1) David Richards is a "Mid-level diplomat assigned to the backwater Middle Eastern king of Kutar in 1983." He is a charming, thoughtful man, who has spent the past couple years of his life there, befriending politicians, wooing lovely ladies, and getting to know the locals. After the rebels of the KPLA seize the capital city he is living in, he and a few other foreigners stay to battle the storm ahead in attempts to help the people of Kutar.
2) Amira Chalsani is the premier love interest in the story; a witty, beautiful women, she is a native of Kutar who was raised in the wealthy ranks of English society. She is still very emotionally tied to the Kingdom, and so, feels it is her duty to stay and aid those in need. She and David play a cat and mouse game of romance for the first half of the book, before finally coming together as the story reaches its climax.
3) Paolo Alfani is a records keeper from Italy, and David's closest friend in Kutar. He oversees the docks and transportation of goods that come into Kutar as the story goes on. Paolo's character provides an interesting perspective into people simply accepting the struggles that war brings, while others such as David insist on trying to make change.
4) Stewart McBride is an American reporter; a self described optimist in a cynic's shell, he is constantly trying to use his position in the media to better the situation for the people in Kutar. However, as the situation in the city worsens, it's all he can do to keep himself from doing something rash. Eventually, he gives into his will to do well, and crosses over the ridge into rebel territory, where he is killed.
5) Laradan: The capital city of Kutar, this place is one whose people live dull and simple lives; car accidents are prone to creating a stir that will last several hours, peaking the interest of citizens. Foreign diplomats' parties are the most exciting things that take place in the capital, up until the rebels of the KPLA lay siege to the city. Eventually, the people become complacent and emotionless, having accepted whatever their fates may be with stoic indifference.
6) KPLA: The Kutaran People's Liberation Army initially starts out as some distant, mysterious threat; a few rebels with a hodge-podge of weapons scaring goats and kids. But out of nowhere, they succeeded in a flurry of battles with the kingdom of Kutar's army, and proceeded to push everyone into the capital city of Laradan, which they constantly bombarded with captured artillery. In their newly found position of power, they made demands, threats, and controlled the city at a whim, until David and the other residents of the Moonlight Hotel decided to take action.
7) The Profiteers: In hard times, there are always those who succeed atop the people's struggles. This is especially the case in war, and in the book it was important to remember that there were people who wanted the siege to continue, and wanted people to keep dying. For quite some time, it was very unclear as to why the siege continued, until characters such as General Kalima were shown for what they were.
8) War: One thing that is done very well in the Moonlight Hotel is the perspective on war-it isn't some glorious thing with magical acts of heroism; it is a terrible, grueling thing that taxes all of those involved, and even making a small difference is an immense struggle. Author Scott Anderson went into so much detail showing how the citizens of Laradan were emotionally run down, day after day, month after month, until the constant death, the lack of food, and the low standard of living sapped every bit of caring out of them.
9) Cowardice: This was one of the most important themes in the book; and Anderson appropriately describes what cowardly people will do when faced with struggle: "You can never over-estimate the sheer ingenuity that cowards are capable of bringing to a task. If it's important enough to them, they can outsmart you every time." (262) In the Moonlight Hotel, it was the United States that chose to abandon their allies, and to run from the fight, while in the city, individual cases of this continued to happen around the characters.
10) Survival: In times of hardship, everyone does something to get by, and the same went for David and his friends. David chose to sit on the rooftops and gaze down at the city with Amira, Paolo poured over his tables and statistics when he wasn't painting the busy docks, and Stewart constantly fumed and drank. Within the city, Laradanis slipped into a void of nothing, as they attempted to hold onto whatever it was that once made them human. This mental and emotional struggle was made to be more demanding than even avoiding artillery shells and bullets.