- Badass Crew: The boys were all trained by Thorn, the World's Best Warrior, so that they range from "highly competent" (in Skandian terms) to flat-out badass.
- Deadpan Snarker: All of them, save Ulf and Wulf (and even they get a few moments).
- Fire-Forged Friends: How they graduated from a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to a Badass Crew with Undying Loyalty to each other.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
- Vitriolic Best Buds: While they may argue with one another, they're also devoted to each other.
- Underestimating Badassery: A girl, a bunch of teenage boys, and a one-handed old man? What harm could they possibly be? Almost everyone underestimates them...and everyone regrets it.
Hal is the main character of the series. He is half-Araluen and half-Skandian. Hal's father Mikkel was a successful Skandian warrior. Unfortunately, he was killed in a raid, leaving Hal and his Araluen mother, a former slave, living alone. Hal is highly resourceful; he invented the Heron sail plan and came up with a variety of plans to win the day throughout the series. He is The Leader of the team. A running gag throughout the books is Hal's tendency to miss out "little details" on his inventions, which promptly causes them to break and generally creates a mess, a fact that Stig and Thorn are fond of teasing Hal about.
- The Ace: Is an expert inventor, navigator, and strategist, as well as a natural leader and expert swordsman.
- All of the Other Reindeer: The Skandians (at first) look down on him for being half-Araulen, and it's mentioned that some Araulens see him as being an outsider for being half-Skandian. This is mostly averted following his recovery of the Andomal, but not completely.
- Badass Bookworm: He's both an expert swordsman and an inventor, as well as having an expert knowledge of winds and tides.
- Deadpan Snarker: Hal is seldom hurtful, but he will often throw out zingers, especially at Thorn.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Constantly coming up with inventions such as Ingvar's spectacles and the desert rider.
- Good Is Not Soft: Generally a Nice Guy, but will not hesitate to snap at his crew or to kill enemies in combat.
- Guile Hero: In later books, the Heron's standard plan for any problem is either Attack! Attack! Attack!, or "wait for Hal to figure out a way around it."
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Mentioned to be blond, like many Skandians, and overall a pretty Nice Guy.
- In the Blood: From the little we see of Mikkel, he was a Nice Guy and Master Swordsman, traits which passed on to his son.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: As the skirl, he is a fair and kind leader to the other Herons, though not afraid to throw his weight around if necessary.
- Ship Tease: With Lydia.
- The Strategist: He has a fair few of these moments—while Thorn does have some understanding of battle strategy, it's usually Hal who gets them into the best position for Thorn to lead the attack.
- Took a Level in Badass: Like the other Herons, he gets more confident and mature over the course of the books, and becomes The Leader.
Stig is Hal's best friend and first mate of Hal's crew. He met Hal when he slipped into the ocean, and would have drowned if not for Hal's help. Stig has a habit of losing his temper but learns to control it through time. He is very athletic and considered the best warrior in the Heron Brotherband, though he never lets this get into his head and still respects Hal's decisions as the skirl. Stig tends to be awkward around girls his age, in which he either speaks too little or much. It is hinted and shown that he has feelings for Lydia just like Hal, though he refuses to let it come between him and Hal. In Book 6, he falls in love with a young woman and considers leaving the Brotherband for her. However, she dies. Book 7 continues the Character Development by having his father come back and ask for help.
- A Day in the Limelight: Book 6, in some ways, focuses on him even more than Hal.
- An Axe to Grind: And he's very, very good at it. Gilan explicitly compares him to Horace.
- Berserk Button: Formerly, anyone insulting his loved ones. Thankfully, his Character Development mostly wipes this out.
- Character Development: Even though all the characters get some, he has some of the most in the series. Stig goes from having a Hair-Trigger Temper to refusing to be insulted by Duncan's bad choice of words. He also gains more Character Development during the course of Book 6.
- Disappeared Dad: His father ran off and left him and his mother high and dry. This used to be a major Berserk Button for him when he was younger, and he's still pretty upset by it. Olaf returns in Book 7, and while Stig tries to get close to him, he eventually gives it up.
- Dumb Muscle: He isnt stupid but his temper often gets the better of him and clouds his judgment. Thankfully, this happens less and less as time goes by.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Stig goes from "loyal and caring friend" to "bash your skull in" at the drop of a hat, especially when his friends are insulted or in danger.
