambitious and did something that got him booted out of his House. Exactly what he did is shrouded in mystery.
Mysterious Past: What did he do to get himself kicked out, anyway? And why does Aliera hate him? And where does his permanent stealth mode come from?
Undying Loyalty: Despite the wealth, fame, and power that betraying Vlad would gain him, despite the fact that Vlad deliberately broke the rules of the Organization that Kragar still belongs to, and despite the fact that getting caught helping Vlad or even having contact with him would lead directly to his torture and death, Kragar has Vlad's back any time the latter is back in Adrilankha.
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: He can be standing right in front of you, and you won't notice he's there until he speaks. And he can't turn it off.
Kiera the Thief
By far the greatest thief in Adrilankha and possibly the whole Empire. One of Vlad's oldest friends, she was the first Dragaeran to ever treat him with kindness and played a role in getting him to join the "business end" of House Jhereg. She is actually an alter ego of Sethra Lavode.
The Smurfette Principle: Not within the series, but within the Jhereg itself — the group is divided between the Left Hand, an all-female group of magic users who deal in illegal spells and the Right Hand, an almost all-male group of assassins and professional criminals. Kiera is one of the few women in the latter group.
A high-ranking Dragonlord (third in line after Aliera and Norathar) who Vlad meets in Taltos. He hired Vlad as a security consultant for his home, and they gradually become friends.
Berserk Button: Insult his honor, or the memory of his uncle Adron, and he will slice you to ribbons. (Although if you're lucky you won't be permanently dead.) Raid the town he calls home and he will sacrifice your entire village to Verra.
Do Not Taunt Cthulhu — Morrolan gets the attention of the aforementioned god by urinating on a statue of him.
Dark Is Not Evil: He wears black all the time and lives in Castle Black — black being the colour of magic — but is not evil. Well, mostly.
Empathic Weapon: Blackwand, a longsword. Vlad describes its aura as very aggressive and somehow feminine. It seems to aid Morrolan's sorcery, and can act on its own while he's unconscious.
Honor Before Reason: He was willing to start a second Dragon-Jhereg War rather than give up a guest in his house — and was willing to die to prevent it, since his death would allow said guest to be killed without impugning his honor.
Oblivious Adoption: Morrolan was around 100 years old by the time he finally learned that he wasn't an Easterner. He never seemed particularly curious about his abnormal height and agelessness.
Ominous Floating Castle: Floating castles are out of fashion now, but he built one just to show off — though he might not have if he hadn't been forced to levitate the under-construction building to escape an army.
Pretend Prejudice: He was raised by humans, so he's nowhere near as much of a bigot towards them as most Dragaerans.
Berserk Button: Don't insult her late father, Adron. And don't mention her height. Seriously, just don't.
BFS: For a while she was using her ancestor Kieron's greatsword, which was longer than she was tall.
Black Magician Girl: She has absolutely no compunctions about studying (illegal) Elder Sorcery; she probably got it from her dad, who dissolved the capital city and threw the entire Empire into chaos for over 250 years with it.
Brother-Sister Incest: Played with and discussed in Tiassa. There are countless generations between present-day Aliera and Kieron, but since she has her original memories, and since Kieron is apparently the only one she's ever considered worthy of having a child with... Then again, she didn't have those memories when she first met him. It's all very confused.
Kaleidoscope Eyes: A useful version, warning others of her temper/their impending death.
Magic Knight: She's a slightly better sorcerer than she is a swordfighter...but she's so extremely good at both that it hardly makes a difference.
The Napoleon: She's just a little over six feet tall, which is embarrassingly short for a Dragaeran. For a while she had a habit of wearing long skirts and levitating in order to look taller. Even after she got over that, she still has a Hair-Trigger Temper and mentioning her height is a particular Berserk Button.
Noble Bigot: While she's a loyal friend to Vlad, she doesn't think much of Easterners in general — to the point of refusing to believe that Dragaerans are descended from them, despite being a brilliant geneticist who should know better.
There's also some elements of Innocent Bigotry here, as she sometimes seems genuinely oblivious to the fact that, for instance, talking about invading the East in front of Vlad might bother him.
Parody Sue: Aliera is beautiful, an amazing fighter, a powerful mage, the daughter of a goddess, has color-changing eyes...and is a real jerk.
Pretend Prejudice: As Vlad puts it, "Morrolan, who doesn't hate Easterners as much as you'd expect, and Aliera, who doesn't hate me as much as you'd expect." But then again, Vlad IS her brother-in-soul.
Year Inside, Hour Outside: Sort of. Because of spending a long time as a soul without a body, when restored to life, Aliera is as physically young as she was at the time she lost her body, whereas contemporaries who were alive the whole time are physically a lot older.
The legendary and feared Enchantress of Dzur Mountain, a figure who has been alive (and later undead) longer than anyone can remember, and is rumored to have actually come from the rock of Dzur Mountain itself. May be either a Dzur or a Dragon or some combination thereof; both houses have claimed she's a member at different points.
