It’s seems that whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not, escaping the mention of it has been a futile exercise as of late. It’s not too bad for myself as I’m a massive lover of the books and have really enjoyed the TV adaptation (bar the last series perhaps), but I do feel somewhat for the seemingly scant remainders of the population who really couldn’t care less for the hype. It’s these people I want to offer my apologies to today, as the book I’m reviewing for this post is A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R. R. Martin. Whilst it’s not actually a part of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones for the TV watchers), it is set within the same world.
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, also known as The Tales of Dunk and Egg #1-3, can be seen as a prequel of sorts to A Song of Fire and Ice. It follows the adventures of Dunk, a man who is trying to prove himself as a knight of worth, and his young squire, Egg. It seems a fairly typical medieval picture, except for one thing; Egg is actually short for Aegon, as in Aegon Targaryen of the royal line and future King of the Seven Kingdoms. The pair travel through Westeros, conscious of the weight of the truth upon them and the need to keep their secret secure, for not all are fans of the Targaryens, and Egg just might be the perfect opportunity to cause some unrest.
One of the things which I think made me enjoy this book so much and I think will make it such a brilliant read for A Song of Ice and Fire fans is the way in which it makes you feel as if you are coming home. The events of this novel may be set before the epic series, but there really is something comforting within its pages. There’s something cosy about the mention of all too familiar places such as Kings Landing and The Wall, and the mention of Winterfell made me want to quite literally shout out for joy. The characters may be different and the political situation isn’t the same, but nevertheless it really did fill that gap left from waiting so long for the next installment of the series. Whilst I do feel that this book provides an extra layer for already established lovers of George R. R. Martin’s world, I also really do think that the three short stories in this book provide a fantastic way for readers who are new to the world to get a feel for it.
Whilst this book is technically made up of three separate stories, they most definitely work together as one cohesive piece and continue on the events in a linear fashion. This smaller structure did worry me somewhat as the books within A Song of Ice and Fire are all mighty tomes packed full of excitement. I had no reason to worry however, for this book is still just as filled with the brutal violence and shocking plots that we have already come to expect from Martin’s writing. Whilst they are much simpler in style and tone than the series, with only one narrative perspective and a much straighter plot, there is still a surprising amount which the author managed to instill into his works, especially with regards to world building and establishing the history of the Seven Kingdoms. This may be a short book, but it really did help to flesh out the epic series and to grant us a better understand of the world as a whole, especially with regards to the ancestry of certain characters.
The one thing I did find tricky with this book, and something I know that most people struggle with anyway within this world, was the many characters and different houses we are introduced to. The Targaryen line in particular was pretty hectic at first to follow; many of the names sound very similar and the Targaryen’s certainly have a long and messy history. I did find this problem was solved by using a handy family tree online which helped to just further clarify some of the characters as I read on. Likewise, the only other aspect I can critique was the fact that this book isn’t as big on the fantasy aspect as the later series, yet even saying that I can understand why this is the case in terms of the temporal setting, and it certainly makes the book accessible to those who may be daunted by the fantastical.
Whilst it might be confusing at first to get a grip of some of the characters, I will say that the characterisation is great in this book and you do find yourself rooting for people just as you do in A Game of Thrones. Egg in particular, was a character I loved to follow and one that I really did come to have a soft spot for, alongside Sir Duncan the Tall (also known as Dunk). I really did enjoy getting to know someone who is a member of a prolific house, and indeed a member of the royal family, actually getting to be out and about doing and being something different. This is definitely heightened if you are familiar with the events of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, as it makes you appreciate what you are seeing and how the plot can impact on later events to come.
Lastly, I cannot talk about A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms without mentioning the stunning illustrations by Gary Gianni. Every time I’d turn the page for there to be a new illustration I was once again captivating by the artists incredible skill. It seems a bit redundant to say it but it really did help bring the stories to life on a whole new level and really enriched the reading experience. I also think the style was incredibly well suited to the book, with a greatly detailed black and white style which suited the setting and the events perfectly.
If you’re a lover of A Song of Ice and Fire/A Game of Thrones, or if you want to give this world a go but are daunted by the rather massive series, I couldn’t recommend this book anymore as being a perfect read. It’s short and fast paced, with just the right amount of fantasy to entice those who may otherwise be put off.
‘It might be set before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, but this book really did feel like coming home. It’s everything you could want from George R. R. Martin in a much more condensed and easily accessible format. Great for established lovers of this world and those wanting to start their journey.’
Publisher: Harper Voyager