- The Lancer: To Hal as his first mate, and to Thorn in battle situations as his second-in-command.
- Socially Awkward Hero: He improves as he gains friends among the brotherband and becomes more confident.
- Ship Tease: With Lydia.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Is this to Olaf, understandably.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Not afraid to give one to Hal if necessary, and gives a savage one, combined with a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, to his father in Book 7.
Ulf and Wulf
Ulf and Wulf are the twins in the Heron Brotherband and are sail handlers for the Heron. Like most twins, there is a special bond between them. They swear at each other and make nasty remarks about the other's appearance (even though they look exactly the same so no one, not even their mother, can tell them apart) and are constantly fighting. However, when sail handling, they work like well-oiled clockwork. Despite trying to get each other in trouble and fighting regularly, if someone tries to harm one of the twins, the other twin will turn on him/her with vengeance.
- Always Identical Twins: Even the narrator can't always tell them apart! Usually Played for Laughs
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: They are constantly arguing with each other and rarely show affection, but, as mentioned above, they show their love for each other when Ulf is injured.
- Exact Words: Enjoy using these to mess with people.
- The Gadfly: They love messing with their crewmates, especially by pretending to be each other.
- Hidden Depths: Hal suspects that they sometimes bicker in order to lighten the morale. They're also smarter than someone might guess.
- They may not look like much, but they're considered to be two of the best warriors in the crew after Stig and Thorn.
- Single-Minded Twins: Wulf and Ulf are so identical, even their own mother cannot tell them apart. Hal, during Brotherband training, tied a rope around Wulf's wrist so he could tell them apart. However, since Wulf and Ulf love to annoy others by switching identities, Wulf tied the rope on Ulf's wrist. This is Played for Laughs during the Maktig contest, when they end up fighting each other to a draw and inflicting the exact same injuries to each other multiple times!
- Trickster Twins: A classic example of this trope, constantly enjoying messing with people.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: They will argue about anything and everything, but care deeply about each other.
Edvin is a member of the Heron Brotherband. He is usually the first member of the Heron's to voice his thoughts, his tongue some times getting him into trouble. Both the healer and the chef, he's a vital member of the crew, and later becomes even more so when Hal trains him to take the helm if necessary. He's also responsible for providing the knitted watch caps for the Herons.
- Badass Bookworm: Edvin is the most book-smart out of the Herons (except possibly Hal), and a very dangerous warrior.
- Deadpan Snarker: It's quieter than, say, Hal or Lydia, but there.
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Gets into this a fair bit during the first part of Book 3, feeling useless and unable to help Ingvar.
- In Touchwith His Feminine Side: Knows how to knit and shows no shame about it.
- The Medic: He is this, and does his very best. This is also somewhat deconstructed, as the series shows the weight of responsibility he feels looking after a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
- The Quiet One: While he's definitely not The Voiceless, Edvin doesn't chatter for the heck of it, either.
- Team Chef: Almost all of the Herons' meals are made by him, and he's in charge of procuring supplies.
Jesper is one of Hal's crew in the Heron Brotherband. Jesper was a thief and has been known to steal bracelets off people's wrists while talking to them just to prove he had the skill. He does always return them, though. Jesper is also a very fast runner as people do not appreciate him stealing their things, but known to complain a lot (which has sparked Hal, Stig and Thorn's ire on several occasions). He also is very good at picking locks and stealth. Despite leaving those days behind him, he still keeps his lock picking tools, which he uses to break them out of jail in the third book.
- Affectionate Pickpocket
- Character Development: Becomes less lazy and less of a complainer as time goes by-in Book 7, he barely kvetches at all.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He's not the smartest, and is sometimes pretty lazy, but he's also brave and a highly skilled fighter.
- Hidden Depths: Even at his laziest, he's still a valued and skillful member of the team.
- Impossible Thief: Jesper is able to steal the armband of a man he is talking to.
- Lovable Rogue: Both a pickpocket and a pretty nice guy.
- Undying Loyalty: He may be a bit of a rogue, but Jesper will go to the wall for Hal and the other Herons.
Stefan is the wise-guy and mimic of the Herons. His sharp wit is only aimed at those who have large egos or boastful without being able to back it up, like Tursgud. In the third book, he created a saga entitled "The Saga of Hal and the Heron Brotherband." along with Jesper, which they sang at the party celebrating the Heron Brotherband's return.
