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Characters / Red Sparrow

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Trope page for the characters in Jason Matthews's novel Red Sparrow.

For characters introduced in the sequel Palace of Treason, click here.

Beware of possible spoilers!

Nathaniel Nash

Nate is a CIA officer initially stationed in Moscow, tasked with handling the CIA's penetration of the SVR, codenamed MARBLE. He is forced to find another assignment after the Moscow Chief of Station kicks him out, and comes under the leadership of Tom Forsyth and Marty Gable in Helsinki Station. When the SVR starts to realize that Nash may be the key to finding the mole among them, they call on the newly-minted Sparrow Dominika Egorova to follow him to Finland, find out who the mole is by seducing him, and then destroy them both.

  • The Ace: He is noted to have exceptional instincts on the street. Even Dominika defers to his expertise in evading surveillance.
  • Alliterative Name
  • Anger Born of Worry: When Dominika initially agrees to spy for the Americans, she puts herself at risk several times in the process of giving them intelligence she knows they're after. Despite her knack for stealing secrets, Nate is infuriated at her apparent compulsion to endanger herself needlessly. Dominika, although offended at Nate's anger being directed at her, recognizes that he's only doing so out of fear for her safety.
  • Black Sheep: Coming from a Southern family with at least three generations of lawyers, and with his brothers following the same legacy, he broke from tradition by studying Russian and later applying for the CIA. He is deathly afraid of failing as a case officer and having to return home with his tail between his legs.
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  • Chivalrous Pervert: Sleeps with Dominika after recruiting her, and in the sequel, with Hannah in the middle of her training.
  • Consummate Professional: He does manage to keep this up long enough to recruit Dominika before throwing all professionalism out the window by sleeping with her.
  • Could Say It, But...: Part of Nate's last lines to Dominika before she is returned to Moscow in exchange for Korchnoi. She later recalls this part almost word-for-word in the sequel:
    "We don't have time — not remotely enough time — to tell you I'm sorry about what I said to you. There's no time to tell you what you mean to me as a woman, as a lover, as a partner. And there's no time to tell you how much I will miss you."
  • The Handler: Of MARBLE, then later of DIVA. In Palace of Treason, he is given another asset to handle in Athens, codenamed LYRIC.
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  • Locked Out of the Loop: After Benford and Korchnoi initiate their succession plan by using Dominika to expose Korchnoi to the SVR, Nate is deliberately left in the dark. Once Dominika's call to the SVR springs the trap for Korchnoi, he berates her for it, neither of them knowing at the time that the whole thing was planned. After Dominika is left to decide for herself whether to continue Korchnoi's work or leave the spying behind, Nate is kept away from her until right before the spy exchange is arranged, as his superiors decided that his involvement might complicate the important decision she had to make.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: A near-miss in Moscow prompts the COS (Chief of Station) to unceremoniously kick Nate out of Moscow Station. He manages to get a transfer to Helsinki Station afterward, saving him from an embarrassingly early retirement.
    • Reassignment Backfire: Not only did he gain better mentors in Forsyth and Gable, but his actions starting from Helsinki onward have made a bigger impact on Moscow than if he never left the Station.
  • Supporting Protagonist: However big of a part he plays in the story, Dominika is the character that most prominently moves the plot along.

Dominika Vasilyevna Egorova | Доминика Васильевна Егорова

Dominika is the daughter of Vassily Egorov, a university professor, and Nina Egorova, a concert violinist. At the age of 5, a doctor discovered that she had synesthesia, wherein she could perceive sounds and music as visible colors. Remarkably, it turned out she was also able to see colors when looking at people, giving her an uncanny intuition for reading people's intentions and motives. However, her parents made her swear to keep her talent a secret from everybody.

Her synesthesia made music and dance come naturally to her, allowing her to enter ballet school and excel effortlessly. A jealous rival, however, conspired against her, resulting in a broken foot and a permanent end to her dancing career. Right after her dismissal from the ballet academy, her father dies, and during the funeral, her uncle Ivan takes the opportunity to recruit her for an SVR operation.

During her formal training at SVR, she is reassigned to Sparrow School to learn how to become a seductress. After becoming a full-fledged Sparrow, she later gets assigned to track down the SVR mole by seducing Nate Nash, an American CIA officer stationed in Helsinki who is suspected to be the handler for the mole.

