Martin, George R.R. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. 2015. New York. Bantam Books, Random House Inc.
Ser Duncan the Tall is a Hedge Knight, and the former squire of Ser Arlan of Pennytree. He desires to make a name for himself now that he has the chance. Known mostly by his nickname, “Dunk”, he makes his way to an inn. He meets a very haughty stable boy named Egg and settles down for the night. The next day he rides off only to find that the boy has followed him, and wishes to serve as his squire. Dunk accepts Egg on the condition that if he is too insolent he will get a clout on the ear, but only if he deserves it. They make their way to Ashford Meadow, so Dunk can compete in a tourney. Instead of competing he’s drawn into a Trial of Seven, challenged by Prince Aerion for defending a girl, Tanselle whose family runs a puppet show. Dunk gets comrades to help him, as many of them are sick of the Prince’s cruelties too. Dunk is victorious in the Trial, and in the meantime learns that his squire is not the peasant boy he seems. They leave in search of new adventures in the seven kingdoms. These include settling a dispute between the Red Widow and Lord Osgrey about water rights during a drought, and attending a highborn Lord’s wedding where political intrigue is afoot. Dunk and Egg exchange playful banter in these adventures. Dunk’s good heart and integrity serve him well. These traits make him a great addition to the world of Westeros.
All three short stories about Dunk and Egg are each equally enjoyable to read. Each story is paced well with equal parts action, drama, and good dialogue.
The reader will come to respect Dunk right away. He’s humble, steadfast, brave, and loyal. During the dispute over water rights he is diplomatic as well. Many times during the book he says to himself, “Dunk the Lunk, thick as a castle wall”. This internal monologue serves to keep him from becoming haughty and vain like some of the knights he meets along the way. Dunk is a good guy trying to do the right thing in a dangerous world. If readers are looking for a character like John Snow, then look no farther than Dunk.
Martin is a master of describing the beautiful aspects of medieval life, as well as the disgusting bits. He doesn’t hold back, and his characters are well rounded. Some are clever, crass, witty, or diabolical like Prince Aerion. For those that have read the Game of Thrones series most of the lords and lands will be familiar. This book takes place many years before the events in A Game of Thrones. However, even if one is a newcomer to Westeros the stories will still entertain. The book is illustrated beautifully by Gary Gianni, and this brings more life to the pages.
Egg is a fun little character, and comes with his own set of values which differ from Dunk greatly. They play off each other very well, and Egg becomes a bit more discerning as the story goes on. He is a wealth of information about all the lords, their banners, and their histories. Egg is well educated, but often lacks common sense. Dunk isn’t well educated, so Egg often fills in the details of whatever situation they find themselves in. Egg’s advice is tempered by Dunk’s knowledge of how the real world works.
There are not any prominent female characters in the book except for The Red Widow, Lady Rohanne. She’s feisty, smart, and daring. She hunts, wears pants, and will intrigue female fans of Westeros. While not quite as loveable as Brienne of Tarth or Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, she fulfills a strong female character role. Dunk is enamored of her right away, and as the story goes on her passion for him is sadly eclipsed by duty to her land and title.
About the only problem with the book is that it’s over too soon. While nobody wants The Winds of Winter to be delayed by even an hour, one hopes that this isn’t the last book which will feature these characters.
. . .“Readers who already love [George R. R.] Martin and his ability to bring visceral human drama out of any story will be thrilled to find this trilogy brought together and injected with extra life.”
Book Clubs or discussion groups could talk about how Hedge Knights are discriminated against during the entire book. What makes a person worthy of respect? Should the circumstances of their birth really matter? What makes a traitor, and why are men still judged by whose side they were on during the Blackfyre Rebellion? They could discuss the role of women in Martin’s writing. Is Lady Rohanne as strong a character as the ladies of A Game of Thrones? Is the settling of disputes by combat a matter of might makes right? Does a medieval setting make us grateful to live in the modern world? What makes the fantasy genre so appealing to so many?
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Reviewed by Beth K.