- Deadpan Snarker: One of the best in the crew, which is saying something.
- Out of Focus: He gets very little screentime after the first book, often just being mentioned in group scenes. This is briefly lampshaded in book 5, and somewhat remedied afterwards.
- The Gadfly: Occasionally uses his mimicry skills to mess with people.
- Those Two Guys: With Jesper, while they sing their saga together.
- Voice Changeling: He can't actually shape-shift, but is a highly talented mimic.
Ingvar is an extremely strong and solidly built sixteen-year-old boy, but his eyesight means he would do more harm than good in battle. He is the only person who can load Hal's giant crossbow, the Mangler, because of his immense strength. He is extremely loyal to Hal and has enormous faith in Hal's abilities as a warrior and navigator. He is also very close to Lydia. After he becomes disheartened about his eyesight, Hal makes him a sort of early pair of spectacles out of tortoiseshell making him a formidable warrior.
- Berserk Button: Do not insult Hal or Lydia while he's around.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Ingvar may be a generally kind person, but he's also a Heron, and by far the strongest amongst them.
- Blind Without 'Em: Hal makes Ingvar a pair of spectacles later on in the book, keeping him from leaving the Brotherband. Before this, Ingvar was extremely short-sighted.
- Gentle Giant: One of the kindest people in the whole series. However, his poor sight makes it hard to avoid people.
- The Heart: Hal explicitly calls him this in Book 5.
- Hidden Depths: Smarter than he looks, and capable of impressive combat skills in his own milieu, even before he Took a Level in Badass.
- Ill Boy: In the first couple chapters of The Hunters after being injured in the last book.
- Nice Guy: One of the genuinely kindest people on the crew.
- Ship Tease: With Lydia.
- Strong and Skilled: Ingvar becomes this after he Took a Level in Badass.
- Strong, but Unskilled: How Ingvar started out-he had lots of power, but little skill to put behind it, since training was difficult for him.
- Super Strength: Downplayed (it's definitely within regular human limits), but his muscular power is a byword among the crew.
- 10-Minute Retirement: When he feels that his eyesight makes him a liability, he briefly offers to resign in Book 5. Hal talks him out of it.
- Took a Level in Badass: After Hal makes him his spectacles, Ingvar takes several.
16-year-old Lydia lived in the town of Limmat, and has long dark glossy hair and olive skin, and is described by the Heron crew as stunningly beautiful. In the battle led by Zavac, her grandfather was killed while trying to defend the city. She leaves her home and helps the Herons in the battle against Zavac. She is extremely accurate with an atlatl and an expert tracker. Thorn admires the younger girl greatly and teases her as a sign of affection and respect. She has Ship Tease with both Hal and Stig, but Karina advises her not to be in a hurry to choose between them until she knew and was ready. She seems to also like and admire Ingvar, and the two quickly form a one-of-a kind bond. Lydia is typically tough and tomboyish, though she occasionally displays her more feminine side.
- Action Girl: She is just as dangerous as any of the Herons, and more so than some.
- Amazonian Beauty: Hal, Stig, Ingvar and Barat find her to be this, though Barat doesn't seem to respect it.
- Berserk Button: Calling her a keeper, mostly due to her annoyance at Barat saying they would be married someday without her consent.
- Conveniently an Orphan: Once her grandfather is dead, she has nothing stopping her from joining the Heron crew.
- Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: She is mostly a long-range fighter, while the Herons (Mangler aside) are only short-range.
- Just Friends: Despite what many, including Roland himself, think, she and Roland really are just this.
- Not So Above It All: Although usually quiet and solemn, she occasionally cracks jokes and puns, and reacts with dismay when she has nothing to wear to a party.
- Pragmatic Hero: Her reason for using a wooden-tipped dart instead of an arrowhead? A dying man would make more noise.
- Socially Awkward Hero: Zigzagged. Having lived with only her grandfather for a long time, she's often not very eloquent, but has a surprisingly good grasp of tact (when she bothers).
- Ship Tease: With Hal, Stig and, in the eyes of some, Ingvar.
- Sixth Ranger: To the Herons, as she's the last human character to join them, the only girl, and has a different skill set.