  • The Ace: Her synesthesia gives her a practically unfair advantage in almost everything she does, whether in ballet dancing, being an SVR officer, using her Sparrow training to seduce targets, and even navigating the treacherous political waters within the SVR.
  • Agony of the Feet: At the behest of a rival dancer, a male classmate of hers in the ballet academy viciously kicked at her right foot while she was en pointe (standing on her toes), severely fracturing her foot and permanently ending her dancing career. Her foot eventually healed and she was able to walk again, but from then on, she would slightly limp to her right whenever she walked.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis/Super Senses: Her synesthesia enables her to read people's intentions accurately before they even do or say anything. Combined with the skills she was taught in Sparrow School, she has the potential to be a masterful manipulator of people.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Part of the reason she agrees to help Nate and the CIA is because they were the very first people to actually give her a choice on what she wanted to do.
    Nate: I think we should begin working together. Stealing secrets.
    Dominika: For revenge, for Marta, for Rodina, for—
    Nate: No, none of those. Because you need it, Dominika Egorova, because it helps you feed that temper of yours, because it'll be something you own, for once in your life.
    Dominika: That's a very interesting thing to say.
  • Bond One-Liner: While she and Gable are in Greece, him trying to convince her to return to Moscow and continue Korchnoi's work for the Americans, he advises her on her return to "be bitchy," which Dominika translates in Russian as zlobnyj. Two Georgian agents make an attempt to kidnap her, and after she kills both agents, she looks at Gable and says:
    "I will be a little bitchy from now on. Zlobnyj."
  • Broken Pedestal: When she learns that Benford orchestrated the events that made her an unwitting accomplice to Korchnoi's unmasking as the SVR mole, she has a crisis on whether to keep working for the Americans or to leave the spy life behind her for good. Her conclusion is left uncertain even as she agrees to a spy swap for her to return to Moscow in exchange for Korchnoi crossing over to the West.
  • The Captain: She is promoted to this rank at the beginning of Palace of Treason. Accordingly, she is shown to be leading her own intelligence operation for the SVR, employing a fellow Sparrow to keep an Iranian asset in line.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: In Palace of Treason, after having been advised by the CIA to use Red Route Two as an exfiltration plan out of Russia if she needed it, she uses it to save LYRIC instead, refusing to let another colleague die on her watch.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In accordance with her synesthesia, certain colors on people indicate certain character traits for her. It's never elaborated on how her synesthetic perception works this way; possibly a subconscious awareness of facial micro-expressions and body language in general.
  • Covert Distress Code: In Palace of Treason, her CIA communications end with a signature "olga", the lowercase indicating that she's safe and not communicating under enemy pressure.
    • Meaningful Name: She chose her signature after Olga Prekrasna (Olga the Beauty), a medieval Slavic princess who once burned down an enemy's capital by tying sulfur to the feet of hundreds of sparrows that landed on the city and ignited.
  • Cultured Badass: The daughter of highly intellectual parents, and a ballerina in her teens before she became an intelligence officer. In Palace of Treason, though, she mistakenly refers to the classic American movie as "Blown in the Wind."
  • Cynicism Catalyst/I Let Gwen Stacy Die: The death of Marta Yelenova, her only friend in Helsinki, pushes her to go through with her idea to commit treason and expose her true mission to Nate.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: In her teenage years, she learned to explore her sexual side, which she calls her "secret self," with the help of a brush that she inherited from her Prababushka (great-grandmother) which she uses to masturbate on several occasions.
  • Death by Sex: The marks she seduces are eventually arrested by the SVR. Played straight in her first assignment under her uncle, where a rival of Putin's is killed while he was having sex with her.
  • Death Glare: Gives her uncle one before agreeing to his order for her to go to Sparrow School.
  • Determinator: Successfully withstands torture after returning to Moscow under suspicion, never giving away the fact that she had already been turned by the Americans.
  • Double Agent: A Russian SVR officer spying for the CIA, codenamed DIVA.
  • Eye Scream: When one of Dominika's SVR Academy classmates tries to sexually assault her in the shower, she takes a loose faucet and jams it into his eye.
  • Femme Fatale Spy
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In Palace of Treason, after perceiving that Nate has a peculiar relationship with Hannah, her Moscow handler, she is plagued with jealousy all the way up to their first meeting. She even flaunts her seduction of Yevgeny because of this.
  • Handicapped Badass: Having to walk with a slight limp makes her no less of a badass.
  • Haunted Heroine: Starting in Palace of Treason, she begins seeing visions of the dead women in her past, including her late mother, Marta Yelenova, and her Sparrow School classmate Marte (possibly the real name of the girl referred to as Anya in Red Sparrow). They are later joined by Udranka and Hannah Archer. Strangely, she actually welcomes the hauntings, telling Nate that Russians are familiar with the feeling.
  • Hidden Depths: Palace of Treason reveals she's very particular about her shoes, even having the SVR make her steel-toed boots. Nate's awkward reaction to said boots annoys her at one point.
  • Honey Trap: How the SVR intended to use her as a Sparrow. She had other ideas.
  • Hot-Blooded: She can get spiteful, defiant and vindictive towards people she dislikes.
  • In Harm's Way/Thrill Seeker: In Gable's words, "Some agents drink adrenaline." This initially causes a lot of friction between her and Nate once she begins spying for him.
  • In Love with the Mark: She initiates the physical relationship with Nate, though to be fair, this is only one of many factors in her decision to help him, and it happened after she chose to do so.
  • It Runs in the Family: Some of her defining traits came from her parents, including her volatile temper, subversive nature, and calculating intellect.
  • Klingon Promotion: Palace of Treason ends with her becoming the new head of Line KR after killing Zyuganov.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: The more she works for the SVR, the more she comes to realize how little Russia actually cared for its people and those that devote their lives to the Rodina (Motherland).
  • Made of Iron: Survives multiple attempts on her life in Palace of Treason.
  • The Mole: For the Americans, after Nate recruits her.
  • Sensual Slavs: A very attractive Russian woman, described once as "like a Greek statue."
  • Took a Level in Badass: The first chapter of the sequel Palace of Treason has her learning Sistema, the martial art of the Russian military.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Benford and Korchnoi's plan to have her become the new CIA penetration of SVR hinges on her being the one to expose Korchnoi as the mole and, more importantly, her not being aware of doing so. After their plan works, she is enraged when Benford tells her how she was used to betray her beloved mentor.

