This is a collection of three novellas set a century before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire. House Targaryen are still in power, eventually to be overthrown by Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, and people can still remember the last of the dragons. While these are prequels, and some names will be familiar to those who have read the main novels, the stories are fairly self-contained.
The three included novellas are:
- The Hedge Knight (1998)
- The Sworn Sword (2003)
- The Mystery Knight (2010)
I thought it might be a strange experience reading these back to back like this, since they were written so far apart, but Martin remained impressively consistent throughout. I would never have guessed there was a twelve-year span between two of them.
The stories follow a young hedge knight named Dunk and his squire Egg, a boy who is not exactly what he seems. In The Hedge Knight, the two meet on the way to a jousting tournament. Dunk was knighted by his old master, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, just before he passed away, and this is his first public appearance as Ser Duncan the Tall. He sets out to prove himself as a knight, but finds himself in much more peril than he intended. In The Sworn Sword, they are caught in the sour politics of land-ownership between a neighbouring lord and lady. The Mystery Knight finds them at another tournament, by chance, where a conspiracy is unveiled.
It’s interesting reading novella-length stories by George R.R. Martin, a man who typically takes his time with a story. At first it felt almost jarringly simple, but he’s amazing at connecting the reader with his characters. I loved Dunk and Egg by the end of the first novella, just as much as I would have if they’d been main characters in one of his thousand-page epics. He does seem to assume the reader knows the basics of the world, he doesn’t waste time explaining the significance of places like King’s Landing for example, so we are able to get right to the meat of the story.
I listened to this on audiobook, narrated by Harry Lloyd (Viserys Targaryen from the television show), and he did a great job. Apparently the physical copy is full of beautiful illustrations that people on Goodreads seem to be raving about, so if I’d known that I probably would have picked up that edition, but I still really enjoyed this. He hinted at the end that there’ll be more of these stories, which I’ll be sure to buy. For now, this was a nice stop-gap until The Winds of Winter comes out.