- Smurfette Principle: She's the "Sister of the Brotherband," and the most prominent female character of Books 2-4. This is lampshaded in a couple of places.
- Stealth Expert: Aside from Thorn, Lydia is by far the sneakiest of the Herons. Justified, as a huntress who doesn't know how to move quietly ends up hungry.
- The Stoic: Usually doesn't talk very much, and most of the time stays focused and serious. It's implied that this is at least partially due to not having had much human interaction.
- Tomboy: Doesn't usually wear dresses, and hunts and fights better than many men. This is occasionally lampshaded, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively.
- Tomboyish Ponytail: Holds her hair back with a black ribbon.
- Tomboywitha Girly Streak: Lydia is typically tough and tomboyish, though she later displays a more girlish side of herself when she despairs over what to wear to the party of Hallasholm with Karina coming to her aid.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Thorn.
Thorn was a close friend of Hal's father, Mikkel. He lost his right hand during a storm at sea and was, in his early years, the Maktig (meaning "the Mighty One", a title for the greatest warrior in Skandia) three years in a row, which no one had ever done (the longest running besides him was only one year). After losing his hand, he sank into a drunken depression for several years until Karina gave him a What the Hell, Hero? speech, offering him a place to live and a job as Hal's Parental Substitute, on the condition he stop drinking. Thorn agreed, and became a second father to Hal. The boy made him a custom hook to place over his arm, and a war club to fit replace the hook when in battle. Thorn is greatly admired by the Heron crew, who consistently believe that despite the loss of his hand and losing the title Maktig because of it, Thorn is still the greatest warrior of all.
- The Ace: When you're the only one in the history of Skandia to win the Maktig competition more than once (and then do it again-twice), you definitely qualify as this.
- Almighty Janitor: Was once the Maktig three times consecutively, a feat never been done before or since. He would rather keep it under wraps.
- Berserk Button: Bringing up his past as Maktig, or insulting Hal. He eventually gets over it.
- Cool Old Guy: Was once Maktig three times in a row, and can kick all kinds of ass.
- Dare to Be Badass/Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Gives a speech along these lines to Hal in Book 2.
- The Gadfly: Enjoys messing with Hal and Lydia.
- Eccentric Mentor: To a certain extent. While he's not, say, Dumbledore, Thorn clearly enjoys coming up with various tasks for the boys to do which help them with their battle skills, but also look rather odd-such as practicing their agility by sparring on greased logs, or doing the duck-walk in order to build leg muscles.
- Handicapped Badass: He's missing his right hand, but still is a Master Swordsman and equally competent with an axe.
- Hidden Depths: Stig is surprised that he's actually quite a good dancer, but Hal points out that anyone who's that good of a warrior will naturally be a great dancer with just a little practice. He's also intelligent, though not much for book learning.
- The Lancer: To Hal, in a way—while everyone, including Thorn himself, respects Hal's authority while at sea, he is the undisputed leader once they go into combat.
- Master of All: He beat out every other competitor in contests of sword, axe, wilderness survival, and wrestling three years in a row.
- Parental Substitute: To Hal. This is invoked in Book 1, and he takes it very seriously.
- Ship Tease: With Karina. They Do in Book 4.
- Strategy Versus Tactics: While a master at interpersonal combat, he's not so great at grand battle strategy, generally leaving that to Hal and Gilan.
- Team Dad: He is certainly this to the Herons, especially to Hal and Lydia.
- Underestimating Badassery: It's a Running Gag that Thorn is shabby, unkempt, and seldom bathes. He's getting on in years, missing a hand, and acts as an odd-job man around the Heron. He's also very probably the single most dangerous warrior in the entire 'verse.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Lydia.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Was on the end of this from Karina in Book 1, and gave one to Olaf in Book 7.
- World's Best Warrior: He beat Gilan twice in a row during a sparring match, and won the Maktig competition three times in a row.
A sheepdog adopted by Hal in Book 4, she is the final member of their crew. Her size is a Running Gag, as is her habit of chewing on anything and everything in sight.—-
- Big Eater: She will chew on anything, from shoes to axe handles. The latter causes Hal, in particular, quite a bit of trouble
- Big Guy: Defeats many enemies just by sitting on them.
- Canine Companion: Obviously.
- Sixth Ranger: Is the last of the crew to join the Herons.
- Verbal Tic: How she gets her name.