General Vladimir Andreiyevich Korchnoi | Владимир Андреевич Корчной

Korchnoi is the head of the Americas Department of the SVR. The CIA recognizes him as MARBLE, their most sensitive penetration of the SVR, having been spying for them for over a decade. As the SVR begins to hunt down the traitor in their midst, namely himself, he sees a potential way for his work to continue in the form of Dominika Egorova and her continued interaction with CIA officer Nate Nash, who happens to be his handler.

  • Batman Gambit/The Strategist: Along with Simon Benford, he orchestrates a plan to have Dominika replace him and continue his work by having her be the one to turn him in as the mole.
  • Covert Distress Code: His communications with the CIA have him sign off as "niko", the lowercase indicating that he isn't transmitting under duress or while being tortured.
  • Double Agent: An SVR general working for the Americans for 14 years prior to the start of the novel.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: His plan involves him being exposed as the SVR mole so that Dominika will be credited as the heroine who turned him in.
  • The Mole: His role all throughout the novel.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dominika regards him as a father-figure; in fact, to her synesthetic eye, he has the same purple aura as her father Vassily (and Nate). She is later assigned under his leadership, allowing him to introduce himself as the SVR mole their agency has been hunting all throughout the story.
  • Sacrificial Lion: The Americans agree to trade Dominika for his safe transfer to the West. Putin instead has him assassinated before the exchange can be completed.

Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov | Иван Дмитриевич Егоров

Ivan (referred to throughout the novel as Vanya) is the First Deputy Director of the SVR, as well as Dominika's uncle. When his brother Vassily died, he swooped in to recruit his niece Dominika to work for him in the SVR, using her to entrap a Putin rival, and eventually sending her to the SVR Academy, then Sparrow School afterward. When he hears of a mole within the SVR, and that an American officer named Nash appears to be the traitor's handler, he decides to send his niece to use her Sparrow skills to find the mole and eliminate him.

  • Affably Evil: He always acts like a concerned uncle toward Dominika when he's not making decisions for her against her will.
  • Bad Boss: The fact that he thinks nothing of using even his own niece for his purposes says enough about his leadership.
  • Create Your Own Hero: His poor treatment of Dominika made her start to entertain thoughts of committing treason against Russia; not to mention that he gave her all the opportunities for her to antagonize her country in the most insidious possible manner.
  • Creepy Uncle: Dominika is initially recruited by him to seduce a political rival.
  • The Heavy: The most overt conspirator throughout the novel.
  • In-Series Nickname: Vanya, the diminutive form of his given name. Even in the narration, he is practically never called Ivan.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Repeatedly threatens Dominika's mother to keep her doing his bidding, and later sets a "canary trap" to find the mole among his colleagues.
  • Put on a Bus: As of Palace of Treason, he has been put into forced retirement after Dominika succeeds where he failed in catching the SVR mole.
  • Shout-Out: Uncle Vanya is one of the most well-known Russian plays in the theater world.

