Book Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin
I’m a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire – they’re exceptional books, amazingly written with such glorious detail it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. The world George RR Martin has created is so vast, so rich in detail and so deep in lore, it’s incredible. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms shows us this world, 200 years before A Game of Thrones starts, but it doesn’t nearly do it enough justice.
The book is actually three short stories in one – when I say stories, I suppose it’s more three short adventures. We follow Dunk, or Ser Duncan the Tall as he’d have you call him, a hedge knight roaming the seven kingdoms with nowhere to call home, and no one to call master. Initially travelling alone, he adopts a squire called Egg, and soon we begin the follow the their adventures.
The first story, A Hedge Knight, is about Dunk travelling to a tourney at Ashford Meadow, hosted by Lord Ashford to celebrate his daughter’s 13th birthday. Initially wanting to enter the lists, Dunk finds himself in a spot of bother when he has an altercation with a Targaryen of the royal family (as I said, this is 200 years before A Game of Thrones, so the Targaryens are still going strong), and has to fight for his life.
Whilst this story is entertaining, the problem for me is that it feels very much like a children’s story – the brave hero stands up to the cowardly villain, there’s a battle filled with doubt as to whether our brave hero can come out on top. This is my main issue with the whole book – A Song of Ice and Fire is dark and gritty. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys often do, but either way the series doesn’t follow conventions. This book does. To people who’ve asked, I’ve described it as A Song of Ice and Fire for kids, and to me that’s very much what it is.
The second story, The Sworn Sword, finds Dunk and Egg at Standfast, under the service of Ser Eustace Osgrey. The plot here is that there is a drought, and to make matters worse the river Standfast takes its water from has run dry. Upon inspection, Dunk finds a dam built further up the river by the soldiers of Lady Webber, and resolves to, well, resolve matters. This story isn’t as childlike in its format as A Hedge Knight – the lines between good and evil are blurred as Dunk finds out characters haven’t been telling the truth, and other characters act in devious ways.
The final of the three, The Mystery Knight, is the story I really enjoyed. We find Dunk and Egg at another tourney, but learn this one is not at all that it seems. There’s deception and betrayal, characters hiding their true identities and royal blood left, right and centre. I’m not going to say anything about this story, not going to give anything away, as it’s the one I really encourage you to read. The other two are worth reading because they set the scene, and are only very short, but this story is the one you should really get your teeth into. It’s the one of the three that’s really very, very good.
If you like the A Song of Ice and Fire series, you might enjoy this book as it gives more insight in to the world, introduces new characters, new areas and quarrels. However, like me, you might find it a bit disappointing. The tone feels all wrong, the writing seems rushed, the overall quality of the book feels lower than the main series. It’s not a book I’d say leave alone, however I wouldn’t encourage anyone to rush out and get a copy. Read it if you wish, but you won’t miss out on anything if you don’t.