Erak Starfollower, Oberjarl of Skandia
Oberjarl (or leader) of the Skandians, an excellent friend to have, and a terrible enemy. Do not insult his ship.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: It's Skandia. What do you expect?
- An Axe to Grind: Like most Skandians.
- Berserk Button: Do not imply that any ship is better than Wolfwind, or mess with his precious axe.
- Boisterous Bruiser: As per the norm with Skandians.
- Cultured Badass: Likes to think of himself as one. Whether he actually is one...is up for debate.
- Deadpan Snarker: Quite a bit.
- The Mentor: To Hal, though he has to be a little hands-off since he can't show too much favour to any one particular person.
- No Hero to His Valet: Svengal mocks him mercilessly.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He's understandably furious in Book 1 about the loss of the Andomal, though he gives Hal a way out. He also sticks up for Hal throughout the series, such as at the Navigator's Guild meeting in Book 7.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Still keeps his hand in by going on the occasional raid and collecting taxes (read: sneaking into a jarl's house, seizing him by the beard, and threatening mayhem if any and all taxes are not paid right there and then).
- Smarter Than You Look: He may seem like a typical Skandian Boisterous Bruiser, but he has his occasional moments of cunning. He also understands that even though he's not a tactician, it's a very useful skill to have, and encourages it in Hal.
- Unstoppable Rage: When he goes berserker.
Hal's mother and former Araulen slave, who fell in love with and freed her. She is not someone you want to cross, but generally a loving and kind woman. She was hinted to have some Ship Tease with Thorn as early as Book 2, and they become an Official Couple in Book 4.
- All of the Other Reindeer: She is an Araulen woman living in Skandia, and some won't let her forget that she used to be a slave.
- Almighty Mom: To Hal.
- Beta Couple: With Thorn.
- Deadpan Snarker: She has her moments.
- Parental Substitute: To Stig and Lydia, the latter of whom is an orphan and the former of whom is an outcast.
One of Hal's rivals in the brotherband competitions. While the Herons all undergo positive character development, he becomes even worse.
- Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: A very dangerous Skandian, and complete jerk.
- Character Development: Undergoes a negative example of this trope, going from a bully to a truly cruel man.
- Foil: To Hal. Both very good swordsmen, leaders of their respective brotherbands, and skilled navigators. But while Tursgud looks out only for himself and doesn't care about others, Hal is a Humble Hero who always takes care of his team.
- It's All About Me: Usually has this mindset.
- The Leader: Type Headstrong. It doesn't do him too many favors.
- Hidden Depths: He may appear to be a typical Skandian bruiser, but he's quite intelligent as well, such as when he lured the Heron into a shoal.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Becomes even more so in later books.
A ruthless pirate, he steals the Andomal, takes over Lydia's hometown of Limmat, and eventually flees to Raguza for safety before being challenged to a duel by Hal, which he loses.
- Bad Boss: Is completely fine with ensuring that his subordinate gets killed for talking.
- Big Bad: Of the first three books. His theft of the Andomal spurs the Herons to chase him.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Zavac never has so much as a Pet the Dog moment-everything he does is purely evil and self-serving, with one possible exception-see Pragmatic Villainy.
- Exact Words: Promised to "make the pain stop" to get a tortured ship captain to talk. As soon as the man has told Zavac what he wants to know, Zavac kills him.
- For the Evulz: Doesn't have any overarching motivation, other than pure greed.
- Hate Sink: Completely irredeemable, and clearly intended to be one. Reactions to him vary between grudging obedience from his crew and absolute hatred from the heroes. Even other pirates don't like him very much.
- I Lied: Pulls one of these on a Skandian trader in Book 1.
- Knife Nut: Enjoys using these, though he also uses a curved sword in battle.
- Pragmatic Villainy: The one instance he doesn't initiate a mass murder for the sake of it (not killing any of the Herons who are guarding the Andomal) is for the sole reason that killing eight men would be about impossible to do without raising the alarm. Zavac still goes out of his way to cut the throats of two of the guardsmen anyways.
- Would Hurt a Child: Zavac's introductory scene in The Outcasts has him taking the young nephew of the Skandian trader whose vessels he's massacred hostage to extract informationa about the Andomal. Once he's finished prying information, Zavac orders the kid drowned with his uncle.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Seems to be quite fond of invoking this trope.