Fiction Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
They are for me. "Why?" he asked Pate. "What am I to them?"
"A knight who remembered his vows," the smith said.
Oddly, I've never gotten around to reviewing any of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire saga. With season six of HBO's Game of Thrones on the air I've been reading many things Westeros of late.
The main saga is legendary for it's brutality. Main characters drop like flies. The reward for being honorable is often death.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms shines a small ray of hope into the lands of Westeros. It takes place about a century before the events of A Game of Thrones. It is a collection of three short stories about the hedge knight, Dunk (Ser Duncan the Tall) and his squire, Egg.
At this point I'll pause to point out there's going to be some spoilers up ahead - not huge ones, but minor spoilers.
OK still with me?
Dunk was born in the slums of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. He has no idea as to his parentage. A hedge knight, Arlan of Pennytree takes Dunk on as his squire. As the first tale opens, Arlan has just died of natural causes and Dunk is burying him. He goes on to Ashford Meadow to compete in a tournament. He claims to have been knighted by Arlan prior to his death but we never witness this and we get the definite feeling that this is definitely not the case.
However, whether he was truly knighted or not Dunk is a good man. He takes the vows of knighthood seriously and always tries to do the right thing. He's not the best fighter when using the lance but when it comes to down and dirty brawling he has no equal - just shy of seven feet and all muscle he has a definite edge there.
His pursuit of doing the right thing and perpetual poverty gets him into a lot of trouble. There's definitely a bit of levity to the tales, as he and his squire Egg get themselves deeper and deeper into trouble in most of their adventures, often winding up way over their heads as they struggle to pull themselves out of trouble.
There's also a large amount of politics to the tales - as prequels to A Song of Ice and Fire, Dunk and Egg's fates are known. Suffice to say that both of them will rise up to positions of authority within the Seven Kingdoms and leave a definite mark on the world. The stories themselves are largely influenced by the recent Blackfyre Rebellion, where a dying king had legitimized all his bastards, leading to a civil war with two rival claimants to the Iron Throne as a result.
Though I read them in audiobook form, I also picked up the Kindle version as it has many illustrations of the tales. The book in any form is a relatively light read but rather enjoyable - and a nice remedy if you find yourself traumatized by the Red Wedding. For gamers, it makes for a great resource as to what Westeros was like under the Targaryens. It reminds the reader that lords under a feudal system, despite being under the same lord, might well go to war against each other - an escalating conflict between two lords serves as the main plot of the second of the three tales in this volume.
I found myself wanting more of these tales, even as I anxiously await The Winds of Winter.