Hey, folks. It’s been, well, a while since I last posted anything here. But I have my reasons.

*I’ve been working on my own writing. I finally finished a first draft of a novel I started writing last year; I wrote a quick bit of flash fiction for a contest (I didn’t win, but at least I’ve got something to submit elsewhere); and I spent July working on another novel I’ve been tinkering with.

*I’ve also been working on my sporking of City of Glass. I just finished chapter 11, and there are only 20 chapters, plus an epilogue. Not counting the excerpts from other novels (which I will not be looking at – you can’t make me) I’m now about half-way through. Also, I’m considering cross-posting it over at the Das Sporking community over on Dreamwidth – tell me what you think about that.

*For my personal life, things are okay. The job hunt continues, with varying results. I’m trying to keep my hopes up. I’m also playing D&D both in-person and on Roll20, which is fun.

But enough of me and my problems! Let’s talk awesome books.

So, today, I’d like to talk about a book you may or may not have heard of, from an author you almost certainly have – George RR Martin’s A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Blurb, courtesy of Amazon:

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.
Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne, there was Dunk and Egg. A young, naïve but ultimately courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals—in stature if not experience. Tagging along is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg—whose true name is hidden from all he and Dunk encounter. Though more improbable heroes may not be found in all of Westeros, great destinies lay ahead for these two . . . as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.
Featuring more than 160 all-new illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a must-have collection that proves chivalry isn’t dead — yet.

Now, chances are you’ve heard of Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire, or at least the HBO series based on it, Game of Thrones. And if you’ve read the books, you’ve noticed a trend – there’s now quite a gap between when the books are released. This has only developed recently: the first three books, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, were all released in two-year intervals (1996, 1998, and 2000, respectively). But the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, didn’t come out until 2005, and the last book, A Dance of Dragons, was only released in 2011. The next book, The Winds of Winter, still doesn’t have an official release date.

Now, don’t construe this as me complaining – as Neil Gaiman said of Martin way back in 2009, he is ‘not your bitch.’ I understand that Martin has a lot of projects on his plate. But that said, I (and perhaps some of you) do still get cravings for more adventures and stories from Westeros.

And that’s where A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms comes in.

See, while A Song of Ice and Fire is the main series for the setting, those aren’t the only works Martin has written set in Westeros. He helped in the composition of The World of Ice and Fire, a hefty tome presented as an in-world document, which provides a ton of details about the history of the world, as well as places readers have only ever heard about. Martin’s contributed a number of in-world histories to several anthologies – “The Princess and the Queen” in Dangerous Women (2013), “The Rogue Prince” in Rogues (2014), and “The Sons of the Dragon” in The Book of Swords (this October).

But all of these are presented as works of scholarship. They’re history, not really stories. The Dunk & Egg series, on the other hand, are aren’t.

The first Dunk & Egg story, “The Hedge Knight,” was published in the 1998 anthology, Legends, the second, “The Sworn Sword,” in 2003’s Legends II, and the third, “The Mystery Knight,” in 2010’s Warriors. The novellas, as the blurb said, follow the adventures of the hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Egg, as they travel across the Seven Kingdoms, and get caught up in events larger than themselves.

For a while, you could only find these stories in those anthologies. The first two had been adapted into stand-alone graphic novels, but those had also been out of print for some time. But then, in 2015 (likely stirred by interest in the TV show), Bantam decided to publish the Dunk & Egg stories in one volume. Initially, the plan was to publish the collection after the release of the fourth Dunk & Egg novella in Dangerous Women (currently titled “The She-Wolves of Winterfell”), but when that story fell through, they went ahead with the already published works. Martin hasn’t settled on exactly how many Dunk & Egg stories there will be, but there’s every indication that he intends to write more.

Now, you might be asking yourself, “So what? Why would I be interested in stories set decades before the events of the main series, and about some random wandering knight?” Well, the answer involves some very, very minor spoilers, but I’ll warn you just in case.

