Juliet: 18. She’s been orphaned by the war and lives alone on a border town between the rebel-controlled mountains and the government-controlled plains. She’s a hunter and a skilled woodsman. She’s instinctual and has a hot temper. Her best friend and first love, Jim, is murdered by government soldiers. After killing them she flees for her life, and hitches a ride with a local group of coyotes. The Witch – and Jim – keep showing up to both guide and confuse her.
Ishmael: 30s. He was a child soldier for the rebels during the early days of the war and managed to get out during a brief cease-fire. He moved to another country, married and had a son, Marcus. But now that Marcus is the age his father was when he was fighting, Ishmael’s having horrible flashbacks. He’s becoming more aggressive and sees the Witch in his nightmares. Worried that he’s losing his mind, he returns to the war zone to seek out the Witch and find forgiveness for his past crimes. He’s a gifted storyteller.
Shirin: 40s. A shopkeeper in a small town. Her son, Bijan, had one of his arms amputated by a rebel as a child. Now he’s 17. Shirin spends all her extra money to send him to a U.N. mission where he can get a prosthetic arm. But the day after Bijan leaves, Shirin’s store is looted and her best friend shot. While at the local hospital, she sees the Witch turning the less fortunate patients into zombies. She rescues her friend, stealing an army jeep in the process. Wanted by the government for theft, she hitches a ride with the coyotes. She’s a shrewd negotiator, a skilled artist, and one of the few people old enough to remember the country before the war.
Sarah: 19. She’s a member of a small group of scavengers. They cling to the outskirts of the Haunted City and salvage scrap metal and vehicles from the highway. It’s dangerous work: they’re shot at by both sides, and the Taks never give them a good trade for their salvage. She’s got an infant daughter, Ella. She wants to get out of the scavenger life but isn’t sure how. The Witch appears in her dreams, alternately kidnapping and trying to save her child.
Taladesh: Late 40s. He’s a doctor who falls in love with Shirin. He’s spent the better part of five years as a slave to a god named Natron, and was an army surgeon before then. He’s seeking forgiveness for crimes he committed while he worked in the army, and is also trying to find some happiness with Shirin.
Kinyara: 20s. She and her younger sister were kidnapped as children and forced to work as housekeepers for a rebel warlord. When her sister was sold into slavery as part of an arms deal, Kinyara fled the rebel camp and tried to find her. Unfortunately, she found Natron instead and spent two years under his control. She’s an excellent sharpshooter.
The White Witch: The mysterious figure at the center of the Haunted City, she appears to reach out to people when they’re asleep, out of their minds, or at their weakest. Everyone seems to know of her, but no one knows anything specific-who she really is or what she wants. She’s the mystery at the heart of the story.
Natron: Natron is a god made from salt. He’s set up shop at a village along one of the major roads leading to the city. He lays traps for and possesses anyone who stops by. Over the years many have come his way, including Taladesh and Kinyara. He’s a fierce adversary, impervious to most weapons.
Jim: 20s. He’s Juliet’s first love and best friend. He was a draftee, but deserted and hid in the woods near where Juliet lives. After he is killed, he reappears in front of Juliet at key moments as a spectre. Is he helping her or making her paranoid? Is he a ‘real’ ghost or just a trick that the Witch is playing on her?
Theo: A government soldier, skilled tracker, and a horrible person. Juliet kills him after he kills Jim. He comes back as a zombie, then sets off after Juliet. Along the way, he bites and converts others-soldiers, rebels, bandits, and civilians.