Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: The Hedge Knight

George R.R. Martin a name that I have come to both loathe and adore. I loathe him for the simple fact that after reading a Song of Fire and Ice all other Fantasy was completely ruined for me. Within those first three books of aSoIaF perfection was attained. The story was masterfully crafted with characters that felt real in a way I have rarely seen. Upon completion of A Storm of Swords I tried to read other Fantasy novels but simply couldn’t make it past the first fifty pages. They felt so lifeless compared to the novels of Martin. None could measur up to aSoIaF. Because of this for nearly a year no Fantasy did I read.

Eventually I caught wind of a new Fantasy Anthology that was being put together by Robert Silverburg and I’m not ashamed to say that my heart was aflutter when I heard that George RR Martin was going to be contributing a story. That story as many of us probably know is The Hedge Knight.

Set nearly a hundred years before the events of aSoiaF The Hedge Knight begins with Dunk burying his old master Ser Arlan on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Unlike what we might expect for the burial of a knight Ser Arlan died like he lived with little fanfare. Dunk says a few simple words as his nature and sets out on the road to find his own fortune in the Tournament at Ashford.

In just two pages Martin is able to make us care about Dunk and to a lesser extent his dead master whom he’s burying. We feel for Dunk as sets out with his three horses and his few material possessions to seek his fortune in Ashford.

This story has all the trappings of what makes Martin so great. There is blood, betrayal, honor gained and honor lost but as only Martin can do he shows us what it means to be human. His characters come through the page as leaving breathing human beings capable of a cruel jest one moment and in next offering heartfelt sympathy for a friend in the next. It is this “Gray Area” in which all his characters inhabit that make such a personal connection for me.

From the high nobility Dunk encounters right down to the poor street urchins that litter the streets of Ashford each person is out living for themselves not just as a backdrop for the story. Likewise Dunk does not occupy some place on a pedestal rather he’s in the muck with everyone else doing the best he can to live up to the noble ideals of his former master Ser Arlan. Does he succeed? That is for you to find out.

It is a fact that Martin succeeds in giving us a glimpse once more not only to Westeros but what it means to be human.


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