This page will be updated as more characters appear in new chapters, major and minor. (Spoiler alert: almost everyone dies horribly.) I will keep these short and try not to spoil anyone's historical fate beyond what happened in the most recent chapter; more recent things that happen to them are in white and can be highlighted if you want to read it. If you want to know more, Wikipedia and this site are your friends. Non-recurring/minor characters have grayed-out names.
[Edit 8/29/13: pronunciation info.]
As for pronunciation, I've found a pretty good guide here for how they'd be pronounced in Mandarin, although I have to make one correction. In most guides I've seen, x in Mandarin is said to be pronounced like sh, but that's not entirely true. The sound is much closer to s when in front of the letter i, at least in my experience. Xin sounds more like "seen" than "sheen," for example.
Of course, back then, people spoke in variants of Old Chinese, which is closer to Cantonese but still miles from any modern Chinese dialect, so...
In order of introduction:
Han XinA destitute young man living in the town of Huaiyin. [Joins the Xiang family's army upon the start of the revolts against Qin. Later deserts and joins the army of the King of Han, Liu Bang. Becomes his Commander-in-Chief and later enfeoffed as King of Qi. Re-enfeoffed as King of Chu after his defeat of Xiang Yu, but at that point has outlived his usefulness and is demoted, put under house arrest, and ultimately killed under accusations of conspiracy to commit treason.]
Wei LiaoThe nigh-legendary advisor of Qin Shihuang and teacher to Han Xin before the start of the story.
The Guest of CanghaiA self-proclaimed divine messenger who tries and fails to make a deal with Han Xin. Also known as [The Gentleman of the East Sea, the Gentleman of Canghai, Qian Keng, and Peng Zu.]
Ying ZhengFormerly the King of Qin and now Qin Shihuang, he conquered the six other warring states to unify China. "Shihuang" literally means First Emperor. Grows increasingly unstable and immortality-obsessed after the founding of his empire, which soon crumbles after his death.
Ying FusuFavored son and heir of Qin Shihuang, known for his virtue and capability. Exiled to the north after protesting his father's policies, where he was deceived into committing suicide after Qin Shihuang's death.
Zhang LiangA scion of the Hann nobility, he tried and failed to assassinate Qin Shihuang at Bolang Sands. He now serves as an advisor and diplomat under Liu Bang. [He gives the sword Dust-cross to Han Xin and persuades him to leave Xiang Yu and join Liu Bang.]
Meng TianFamed Qin general in charge of the construction of the Great Wall of China. Supporter of Fusu. Imprisoned and eventually killed, along with the rest of his family, by Zhao Gao.
Li SiQin Chancellor of the Left who greatly aided Qin Shihuang in his unification of China. At that time, the second most powerful person in China. After Qin Shihuang's death, fearing a loss of power, he conspired with Zhao Gao to kill Fusu and his supporters and bring Huhai to power. Though he tried to curb Huhai's excesses when he saw the new emperor's incompetency, he did not succeed, and was brutally executed along with the rest of his family through Zhao Gao's scheming.
Zhao GaoQin Shihuang's servant. Conspired with Li Si to bring Huhai to power. Controlled Huhai as a puppet emperor, killing all those who threatened his power, bringing about Qin's rapid decline. When Huhai eventually resisted his control, Zhao Gao had him killed and replaced with his nephew Ziying, and was killed by Ziying in turn.
Feng QujiQin Chancellor of the Right. Died at Zhao Gao's hands.
Zhong XiuQin Grand Historian and loyal minister of his dynasty. Old acquaintance of Wei Liao.
Eighteenth son of Qin Shihuang. Placed on the throne by Li Si and Zhao Gao after his father's death. His incompetence, coupled with Zhao Gao's machinations, caused the downfall of Qin. Was killed by Zhao Gao once he'd outlived his usefulness.
Alchemist under Qin Shihuang's employ.
Chen ShengA commoner, he was the first to rebel against the Qin Dynasty. Declared himself King of Chu. After initial success, his armies with defeat after defeat at Zhang Han's hands. Six months after he'd begun his rebellion, his carriage driver killed him.
Wu GuangOne of Chen Sheng's first supporters, sent to take the city of Xinyang. Killed by his subordinates.
Wu ChenChen Sheng's general, sent to overthrow Qin rule in Zhao.
Zhang ErWu Chen's subordinate and Chen Yu's friend. Made King of Changshan by Xiang Yu.
Chen YuWu Chen's subordinate and Zhang Er's friend. Outraged at Xiang Yu's retitling of Zhao Xie, promotion of Zhang Er, and snub of himself.