The Archmage: She's the most powerful sorcerer in the history of the Empire. According to Vlad, she's forgotten more about sorcery than anyone else has ever learned.
Baleful Polymorph: She's rumored to transform Dzur warriors who challenge her into animals.
Our Vampires Are Different: We don't know the details, though, save for the fact that vampirism is not The Virus. It's implied that becoming undead as she did involves sneaking out of the Paths of the Dead on foot.
The Chatelaine of Castle Black, an Issola. Very polite, very smooth-talking, and an all-around wonderful person. During Issola, she was stabbed with a Morganti blade. Before her soul could be completely destroyed, Vlad managed to save most of it and use it to construct his Great Weapon, Godslayer, where it currently resides, dormant until she "awakens" in Hawk.
All-Loving Hero: Sort of. The key to Teldra's charm is that it isn't an act — she really, genuinely likes almost everybody. That doesn't stop her from being just as ruthless as any of Vlad's other friends when she decides it's appropriate, however.
Beware the Nice Ones: She genuinely likes people and is probably the kindest of Vlad's friends, but that does not mean it's a good idea to underestimate her.
Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: She manages to disrupt a Jenoine's concentration and the spell it was performing by insulting it at precisely the right time. Also, as befits her House, she struck without warning and managed to wound a Jenoine before she went down.
Empathic Weapon: No, she doesn't have one — as of the end of Issola, she is one.
Guile Hero: Not a trickster, but the kind of Guile Hero who relies on diplomacy, negotiation, charm and finesse rather than deception.
Silk Hiding Steel: She acts with perfect courtesy at all times...but remember that "courtesy" as Teldra defines it means not giving harm or insult to anyone else except intentionally when you judge it to be appropriate.
A ditzy and friendly young Dzur who Vlad meets in the novel Dzur, and is an apprentice to Sethra Lavode. He wields a Great Weapon which it's implied that he was destined to hold. He also appears as narrator in the short story "The Desecrator", which explains how he got the sword.
Affably Evil: Well, he thinks of himself as evil, anyway, and takes great pride in it, but he's really very cheerful and friendly, especially for a Dzur.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: Good and evil are rather ambiguous in the series, but Telnan sort of fits since his positive quality of having no species prejudice is sort of balanced by a negative one of being rather inclined to slaughter anyone who gets in his way.
Multiple-Choice Past: In Dzur, he tells Vlad that he named his sword Nightslayer because it sounds evil andcool. However, in the chronologically earlier "The Desecrator", the sword itself tells him to call it that.
A mysterious little girl who has appeared in most of the books. She many unusual powers, including an apparent ability to travel through time and space at will. The daughter of Aliera and Kieron the Conqueror, conceived while her father was still dead. She may not have actually been born yet, but she's not one to let that stop her.
Shout-Out: Due to Devera's powers, she pops up in many other Steven Brust books, such as To Reign In Hell.
The Hero in the Khaavren Romances and an Expy of D'Artagnan of The Three Musketeers. By the time of the Vlad books, he has become the head of several good-ish Secret Police / State Sec organizations. He's a Tiassa, meaning his specialties are creativity, resourcefulness, and insight.
Real Men Wear Pink: He always wears an ankle-length skirt when fighting (it's the traditional Lyorn warrior costume), and his hobby is crocheting.
"Rashomon"-Style: Either a sorcerer willing to furiously chase down a Teckla who dared stand up to him, or a nonmagical man of such dignity and calm that chastising a Teckla would be less proper than ignoring his insults, depending on who's telling the story. The actual events of that scene will likely never be known.
Starcrossed Lovers: Tazendra loves him, though considering how ingrained his sense of propriety is, he likely never even considered returning it.
No Name Given: Pel also goes by the title of the Duke of Galstan, but Galstan doesn't actually have a duchy, and there is no one on the records of the House of Yendi named Pel. It's a very Yendi sort of title.
Genius Ditz: Tazendra is something of a cloudcuckoolander and sees things in the simplistic terms of a Dzur. Her friends regularly have to explain what's going on when the plot thickens too much for her. In spite of all this, she's a genius wizard and prone to very penetrating insights.
Master of Disguise: In Five Hundred Years After, Mario disguises himself as a Teckla peasant as well as a guardsman of some aristocratic background. It helps that Jhereg are generally a mixture of various Houses.
Memetic Badass: In-Universe: Mario is unquestionably the greatest assassin alive, and he's the go-to example when someone wants to describe the best of the best. When the Phoenix Guards come across an unsolvable murder, they declare "Mario did it".
Red Baron: Vlad and Paarfi give different explanations for why he's called Greymist, but either would count as Earn Your Title.
Shrouded in Myth: He's known as the greatest assassin ever and is a legend among Jhereg, with few knowing which stories about him are true.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Mario is very average looking, while his lover Aliera is noted for her beauty. (Of course, Mario is a Master of Disguise, so the plain guy Vlad meets might not actually be his true appearance.)
