A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R.R. Martin

Their royal banners bore the three-headed dragon of house Targaryen, red on black. Sixteen years ago, a bastard son of King Aegon IV named Daemon Blackfyre had risen in revolt against his trueborn brother. Daemon had used the three-headed dragon on his banners too, but he reversed the colors, as many bastards did. His revolt had ended on the Redgrass Field, where Daemon and his twin sons died beneath a rain of Lord Bloodraven’s arrows. Those rebels who survived and bent the knee were pardoned, but some lost land, some titles, some gold. All gave hostages to ensure their future loyalty.

A set of three prequel stories to A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms sees Martin return (or perhaps kick off) a Song of Ice and Fire with a Hedge knight called Dunk and his squire Egg. The edition is illustrated by Gary Gianni who does an eloquent job of putting faces to names throughout the three novellas.

As usual Martin doesn’t hold back and after the first story a number of high born and royal characters are dead and Egg, himself no minor character, is left in the charge of Dunk. But there was something missing with these that I couldn’t quite get over. Unlike the Thrones series where I spent the entire time on edge because of Martin’s diabolical penchant for killing off major characters at the drop of a hat, you knew that Dunk and Egg would always survive. Indeed, even though Dunk often refuses to uses Egg’s boot to get them out of certain scrapes, he does on a few occasions and it’s a wonder that the whole of Westeros doesn’t know who Egg is by the end of the first book. I know it seems churlish to deny a bond with characters from three novellas compared the epic Thrones saga, but  I didn’t know these characters, I certainly didn’t care about them. In all honesty I think I would have preferred to read these before I read Thrones, they are excellent stories, the plot barely conventional in all three, but they are sketches, roughly worked practices before the masterpiece was created in all it’s glory.

I’m not referring to the quality, Martin is still Martin after all, but they didn’t seem quite the finished product that Games is and if you’re a fan of the series then this is definitely worth a read, however, I would say, if you haven’t yet dived into A Game of Thrones, I’d start with a wander around the seven kingdoms with a young good-hearted hedge knight called Dunk, and his stalwart squire Egg.

“The clothes were Addam’s,” said Ser Eustace, as he led his own grey gelding from his stall. A chequy lion adorned the frsayed silk cloak that flowed from the old man’s shoulders. “The doublet is a trifle musty from the trunk, but it should serve. A knight is more impressive with a squire in attendance, so I have decided that Egg should accompany you to Coldmoat.”
Outwitted by a boy of ten. Dunk looked at Egg and silently mouthed the words clout in the ear. The boy grinned.

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