Wednesday, 21 May 2014

‘The Hedge Knight’ – George R.R. Martin

While I’m catching up with the HBO series (two and a bit more seasons and I’ll be with you guys) and pondering whether to go for a ‘big ol’ re-read’ of ‘ASOIAF’ (will more than likely happen when I next have a long train journey to make) I’m mooching around my bookshelves, trying to get a little caught up some of the shorter pieces of Westeros fiction that GRRM has written. My thoughts on ‘The Rogue Prince’ went up at the end of April and at some point that will be followed by what I thought ‘The Princess and the Queen’ (still to be read). Today then is all about what lies in the middle and that is ‘The Hedge Knight’, first of the tales of Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire Egg.
I’m pretty sure the plan is that, eventually, you will be able to find all of Dunk and Egg’s adventures in one collection but that day is a way off yet (seeing that there’s at one novella, that I know of, still to be written). I found ‘The Hedge Knight’ in the Robert Silverberg edited ‘Legends’ collection, I don’t think it’s anywhere else.

Anyway… What is a lowly squire to do when his hedge knight master falls ill in the middle of nowhere, knights him and then promptly dies? If you’re Dunk, The first thing you do (after burying your master of course) is to head for the tourney you were going to originally. This time though, instead of supplying his master with fresh lances, Dunk plans to tilt a few lances himself and make enough prize money to find his own way (as a hedge knight) in the world. Simple, right? Not if you’re Dunk and have a habit of accidentally involving yourself in the affairs of the high and mighty…

It’s really interesting to read ‘The Hedge Knight’, after having read the ‘ASOIAF’ books, as you can’t help but ask yourself if Dunk’s actions indirectly lead to Robert Baratheon’s rebellion, a hundred years later, and everything that followed afterwards. I don’t want to give any spoilers away but that was all I could think of once I’d read the last page. Great foreshadowing by GRRM if that is the case, erm… a case of my reading too much into things if it isn’t!

Something to chew on then but what I really enjoyed about ‘The Hedge Knight’ was seeing Dunk (I’ll call him ‘Ser Duncan’ from hereon in) find his way in the world and how his efforts to stay true to an ideal of knighthood is not only tested but impacts on the lives of all around him. While politics, and plain old fashioned violence (as skilfully and brutally drawn as ever), play out during the course of the tourney, GRRM shows us that actually there is nothing more deadly than a naïve and virtuous man trying to do the right thing. It’s like ‘A Game of Thrones’ played out on a much smaller scale and by the end, Ser Duncan is faced with the choice of either continuing to forge his own path or to essentially become another piece in the game. Those of you who have read ‘The Hedge Knight’ already will know the decision that Ser Duncan takes and I think he made the right one, for him anyway.

I really enjoyed ‘The Hedge Knight’ (despite trying to get my head round what felt like a conveyor belt constantly churning out new knights, and where were the Starks?), a tale that initially felt like  a great way to dip my toes into the world of Westeros but then grew into something more; a very promising opening tale in the life of a man whom I hear has great things ahead of him.  

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