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a game of thrones
volume 1

a clash of kings
volume 2

a storm of swords
volume 3

the hedge knight
short story

the sworn sword
short story

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  in brief
the hedge knight
short story, legends I, george r. r. martin
the good: plenty of action lightened with a bit of comedy, and the underdog good-guy comes out on top.
the bad: relatively smple and straightforward, the novella lacks a bit of the grip that captivates readers of his epic.
we say:
in depth

This novella, found in the second volume of the paperback version, is set in the world of the epic 'A Song of Ice and Fire', a land where the seasons have been thrown out of balance, and summer and winter each last for years. One of these winters has just broken, and the first tourney of the new spring is being held at Ashford Meadows. Nobles and knights from across the realm will be attending, each hoping to try his skills, prove his worth, and perhaps even become a champion.

Occurring from the viewpoint of Dunk, a young man who has but recently become a knight, shortly before the death by illness of the knight for whom he had until lately been squiring, the story is a departure from Martin's usual perspectives from the nobility. Having no family, nor employment in a lord's household, Dunk is a hedge knight -- sworn to defend the realm and protect the weak and innocent, but not to the service of any lord in particular, and so free to take service and fight for whichever may require his service for a time. But no mere mercenary: a hedge knight has more pride, as well as an additional means of sustenance, for as a knight he may compete in tournaments, and win renown for his name, as well as ransom from the knights he may defeat.

The new knight finds himself set upon by a small, bald lad called Egg, who is quite persistent enough to convince Dunk to take him on as a squire. Arriving at Ashford Meadows, Dunk learns some life lessons after uncomfortably rubbing elbows with some of the nobles who are also attending the tourney, has a chance to uphold his knight's oath, and even has a run-in with a prince of the ruling Targaryen family, several of whom have also come to attend the tournament.

The author unfolds this story with his signature style, capturing the reader's interest in the major character and including the occasional unpleasant surprise. This story is not so dark as his epic, though, as Dunk and Egg both survive, leaving open the pleasant possibility of their appearance in another tale in the future. If anything, comparison to Martin's more familiar writings tends to make one find that this story is just a bit short to be fully satisfying. As a reader may have come to expect a little more depth and intrigue, this story's relative simplicity could be a drawback.

Regarding any connection to the novels, the time frame in this story is too early for it to lend any background to the situations there, beyond some introduction to the prominent Targaryens of this era, various of whom have some part in building the resentment which leads to the revolution which is key to the political situation in the later books. If you enjoy the world of 'A Song of Ice and Fire', and want to read more about it, a tale from a happier era, this is for you. If you're put off by the depth or tragic character of the epic, then this story may be more to your taste, as well.


  in closing
an enjoyable read that's easier to tackle than the epic series itself. plenty of fun, the story also provides interesting insight into the rich history of westeros.