[SPOILERS BEGIN HERE]

“Egg” is short for Aegon. As in, Aegon Targaryen. This particular Aegon will go on to eventually become Aegon V, commonly known as Aegon the Unlikely (being the fourth son of a fourth son, and thus pretty far down the line of succession). He’ll eventually be the grandfather of Aerys II, aka the Mad King, and the great-grandfather of Robert I Baratheon, the king when A Game of Thrones begins.

And while Dunk may be a mere hedge knight now, he’ll eventually become Lord Commander of Aegon’s Kingsguard. In short, these are two figures whose actions play a prominent role in the background of the main series. And that doesn’t even get into the actual events of the stories themselves.

[SPOILERS END HERE]

These stories are solid, as you could expect from Martin. And since they’re set so long before the events of the main series, you don’t really need to have read A Game of Thrones or any of the other books (though it doesn’t hurt). They’re also stand-alone works, rather than part of a more connected series, so you can feel free to read one, then put the book down for a while, and pick it up again later.

And, to entice the people who may have bought the original anthologies, the book does include a whole lot of absolutely beautiful black and white illustrations. So if you have a craving for more ASoIaF goodness and can’t wait for the next installment, pick up A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms if you haven’t already.

But even if you’re not especially inclined to seek out a copy for yourself (or perhaps already own a copy) there’s more. Remember the comic book adaptations? Well, Jet City Comics acquired the rights to both “The Hedge Knight” and “The Sworn Sword” and republished them in 2013 and 2014, respectively, and Bantam published a graphic novel adaptation of “The Mystery Knight” just a few days ago.

If I have one complaint about these stories, it’s that they tend to circle around a certain conflict in Westeros’s history, in much the same way that the main series circles around Robert’s Rebellion. In this case, the war is the Blackfyre Rebellion, a dynastic struggle between two children of Aegon IV (aka “Aegon the Unworthy”) – his true-born son, Daeron Targaryen, and his bastard son, Daemon Blackfyre (nee Waters). Personally, I find this conflict fascinating, especially the very colorful characters that are the Great Bastards (Aegon’s bastard children from prominent noble families): Daemon Blackfyre; Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers; and Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers are my particular favorites. So far, we’ve only ever gotten glimpses of them, and accounts of the Rebellion given after the fact. I read reports that HBO is working on several possible spin-off series for when Game of Thrones finishes, and I honestly hope one of them is the Blackfyre Rebellion.

But whatever else may come, I eagerly await the next installment in the adventures of Dunk & Egg.

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Comment

  1. Juracan on 15 August 2017, 16:53 said:

    I’ve also been working on my sporking of City of Glass. I just finished chapter 11, and there are only 20 chapters, plus an epilogue. Not counting the excerpts from other novels (which I will not be looking at – you can’t make me) I’m now about half-way through. Also, I’m considering cross-posting it over at the Das Sporking community over on Dreamwidth – tell me what you think about that.

    YASSSSS

    In part because I’m hoping that’ll bring some attention and more people over to our community. ‘Cause, uh, it’s been pretty slow around here lately.

    And I’m really looking forward to a new sporking coming up on II.

    So I’ve considered getting into ASoIaF for a while now, especially now that all my friends aren’t telling me to read the books/watch the show like they did when it first got big.

    So hearing about this book, and your comments that one doesn’t need to read the other books to be able to appreciate the stories, I might pick this one up long before I ever get to reading A Game of Thrones and the following books.

  2. Apep on 15 August 2017, 17:00 said:

    In part because I’m hoping that’ll bring some attention and more people over to our community. ‘Cause, uh, it’s been pretty slow around here lately.

    If I do, I’ll absolutely post a link to my sporks of the earlier books here. No point in re-posting those, especially since some of the stuff there is a bit dated now.

    So hearing about this book, and your comments that one doesn’t need to read the other books to be able to appreciate the stories, I might pick this one up long before I ever get to reading A Game of Thrones and the following books.

    Well, there is some background knowledge that you’d need going in, like who the Targaryens are and their general look. There’s also some dream/prophesy stuff that deals with events from the main books, but nothing you probably haven’t picked up via cultural osmosis at this point.

    So, yeah. Feel free to pick up Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and/or the comics.