The Hedge Knight is a novella written by George R.R. Martin that was published in 1998 and is the first book in Tales of Dunk and Egg; a series of prequel novellas set in the world of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Set around 90 years before the events of A Game of Thrones, the novella tells the story of how Dunk became a hedge knight, met and befriended his squire, Egg and their involvement in the tourney of Ashford Meadow.
This book is by George R.R. Martin, to say that it was well-written and that the story was engaging is equivalent to saying the sky is blue; you’re stating the obvious. The book is written in the first person from Dunk’s point-of-view. The story, plot and character development is organic. The pieces of each are carefully laid and it all comes together coherently with virtually no loose ends.
There is no info-dumping in this book. The story doesn’t pause so that a character can tell you what is what; it just happens naturally and you learn about the world and everything else you need to by virtue of things happening. You get to know a character through their speech and their actions.
Dunk has a strong sense of honour, is noble and keeps his word. He is a simple man with simple desires. He’s not overly ambitious. There is a naivety, shyness, sweetness and innocence about him that is very endearing, draws you to him and makes him sympathetic. He is very easily likable. Fun fact: He is an ancestor of Brienne.
Egg is precocious, stubborn, intelligent, humble and compassionate. As annoying as he is when he is first introduced he has a sincerity and authenticity that allows you to see through that initial annoyance to see the sweet little boy that he is underneath. Fun fact: He is Maester Aemon’s younger brother and Daenerys’ grandfather.
There are a lot of Targaryens in this book and he is the best of them, besides Baelor Breakspear. Knowing that he becomes King later in life and seeing what all of the other options would have been, as “Unlikely” as his rule may have been the Seven Kingdoms were better off with him.
It is quite confusing keeping track of which Targaryen is which – there are so many! But for anyone who loves this house it is a good dilemma to have; seeing the Targaryens, not quite at the height of their power, but not nearly as diminished as they have become by A Song of Ice and Fire.
If you are familiar with the lore and history of Westeros, particularly as concerns House Targaryen, then you know the ultimate fates of these characters. In a small, indirect way the story has been spoiled for you. It is quite bittersweet reading about Dunk and Egg and growing to love them and their friendship knowing what will happen to them later in life. But that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the novel. Part of that is hearing about characters that are still alive by A Song of Ice and Fire in passing – like Maester Aemon – and seeing and learning more about characters who are mentioned in A Song of Ice and Fire “in person.”
The tone of this novella is different from that of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
For one, there is no feeling of a great, looming threat – the Others – and no intrigue or political maneuvering. It’s generally lighter. But this is George R.R. Martin. It is part of the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. So there’s some bittersweet-ness to be had.
It’s a also a different genre; it’s more of a medieval adventure whereas A Song of Ice and Fire is a medieval, thriller, supernatural, fantasy drama.
It’s easy to recommend this novella to people who are already fans of the main novels and show watchers who want to engage with the books but are wary of their length. Outside of that, it will likely suit the tastes of those whole like medieval adventure novels along the lines of King Arthur. Or perhaps even those who have a distaste for the A Song of Ice and Fire because of it’s violence and sexual content (of which there is none of the latter).
It is skillfully written with a compelling story, a unified and consistent plot and charming, fascinating characters.