Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, by George R.R. Martin

This week I'm taking a look at a spin-off of the extremely popular Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, more commonly known as Game of Thrones after it became an insanely popular tv series. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a collection of short stories set about a hundred years before the events of Game of Thrones, back when the Targeryens rule Westoros from their Iron Throne. The stories follow the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall, also known as Dunk, and his squire known as Egg. Dunk is a hedge knight, really not much more than a vagabond at the bottom rungs of society. Dunk takes what work where he can, while aspiring to remain loyal to the principles of chivalry and true knighthood. To further complicate this is Dunk's squire, Egg, who has a rather interesting family background but that's for you to find out in the stories.

This book contains three novellas which follow our heroes as they wander across Westeros. Martin claims to be planning several other stories with Dunk and Egg, but only time will tell how many we actually end up seeing. For now, though, I rather enjoyed these stories and I highly recommend them to other people. I will say that while they're independent of the Song of Ice and Fire storyline, I think it's highly beneficial to have read the other books because they provide much more information about the setting's backstory, locations, and other details which Martin doesn't really go into in these stories. I think someone who hasn't read Song of Ice and Fire would be able to read these stories all right, but I think they'd be somewhat confused by the references characters make. If you know the setting, though, then you'll be just fine.

The thing I really liked about these stories is they feel a lot like stories from the Arthurian mythos. If I haven't mentioned this before, I am a huge fan of Arthurian legend and I am an absolute sucker for stories about knight errants seeking for quests. These stories have a far earthier tone, though, compared to the old chivalric romances and that's something Martin does very, very well. We may be in a setting with dragons and magic, but Martin manages to make the world feel very realistic and he shows what life for people at the bottom of the heap is like as well. There's just something about Martin's writing that makes the world feel incredibly realistic.

Another thing that I liked was the inclusion of illustrations within the book by Gary Gianni. Although they're just black and white illustrations, I think a few of them are downright gorgeous and they really add an extra visual quality to the story. Even if these are stories for grown-ups, the illustrations are an excellent bonus.

Overall, I think these stories were very enjoyable, but as I said, it's a genre that I really enjoy and Martin creates a rich and very believable world. At the end of this book, as with a lot of Martin's other books, I'm left wanting more, and it truly is an enjoyable universe. But ultimately we'll see what happens with the series as time goes on.

- Kalpar

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