Sergey Matorin | Сергей Маторин

Matorin is a veteran of the Afghan War, nicknamed "Khyber." He gained a reputation for being a monstrous, sadistic killer after he gutted an Afghan girl that he and his fellow soldiers took hostage using a two-foot knife, the memory of which he recalls fondly. He is employed by the SVR as a "mechanic" (an executioner). Occasionally, he uses the Khyber knife he once wielded back in Afghanistan, which he still maintains and trains with, for his assignments.

  • Ax-Crazy: His fondest memory is of killing a girl in Afghanistan, and his assassinations are a means for him to relive that again in his mind.
  • The Brute: He does most of the killing for the other villains in the story.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Dominika kills him using the very injections he was supposed to use to interrogate and kill her.
  • Knife Nut: Wields a two-foot-long Khyber knife.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Described as "a loner who liked to kill people."
  • Psycho for Hire/Sociopathic Soldier: Gained a thirst for killing after his time in Afghanistan, and has been employed for it since.
  • Red Right Hand: His right eye was blinded in the war, leaving it an opaque white. This makes his appearance all the more terrifying for those who live to tell the tale.

Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin | Владимир Владимирович Путин

Putin is the President of Russia. As the SVR remains unable to unmask the traitor among them, he secretly employs several other people to involve themselves in the hunt in other ways. Under his leadership, the most unforgivable crime anybody can do in his Russia is to embarrass him in front of the rest of the world, and he will make sure that never happens by any means necessary.

  • Bigger Bad: Whatever the other villains do, they're still underlings to him.
  • The Corrupter: In the sequel Palace of Treason, Dominika notes that he is fond of pitting subordinates against each other and making sure that he has informants at every level.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: His reputation is at stake with whatever his officers do.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: One has to wonder what the real-life Vladimir Putin would think of being fictionalized this way.
  • President Evil: He apparently aspires to have the old Stalin-era Russia back.
  • Sadist: In a very uncomfortable scene in Palace of Treason, Dominika attempts to initiate sexual contact with him when he enters her bedroom. Her efforts seem to have no effect on him until he starts giving her orders to assassinate someone, after which she notes that he got aroused immediately. Fortunately for her, he leaves her room before things went any further.
  • The Unfettered: Compared to all the other villains, he can act with complete impunity, without anybody having the gall to question him.

Alexei Ivanovich Zyuganov | Алексеи Иванович Зюганов

Zyuganov is the head of the counterintelligence division of the SVR (Line KR). He first started his career as a torturer in the Lubyanka prisons before landing his current job in the SVR, where he employs the same paranoia, ruthlessness, and sadism he started with in the torture cells to the hunt for the mole within the agency.

  • Ascended Extra: After Vanya is out of the picture in the sequel Palace of Treason, he is given much greater focus.
  • Big Bad: Of the sequel.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Dominika kills him with a lipstick gun to his head.
  • The Dragon: He employs the "mechanics," the various assassins that turn up throughout the story.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: His mother Ekaterina is probably the only other person next to Putin that he holds in high regard. And yet when she tries to convince her son to turn himself in, he doesn't hesitate to kill her.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: In Palace of Treason, the constant attention and praise Dominika gets from Putin makes him insanely jealous, prompting him to hinder her progress as much as he can.
  • The Heavy: The most prominent antagonist in Palace of Treason.
  • Nepotism: A beneficiary of this from his well-connected mother.
  • The Paranoiac: Predisposed to suspect the worst in people.
  • Sadist: His sole pleasure in life is torturing people; in fact, he even wears a special coat whenever he's about to begin a session. From Dominika's synesthetic point-of-view, he has a black aura in the shape of bat-like wings, similar to the equally unhinged Matorin.
  • Schemer: He conspires to make things as hard for Dominika as possible in Palace of Treason.
  • Torture Technician: A very meticulous one, noting the efficacy of particular striking points, and always exploring new tools to use in the cells.

Helsinki Chief of Station Tom Forsyth

Forsyth is the Helsinki Chief of Station (COS) when Nate Nash is kicked out of Moscow and reassigned under his employ. He mentors Nate while he's struggling to recover from the blow to his career, and eventually provides assistance in dealing with Dominika and her eventual decision to spy for them.

