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a game of thrones
volume 1

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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 sworn sword
short story, legends II, george r. r. martin
the good: unpredictable. simple enough to follow, but meanders just enough that you can't tell where he's going to take it until he does.
the bad: lacking in significance. not only does it fail to add any insight on the series, events and conflicts are small-scale and less satisfying.
we say:
in depth

This short novel, from the second Legends collection, returns to the world of 'A Song of Ice and Fire', in the time following the events in 'The Hedge Knight'. A few years have passed, and it is now summertime. Good King Daeron perished in the Great Spring Sickness, an epidemic two years earlier, and his first son Baelor Breakspear died from a wound taken in a trial of combat. Since Baelor's two sons, Valarr and Matarys, also fell to the Sickness, Daeron's second son Aerys is now the king.

We rejoin the hedge knight Duncan the Tall, formerly known as Dunk, and his squire Egg. Only a little background is given regarding their adventures in the past two years, but they have been across the southern kingdoms and spent a year in Dorne, where Dunk's horse Chestnut died. They have also been to Oldtown, where they had a short visit with Egg's cousin who is studying to become a maester. Dunk has been doing his best to impress upon Egg the role and station of a hedge knight's squire, with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, Dunk himself has matured and is no longer quite as green and na ïve as we remember him from 'The Hedge Knight'.

Dunk and Egg have taken service with ser Eustace Osgrey, a landed knight from an old but diminished family, with some meager estates which he oversees from his 'castle', Standfast, which is in truth no more than an old towerhouse. Besides Dunk, he currently has only one other knight in his household, another hedge knight he employs, Bennis of the Brown Shield. Bennis is a much more typical hedge knight than Dunk -- lazy, obnoxious, and unfamiliar with the practice of bathing. Throughout the tale his behaviour is a contrast to that of the relatively civilized Ser Duncan, who takes his knightly oath seriously.

The story revolves about a conflict between ser Eustace and his neighbour, the Lady Webber -- known as the Red Widow because she has had several short-lived husbands, along with one son who died in infancy. She is rumoured to have poisoned them all. Dunk discovers that her people have dammed and diverted the stream which runs between her and ser Eustace's territories. Ser Bennis aggravates the situation by assaulting one of her labourers, and Dunk is sent by ser Eustace as his envoy to make amends with the Red Widow, and to negotiate for the restoration of the stream. In the course of pursuing his task, and the events which ensue, Dunk learns a bit about diplomacy. He also attempts, though with arguably little success, to teach Egg about the importance of even small affairs and conflicts, though they may seem of little significance within the wider realm.

For a short novel, Martin develops his characters to the point where they are impressively familiar. Before the story is finished, the reader can nearly smell ser Bennis, and really sympathize with ser Eustace as he reveals his dark secret. Neither is the story lacking in comic relief, between the contributions of the inept draftee militia and the flatulent Septon Sefton. The plot is simple enough to be easy to follow, yet complex enough that it avoids being predictable or banal. And in the end, Dunk and Egg move on, ready to embark on whatever subsequent adventure the author may envision for them.

For fans of the series, or just fans of a good medieval tale of knights and their masters, 'The Sworn Sword' delivers an enjoyable read. It lacks the action of 'The Hedge Knight', however, as well as its scope, though Martin makes up for it in part by teasing us with a tantalizing hint of possible romance. Certainly it is well worth your time to read, as in fact are most of the stories accompanying it in the second Legends anthology.


  in closing
things move a little slower this time around. the story is witty and engaging, but doesn't have much in the way of action, or the epic flavour of the series.