Goldie No One was once Goldie Roth, a bold girl with a talent for thieving. Goldie Roth had a home, and parents who loved her, but Goldie No One lives by her wits on the streets of a strange city, surrounded by enemies. The only relic of her former life is the brooch she wears pinned inside her jacket a small blue bird with outstretched wings that used to belong to her Auntie Praise, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances many years ago. When Goldie is lonely or afraid she touches the brooch and it gives her courage.
Bonnie is just as stubborn as her brother Toadspit, and the two of them are always arguing. When her parents are asleep, Bonnie practises shooting at lamp posts with her bow and arrows from her bedroom window. And when she has nightmares about the time she spent in Care, she takes the bow from under her bed, rubs her cheek against the smooth wood, and pretends that she is Princess Frisia, the warrior princess of ancient Merne. The one thing she hates more than anything is people who are cruel to animals.
The cat is descended from the ferocious man-eating idlecats that once roamed the Faroon Peninsula. It is nowhere near as big as its ancestors, of course, but it is just as quick, and almost as fierce. When it strolls through the streets of Spoke with its tattered ears flat and its tail switching, big dogs crawl into the nearest gutter to hide. It has never had a name, but it thinks of itself as the Cat of Cats.
Flense would like to be mysterious, like her boss Harrow, but she’s not. To make up for it, she has become vicious. If anyone displeases her, she has them whipped, and is so free with her punishments that all the other members of Harrow’s gang hate her. Flense rather likes being hated. It gives her an excuse to order more whippings.
Slommerkins, like brizzlehounds and slaughterbirds, have been extinct for centuries. But in the days when they roamed the Faroon Peninsula, they were dreaded even more than the ferocious idlecats. They thought of nothing but food and, although they were stupid and smelly, they were also terrifyingly fast. They had a particular fondness for the flesh of human children, and liked to roll on them, to crack their bones and soften them up for eating.
Pounce is a sharp, sly, feral boy, who has had to fight for survival since the day he was born. He’s a brilliant liar and a cunning thief, and he knows the streets of Spoke better than anyone. He knows the world beneath the streets too, and one of his favourite foods is stewed rat. The only person he cares about is his friend Mouse.
Mouse has lived on the streets of Spoke for as long as he can remember. He thinks he’s about seven years old, but he’s not sure. The only family he knows are his friend Pounce, who looks after him, and a dozen white mice who tell fortunes. The mice live in his pockets or up his sleeve, and think of him as one of their babies grown extra large. He has never met an animal he couldn’t tame.
Cord is a nasty piece of work. Even his mother thought so. When he was a boy, his hobby was killing things, which gave him lots of practice for his current job working for Harrow. He loves nothing except his favourite knife, which he calls Slither. Smudge, on the other hand, has a soft heart. He was teased a lot as a child because he was so big, and not very clever. That’s why he took up with Cord, who protects him after a fashion. Nowadays, the only things Smudge is afraid of is ghosts, demons and Harrow. Which, in his mind, are all the same thing.
The bandmaster has a passion for coins, especially the ones he makes himself. He sees himself as an artist rather than a criminal, and has twice been elected to the position of High Fabricator of the Forgers’ Lodge. He has a kind heart, and doesn’t really mind being in the Penitentiary, because so many of his friends and colleagues are there. But he is getting dreadfully sick of lumpy porridge.
Princess Frisia lived five hundred years ago, in the kingdom of Merne. She was a warrior, and the daughter of warriors, and the last time she wept was on her third birthday, when she was taken away from her nurse to be trained for war. The castle where she lived was famous for its orchards, which were fertilised with the bones of Merne’s enemies.
Harrow is a mystery. No one except Flense, his deputy, knows who he really is and where he comes from. People tell stories about him, of course, in whispers, when they are sure no one is listening. But it’s not healthy to wonder about him too much, not out loud. Not unless you want to disappear, suddenly and very very finally.