Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

If you hate A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones or think it's highly overrated, then this book is not for you. Personally, I adore it. I love everything about A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and what it adds to the ASOIAF world.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms consists of three short novellas following the life of the hedge knight Dunk and his squire Egg. I summarize all three below, but as these are set about 100 years before the ASOIAF timeline there are no major GOT spoilers.

Summary:

The Hedge Knight

Ser Duncan the Tall - or “Dunk” - had recently lost his mentor, the hedge knight Ser Arlan of Pennytree, when he decided to compete at a tournament in Ashford and make a name for himself. On his way there, he met a boy named Egg who became his squire. At Ashford, Dunk gained entry to compete when Prince Baelor Targaryen vouched for his knighthood. Dunk prepared by selling a horse for armor and having the puppeteer Tanselle, whom he was immediately attracted to, paint a new coat of arms.

After the first day of competition, Egg witnessed Tanselle being assaulted by Prince Aerion Targaryen. Dunk attacked Aerion, and Egg identified himself as Prince Aegon (Aerion’s brother) when Dunk was arrested. Prince Baelor (Aegon and Aerion’s uncle) allowed Dunk to choose trial by combat instead of losing a hand for his attack. Both Aerion and Dunk were allowed six knights to fight with them and so prepared for the trial.

When Dunk was short a knight, Prince Baelor himself offered to fight. Aerion brought along Kingsguard members to aid him. In the fight, several lives were lost but Dunk prevailed. Prince Maekar, Egg’s father and Baelor’s brother, allowed Egg to continue traveling with Dunk as his squire in the hopes that he would turn out better than his brothers.

The Sworn Sword

Ser Duncan, sworn to Eustace Osgrey along with Ser Bennis the Brown, discovered that the neighboring peasants in the land owned by Lady Rohanne had built a dam, effectively stealing Eustace’s water. Bennis attacked one of the peasants, and Eustace ordered Dunk and Bennis to train local men to defend them from Lady Rohanne’s inevitable retaliation.

Dunk traveled to Lady Rohanne in an attempt to reach a peaceful resolution and get the dam removed. Lady Rohanne had her own problems and Dunk failed to come to an agreement. Instead, he learned some truths from her about Eustace and his past as a supporter of the traitor who started the Blackfyre rebellion.

Dunk returned to Eustace, planning to leave his service, but the forest began burning before he could and he assumed it was Lady Rohanne. Demanding payment for being accused of starting the fire, Lady Rohanne ordered her knight Sir Lucas into a trial by combat with Dunk. Dunk won, but barely, and awoke to news that Ser Eustace and Lady Rohanne had settled their debts in their own way. Dunk and Egg left to travel to the Wall.

The Mystery Knight

While traveling north, Dunk and Egg met a group of knights and lords on their way to a wedding tournament. After he learned the prize of the tournament was a dragon egg, Dunk decided to attend and attempt to win. Three of the knights in the group were Ser Maynard Plumm, Ser Kyle the Cat, and Ser Glendon Ball; Dunk became friends with them.

At the wedding, Egg noticed that most of the competitors had fought for the traitors in the Blackfyre rebellion and became suspicious. Dunk was defeated in the first round of jousting by Ser Uthor Underleaf, who later confessed that he had been bribed to kill Dunk. The dragon egg was then found to be missing, with the blame placed on Ser Glendon. Secrets unraveled, and Dunk found himself in the middle of a second Blackfyre rebellion. Egg took matters into his own hands and revealed his identity in an attempt to help.

By the time the rebels were found out, Lord Brynden Rivers, or Bloodraven, had arrived with a large army and the brief rebellion ended. Dunk and Egg met with Bloodraven, whom Egg demanded reward Duncan and the other hedge knights for their help.

Random Thoughts:

I loved Egg’s intelligence and how he played off of Dunk’s physical strength to get things done; he took initiative when Dunk didn’t have the political knowledge or understanding of what to do next. Their relationship developed into one of respect, despite their age and status differences. Dunk often threatened Egg with “a clout in the ear” to keep Egg’s backtalk under control, but it was an empty threat and they both knew it.

One of Martin’s greatest strengths - writing real people whose emotions genuinely move you and break your heart - was in full force in this one. I was rooting for Dunk the whole time to get a girl because he was lonely, Egg became my new favorite Targaryen (I want a whole book on his reign), and the various knights, lords, and princes that were introduced became real to me - especially Prince Baelor in The Hedge Knight.

Of the three novellas, The Mystery Knight was my favorite. It had more political twists than the other two. The Sworn Sword was probably my least favorite of the three, it was a good story but I didn’t enjoy it as much without all the Targaryen history.

Two things had me fangirling: 1) DRAGON EGG. I'm not sure if GRRM has confirmed this somewhere but I got very emotional at the fact that The Mystery Knight's prize might have been the egg of one of Daenerys’ dragons. 2) BLOODRAVEN. I loved meeting him after all the hints in ASOIAF. The man was the reason Bran found out who Jon was...what young Ned was like...and what happened to Hodor. GOT events aside, Bloodraven was a fascinating character in his own right.

“How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one.”

You don’t need to have read the ASOIAF series in order to enjoy this. It was a much more manageable size than ASOIAF and you don't get stuck with chapter upon chapter of Brienne wandering in the Riverlands, bless her heart. (Not dissing Brienne, I love her.) ASOIAF, with the length and hundreds of characters, had moments that dragged because of characters I didn't care about as much. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms resolved this issue by being much more succinct while still focusing on two awesome complimentary characters.

This particular edition was illustrated, which I’m normally not a fan of. But these novellas almost read like children’s stories (at least compared to ASOIAF) so it worked. Plus, they were absolutely beautiful drawings.

Rating:

High five to Dunk! High five to Egg! This gets a 5/5 all day and I'm gonna need to buy myself a copy eventually. I highly recommend it if you've read the other books and liked them, or if you love the show but reading the series seems daunting. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a great sampling of Martin’s writing style and wit.

Here’s to hoping GRRM will be around to publish more of these after he finally finishes ASOIAF!