Title: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
Author: George R.R. Martin, Gary Gianni (Illustrator)
Published: October 6th, 2015 by Bantam
Synopsis: Taking place nearly a century before the events of A Game of Thrones, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R. R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A Song of Ice and Fire. These never-before-collected adventures recount an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.
My star rating: ★★★★★ (THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING)
For those of you who have read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, go pick this book up immediately! A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms focuses on the ASOIAF world in the midst of the Targaryen dynasty, incorporating different characters, wars, and events that are only described very briefly in the ASOIAF series.
AKOTSK is from the point of view of Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire “Egg,” otherwise known as Aegon Targaryen, or Aegon V, King of the Seven Kingdoms. The book is a bindup of three novellas in the Tales of Dunk and Egg novella collection in which George R.R. Martin plans on writing around 9-12 in total. In these three, we get to see how Egg became Dunk’s squire as well as a few of their adventures around the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
Not only do we see encounters with famous legends such as Baelor Breakspear, The Laughing Storm, Bloodraven, etc., but we also get insight on the Blackfyre rebellion from the perspectives of both the nobles (i.e. Egg) and the smallfolk. It’s very interesting to see a lot of the smallfolk, such as various hedge knights, voice their opinions on the whereabouts of the realm, because we usually only see the opinions of the wealthy noble families in the A Song of Ice and Fire books.
I want to include some personal favorite moments and critiques of each novella under the cut (spoilers included), so here are some thoughts on each novella:
The Hedge Knight: “Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall”
Probably my favorite of the three because we get to see a lot of the major families’ members of the past. I loved seeing their different personalities compared to that of their descendants in the main series. The introductions of Dunk and Egg were perfect, and they continued to impress me at the turn of every page. The Targaryens, even without their dragons, striked me as extremely intriguing and complex, because there are some who inherit the Targ madness, and there are some who are calm and collected which I liked.
I think that GRRM’s use of the Trial by Seven was so genius, because it’s something rarely done in the ASOIAF universe. Seeing the characterization of each participant and the tension between the Targ brothers was great… Which is why I was completely taken aback when Baelor was killed (by Maekar? Still not sure on that one). I found him very similar to Ned Stark in that he fought for what he thought was right, even if it meant fighting against his own family. The gruesome detail of how his head was cleaved into two was so shocking, yet it sets the tone for the rest of the novellas in that these adventures between Dunk and Egg are not always going to be pleasant.
The Sworn Sword: “Oak and iron, guard me well, or else I’m dead, and doomed to hell”
While a little slow at first, I realized that it was only because this novella focused on a feud between two extremely minor houses, which we don’t see very often (apart from Blackwood vs. Bracken and Fossoway vs. Fossoway). What I really found interesting was The Red Widow, a clever and manipulative badass woman who tries to overcome the misogynistic society she’s placed in. Her relationship with Dunk was engrossing, and him taking a lock of her hair at the end was a perfect way to settle things.
The most riveting part of this story, however, was the elements of the Blackfyre rebellion embedded into the plot. When we find out that Ser Eustace fought for the Black Dragon while the Red Widow fought for the Red Dragon, there’s a shift in the tone of the story. By having a Targaryen loyal to his family, the Red Dragons, led by his own grandfather Daeron the Good, we see a whole new view into the Blackfyre rebellion. Every time someone mentions that he or she was on the side of the Black Dragon, we see Egg either hold his tongue or blurt something out to defend his family. I don’t blame him, because most of the time someone just started talking shit about his family. While the rebellion is talked about in ASOIAF, the Dunk and Egg stories provide so much more detail and perception on what went on.
The Mystery Knight: “How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one”
There was one character I was looking forward to seeing in these stories because of his involvement in A Dance with Dragons and that’s The Last Greenseer, The Three Eyed-Crow, The Hand of the King to multiple Targaryens, The Bastard of Aegon IV that was on the side of the Red Dragon, The Guy escorted to the Night’s Watch by Ser Duncan the Tall, The Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, otherwise known as Brynden Rivers, LORD BLOODRAVEN.
You may be asking yourself: Why are you so obsessed with a character that only appears in the last 5 pages or so of The Mystery Knight? Well my friends, let me tell you why Bloodraven is a beast of a character. First of all, he got this name, Lord Bloodraven, because he was born with a red patch scar on one side of his face. He’s also thought to be a sorcerer, a warg, a greenseer, and able to glamour himself into any face he chooses. And guess what? HE CAN DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS. He can literally put himself into and control the body of any animal. He can see the future (with the power of greensight). He can turn into any person/wear any face he wants (similar to the Faceless Men?). And once he hooks himself up to the giant weirwood tree, HE CAN SEE THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE. Plus, he has a pretty darn long life span.
If you don’t think Bloodraven is a badass character, read the paragraph above until it sinks in.
This short story started off at a slower pace because GRRM introduced many new hedge knights that I couldn’t keep track of, yet each sequence of events became more and more intense as the story went on. The buildup of the second Blackfyre rebellion was subtle but then we got the big reveal that the Fiddler = Daemon II Blackfyre which was a major shock. However, the second Blackfyre rebellion ended in about a day as Egg called upon his Targ relatives to come and disband the rebels.
Egg sent a letter to his father Maekar, but do you know who showed up?
BLOODRAVEN AND HIS WHITE DRAGON (SIGIL), THAT’S WHO.
When him and the Raven’s Teeth showed up I was smiling so much because it was an insanely badass moment. The fact that Daemon challenged Bloodraven in single combat and was literally defeated in ten seconds just goes to show that the Red Dragons are the true Targ heirs.
Lastly, I found there to be a ton of foreshadowing in The Mystery Knight especially. While Daemon/The Fiddler’s dreams of dragons might not have been exactly true (Bloodraven did show up with his white dragon so that kind of fits?), he did predict correctly that Dunk would end up as a member of the Kingsguard. It’s so funny how Dunk always thinks “there’s no way I’ll ever be a Kingsguard member,” “I’m just a poor and worthless hedge knight,” etc., but he actually ends up being the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard when Egg ascends to the throne!
I can’t wait to read the rest of the Tales of Dunk and Egg as they are released (hopefully) in the near future!