Paarfi of Roundwood
A writer from the House of the Hawk, Paarfi is the in-universe author of the Khaavren Romances. His first love is history, but scholarship doesn't pay the bills, and he's not too proud to turn his skills toward adventure novels — especially not after his second book, The Phoenix Guards, turned out to be wildly popular.
The most noble of the Houses. Representing decay and rebirth, they reside at the beginning/end of the Cycle. Phoenix are the best and brightest of the Empire, but as they get older, they slide into decadence and hedonism. Due to the fact that only those born while an actual phoenix is flying overhead are actually counted as a member, they are the smallest house by far. During the Vlad books, only one is left.
Deadly Decadent Court: How most Phoenix reigns end up, with the exception of Zerika I (the first empress) and Zerika IV (the first post-Interregnum empress). Zerika IV opines that the key is knowing to abdicate before decadence sets in, while Paarfi writes Tortaalik's reign as hopelessly adrift from the literal start, though it grows worse with time.
The Hedonist: All Phoenix have a hedonistic streak that gets stronger as they grow older, and eventually becomes overwhelming.
The House of war and conquest. These guys are leaders and warriors, and during the time of most of the books, the second most powerful House. Several major characters belong to the House of the Dragon.
Author Appeal: The House of the Dragon gets more pagetime than a dozen other houses combined.
Blood Knight: They like fights where the odds are against them, the closer to genuinely impossible the better.
Boisterous Bruiser: Dragons fight out of pride, Lyorn fight to defend tradition, Orca fight for money...Dzur fight for the sheer joy of it.
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Not necessarily because they care about compassion or justice, but because nothing is more fun for a Dzur than a really dangerous adventure, and siding with the underdog makes for more of a challenge.
The Ditz: Dzur tend to come across as stupid to most non-Dzur. This isn't exactly true; the Dzur just have a distinctive way of thinking that usually strikes others as straightforward to the point of simplicity.
For this reason, clever Dzur often seem to have Genius Ditz tendencies.
Fearless Fool: By reputation — non-Dzur tend to assume the reason Dzur are always charging headlong into obviously unwinnable battles is that they're Too Dumb to Live. They're wrong, though — it's not that Dzur don't understand impossible odds, they understand just fine and they like it that way.
Silk Hiding Steel: An issola is a beautiful white heron-like bird. But, as Vlad points out, it's also a predator, and when it hunts it'll strike so fast you never even see it move. And then it'll go right back to standing there, looking lovely and graceful. It's particularly notable that the bird strikes by bowing.
Builders and architects. However, they're also associated with destruction — there's mention of book-burnings during previous Vallista reigns. The line summing them up in the verse about the Cycle says, "Vallista rends and then rebuilds."
The house of corruption and greed, Jhereg are primarily associated with organized crime, although not every member of the house is a part of the criminal organization. Male Jhereg mostly join the "Right Hand," a.k.a. "the Organization," which handles your standard assassinations, protection rackets and other mundane crimes; women join "the Left Hand of the Jhereg," a.k.a. "the Bitch Patrol," a separate organization that specializes in illegal sorcery. The Jhereg is also one of two Houses that will openly accept half-breeds, outcasts, and Easterners, the other being House Teckla.
A middle-class House, associated with planning and entrapment. Seems to include a lot of craftsmen — weavers, carpenters, and cobblers have been mentioned. Both associations fit the House animal, which weaves enormous webs.
Jerkass: They are often rather unpleasant both personally and in terms of activities. There's even a scene in Iorich where Vlad bonds with Dragearans of diverse classes and Houses over a shared hatred of the Orca. Not to mention that while Vlad usually learns a lesson about the complexity of a House's traits, the lesson he learns in Orca is that he hates Orca even more than he did previously.
Mooks: Although they're usually thought of as merchant sailors, the House of the Orca is also associated with brutality, so when you need to pay some goons to beat someone up, they're the House you go to. Vlad runs into a lot of Orca mooks.
The peasants. Most live in small rural farming communities; the rest serve nobles as maids or lackeys. The vast majority of Dragaerans are in House Teckla, since anyone can join, but they don't get much of a voice and are usually treated with disdain by all non-Teckla Dragaerans. Even so, they have their place in the Cycle like all other Houses; Teckla always take over through a peasant uprising, and rule the Empire as a Republic during their term in power.
A middle-class House, associated with metamorphosis, change, adaptation and endurance. As they're much less predictable than the other Houses, individual Jhegaala are sometimes treated with mild suspicion by people who don't know them well.
Court Mage: The Imperial Wizard usually comes from this House.
Evil Sorcerer: Some of the nastiest pieces of work in the Empire are Athyra. The Left Hand of the Jhereg was founded by some particularly corrupt Athyra who were booted out of the House.
Lack of Empathy: Vlad says the reason there are so many nasty Athyra out there is that they spend so much time in solitary study and contemplation that they start thinking of people as abstractions, becoming completely divorced from morality and empathy.