Deng ZongSent by Chen Sheng to capture Jiujiang.
Zhou ShiSent by Chen Sheng to take Wei.
Qin JiaRebel leader of Chu who refused to accept Chen Sheng's authority. Eventually killed in battle by Xiang Liang.
Zhu JishiQin Jia's subordinate who joined Xiang Liang after Qin Jia's death. After being defeated by Zhang Han in battle, Xiang Liang had him executed for his failure.
Liu BangOriginally a Town Marshal for the Qin government, he went on the run after a corvee expedition gone wrong and later raised a rebel army. Joined with Xiang Liang to retake his hometown. Also known as the Duke of Pei. Made the King of Han after Qin's fall, with the holdings of Hanzhong and Bashu (also known as simply Shu).
Xiang LiangSon of the famous Chu general Xiang Yan. Influential rebel general who put Xiong Xin onto the throne of Chu. Killed in battle by Zhang Han at Dingtao.
Xiang YuGrandson of the famous Chu general Xiang Yan. One of his uncle Xiang Liang's top commanders, whose military victories give him unparalleled standing amongst the rebels. Names himself Hegemon-King of Western Chu.
Zhou WenChen Sheng's general sent to take the Qin heartlands. Committed suicide after his repeated defeats at Zhang Han's hands.
Zhang HanOriginally a Qin treasurer sent to supervise work on Qin Shihuang's tomb, he was ordered to free his laborers, turn them into an army, and repel the rebel invaders. Won a string of victories against the rebels before his defeat at Julu by Xiang Yu. Pardoned and given the title of King of Yong.
Xiong XinGrandson of the pre-unification King of Chu and now nominal king raised to power by Xiang Liang. His title is King Huai of Chu.
Han Xin I
Song YiCommander-in-Chief of the Chu army sent to relieve the siege of Julu.
Fan ZengXiang Yu's foster father and advisor.
Sima XinZhang Han's Chief Secretary.
Dong YiOne of Zhang Han's lieutenants.
Ying ZiyingNephew of the Second Emperor who became King of Qin after the murder of his uncle. Surrendered to Liu Bang. Was later executed by Xiang Yu with the rest of the Qin royal line.
Cao WushangLiu Bang's traitorous Minister of War of the Left.
Xiang BoXiang Yu's uncle and friend to Zhang Liang.
Xiang ZhuangXiang Yu's cousin and subordinate.
Fan KuaiOfficer in Liu Bang's employ.
Xiahou YingOfficer in Liu Bang's employ. [Saves Han Xin from execution.]
Ji XinOfficer in Liu Bang's employ. I don't remember if this novel goes into how he dies, but it's pretty spectacular.
Lei QiangOfficer in Liu Bang's employ.
Han Xin II
Gentleman of the East SeaA self-styled immortal whom the First Emperor found on his travels. [A pseudonym of the Guest of Canghai.]
Tian ShiSet up as King of Liaodong, one of the three kingdoms Xiang Yu created out of the territory that had previously made up the state of Qi. Xiang Yu blamed Tian Shi's more powerful relative Tian Rong for not sending reinforcements to Xiang Liang in the past, causing his death, and therefore snubbed Tian Rong when he awarded out kingships. This would cause major problems in the future.
Zhao XieA member of the royal family of Zhao. After the rebellion began, he was made King of Zhao by Chen Yu and Zhang Er. Xiang Yu changed his title to King of Dai.
Zang TuA general initially serving Han Guang, who was made King of Yan by popular support. However, Xiang Yu disliked Han Guang, and bestowed the title of King of Yan upon Zang Tu instead, while Han Guang's title was changed to King of Liaodong. Han Guang refused to leave Yan, so Zang Tu killed him and took both kingdoms under his rule.
Han Xin III
Ji BuCommander under Xiang Yu's employ.
Heng ChuCommander under Xiang Yu's employ.
Yu YingCommander under Xiang Yu's employ.
Yu ZiqiCommander under Xiang Yu's employ.
Xiao HeThe King of Han's old friend and Chancellor.
Han Xin IV
Archives Keeper of Han, formerly a Qin official.
Han Xin V
Han Xin VI
Lord of Guangwu and general of Zhao who joined Han Xin after his capture.
Commander under Xiang Yu's employ
Adviser to Han Xin
Handmaiden in the Qi royal palace.
Ji Jiang I
Ji Jiang II
Ji Jiang III
Strategist under Liu Bang's employ responsible for sowing mistrust in Xiang Yu's camp. There's also a pretty funny story regarding him and a ferryman, but that's neither here nor there.