A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Beautifully illustrated and charming. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a compilation of 3 short stories about Dunk and Egg.
The Hedge Knight begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlan of Pennytree. Arlan's dying act was to knight Dunk, his clumsy seventeen year old squire. Poor Dunk doesn't have much going for him, while Ser Arlan was an "honorable" knight and taught Dunk honor the feeble old man wasn't known for his fighting skills. Dunk heads to Ashford Castle where he hopes to win a tourney. Along the way he meets a young boy (Egg) he mistakes for a stable lad. Egg follows him to Ashford Castle and takes on the duties of Dunk's squire and suggest that Dunk is short for Duncan, and Ser Duncan the Tall is born. Duncan has trouble getting anyone to remember him or Ser Arlan but at last Prince Baelor Breakspear (Egg's Uncle) vouches for him so he can ride in the tourney. But before the tourney takes place he has to get the shield he inherited from Ser Arlan painted with his own sigil (coat of arms). He takes it to a young girl he is interested in and leaves Egg to pick it up. When Prince Aerion (Egg's older brother) attacks the girl Egg runs to get Duncan, who beats Aerion up, but it's a crime to lay hands on a Dragon Prince and Duncan finds himself thrown in the dungeon. Looking at losing a hand and foot the unskilled Duncan chooses to challenge Aerion to trial by combat. The coward Aerion invokes his right to a trial of seven, hoping that the unknown Duncan will not be able to find six other knights to fight with him. Aerion's Father Prince Maekar (a famous warrior) along with the three members of the King's Guard they have with them will fight with Aerion.
Duncan is one warrior short when Prince Baelor joins them to make seven. It's a fight to the death and Duncan's group is comprised of Ser Humfrey Hardyng (who broke his leg when Aerion deliberately killed his horse), Robyn Rhysling and Humfrey Beesbury a young knight and a one-eyed old man, The Laughing Storm aka Ser Lyonel Baratheon (a great warrior) and Raymund of House Fossoway a young squire who demands to be knighted when his cousin switches sides and fights for Prince Aerion. (Raymund's branch will become the green apples henceforth). Because they are so outmatched with only two experienced warriors Prince Baelor chooses to use the longer tourney lances in hopes of unhorsing their opponents while keeping their own saddles. Duncan is eventually able to get his hands on the coward Aerion and Prince Aerion yields but Maekar Targaryen gives his brother Baelor a mortal wound before the fight ends.
Maekar banishes Aerion to the Free Cities and ask Duncan to take Egg (Aegon) as his squire.
In The Sworn Sword Dunk and Egg are serving Ser Eustace. When the Red Widow dams the stream Ser Eustace sends Duncan to treat with her. Duncan learns that Ser Eustace has been less than truthful with him, but he still does his best for the old man. In the end Ser Eustace weds the young widow to Duncan's dismay.
In The Mystery Knight Dunk and Egg stop off at a wedding tourney. But Egg quickly surmises it's a tourney of traitors. When "the Fiddler" (The Pretender aka Daemon) becomes interested in Dunk after "dreaming" of him a plot is hatched to have Dunk killed. Dunk survives the attack but loses his horse and armor. With no way to earn money to redeem them it looks like Duncan's days as a knight are over, but when Egg attempts to get them back for him by showing his signet ring (identifying himself as Prince Aegon Targaryen). His famiy's foes plan to hold him hostage but the quick thinking Egg claims that Prince Maekar sent him and Duncan there as spies and that Maekar will be arriving with his soldiers any moment. The craven Butterwell switches sides and helps Egg escape, after Duncan comes for him and defeats Black Tom. With Egg safely away Duncan works with the loyal hedge knights to free Ser Glendon Ball, the bastard son of a whore who the traitors planned to pin the theft of the egg on. Ser Glendon Ball then challenges The Pretender to a trial by combat and wins. The Bloodraven aka Lord Rivers (Egg's cousin and the King's Hand) arrives to put down the rebellion. He gives Duncan and Egg the money they need to pay Duncan's debts and let's the two go on their way.
I hope to see more Duncan and Egg stories after ASOIF is finished. *Note Aemon (Jon Stark's mentor) at the wall is Egg's brother.
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