  • Love Makes You Dumb: In sympathizing with Nate's complicated situation with Dominika, he tells him a story of how one of the assets he recruited in Rome was a woman that he had a sexual relationship with. The woman became a little too overeager to steal intelligence for him, and she was eventually caught.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He decides not to fire Nate once he learns of him having slept with Dominika.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Gable's red. Incidentally, Dominika synesthetically perceives him as having a blue aura.

Helsinki Deputy Chief of Station Marty Gable

Gable is Forsyth's second-in-command. When Nate Nash arrives at their Station, he steps in to keep Nate from acting too rashly and imparts his vast experience in handling agents, teaching him about making them first priority.

  • Affectionate Nickname: Dominika calls him Bratok, Russian for "dear brother".
    • Big Brother Instinct: He does live up to his nickname, being the agent she trusts the most, second only to Nate.
  • Catchphrase: "Jesus wept." Turns up more frequently in the sequel.
  • Country Matters: His list of "singular pleasures in life" includes "eating breakfast in bed with cunty fingers."
    • Brick Joke: When he intuits that Nate and Dominika have just slept together right before he went back to their safehouse, after she leaves, Gable asks Nate to rub his fingers on the rim of his glass.
  • Hidden Depths: In Palace of Treason, Nate learns to his surprise that Gable actually knows what it's like to be too emotionally invested in somebody while working as a spy, and how detrimental it can be in the course of their duties.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Very outspoken, but always well-intentioned.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Provides invaluable guidance to Nate as a handler, and acts as an objective mediator and the voice of reason regarding his precarious relationship with Dominika.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The red to Forsyth's blue.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Tends to make a lot of lewd metaphors and is generally given to profanity.

Marta Yelenova | Марта Еленова

Marta is a veteran SVR officer stationed in Helsinki. She befriends Dominika when the latter gets assigned there.

  • The Confidant: To Dominika. She eventually tells her everything about her life, and how Marta, having been a Sparrow herself, understands what she's going through.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: She was a former Sparrow, and was even regarded as "Queen Sparrow" in her prime.
  • Sacrificial Lamb/She Knows Too Much: Vanya has her killed after she invokes Ustinov in an argument with her superior, not knowing that Dominika was strictly sworn to secrecy about that incident. Her disappearance seals Dominika's resolve to spite Russia and the cruel institution that killed her.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Her reputation among many former KGB officials made sure she was untouchable within the SVR.

Chief of Counterintelligence Simon Benford

Benford is the chief of the CIA's Counterintelligence Division. He has been monitoring the MARBLE case throughout its 14 years, and later gets directly involved as the SVR closes in on MARBLE.

  • Big Good: The highest-ranked American officer among the protagonists.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He is noted several times to be as eccentric as he is effective.
  • Exact Words: From Palace of Treason, while reprimanding Nate for sleeping with Hannah aside from already maintaining a physical relationship with Dominika:
    Benford: Nash, you're fairly fucked up. But I empathize with you.
    Nate: This never happened to you.
    Benford: Let me continue the Sisyphean task of expanding your vocabulary. One feels empathy when one has been there; sympathy when one has not.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: He doesn't bother justifying himself to Dominika once she finds out what she inadvertently did to expose Korchnoi. Instead, he simply lays out the plans that they both made, emphasizing that what happened was according to Korchnoi's own design, and tells Dominika that it falls to her to honor the sacrifice he made.
  • The Mentor: To Nate once they embark on finding the American mole leaking military information to the SVR.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: To his slight consternation, nobody in the CID (Counterintelligence Division) knows who Pat Benatar is when he tries using the name in a metaphor.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: His erudition is most evident when he's berating people.

Senator Stephanie Boucher

Boucher is a Democratic senator from California who has secretly been spying for the Russians. The SVR had codenamed her LEBED (SWAN in English), and her position allowed her to send very sensitive military secrets to Moscow. She has no allegiance to anything or anyone but herself, and is simply concerned with doing what she wants when she wants to.

  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After asking the Russians for a cyanide pill, she is instead given a poisoned needle, which she immediately uses when the FBI attempts to arrest her in her home.
  • Evil Counterpart: Of Dominika. Whereas Dominika is passionately idealistic, Boucher is singularly narcissistic.
  • Manipulative Bitch: It's hinted that she set her mother up to be killed by her own father.
  • The Mole: To the Russians.
  • Really Gets Around: Had this reputation during her teens. She even propositions her SVR handler Golov just for kicks.
  • The Sociopath: Noted to be utterly ruthless.


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