Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hedge Knight

I think most folks have caught a whiff of the buzz associated with George R. R. Martin's multi-novel saga A Song of Ice and Fire (more commonly known as the Game of Thrones). The most recent book in the series, A Dance With Dragons, was published back in 2011. In today's short attention span world, it is hard to sustain a buzz over a long period of time. However, Martin has managed to keep us all clamoring for more since the first novel in the series, A Game of Thrones, was published back in 1996. Martin's engaging story arcs of knights, dragons, power struggles, intrigue, cunning, and plotting has provided fans of the epic fantasy genre a standard that all other works are judged by. The next part of the tale, The Winds of Winter, is tentatively scheduled for release in 2015.

However, Martin has managed to appease his rabid Thrones fanbase (and keep them from rioting) by throwing out a few bones along the way in the form of novellas that take place in and around the lands of Westeros. One such offering is the series known as the Tales of Dunk and Egg. Presently there are three entries in this series, although Martin has indicated in interviews that he has plans for several more.

In the first novella, The Hedge Knight, we meet Dunk of Flea Bottom, a common squire of an elderly hedge knight, Ser Arlan of Pennytree. When Arlan dies one night as the two were journeying to a jousting tournament, Dunk buries his lord and decides to continue on to the festivities. Along the way he stops at an inn to get a meal and rest his horses where he meets a young boy named Egg. Egg is a feisty ball of sass who pleads with Dunk to make him his squire. Dunk turns him down but finds upon arriving at the tournament, that Egg has followed him. Reluctantly, Dunk allows Egg to serve him. Shortly thereafter, Dunk who was hoping to enter the tilts to make some money and establish his reputation, gallantly defends the honor of a peasant girl who is being beaten by a knight of some station. In short order Dunk learns that the knight was none other than one of the king's sons. By law, for striking a prince, Dunk must undergo a trial by combat. Ultimately, Dunk proves himself worthy and honorable, and earns his title of Ser Duncan the Tall when he is invited to become a member of the household of Prince Maekar, another of the king's sons. Dunk agrees, but insists that first be allowed to travel with Egg as his squire for several years before returning to Maekar to finish his training.

A fun read that reminded me of why I am a fan of Martin's writing. The next novella in the series in entitled The Sworn Sword.