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Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 12/20/15 7:35 AM

Book review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin

 Even as winter is coming

This book needs to come with a disclaimer: it is being reviewed by one who remains untouched by the Game of Thrones saga by the redoubtable George R R Martin. That is because I have not — yet — read the books or watched the cult television series.

This book also comes with illustrations by Gary Gianni that are so stunning, so eye-riveting, the reader will keep referring to them again and again; this, then, makes the book a slow and immensely pleasurable read, indeed the best kind of read.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is that old-fashioned marvel: a wonderful story of heroes, villains, heroics, villainy, adventure, thrills, a smidgen of romance, more than a smidgen of humour, even a dragon’s egg. Above all, there is an immensely heartwarming moral tale which is woven neatly into the context. The nuances and layers which apparently mark the Game of Thrones saga is missing, but not missed here.

This is a full century before the House Lannister appears in Westeros but the Targaryens still hold the Iron Throne and ‘the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living consciousness.’

Here we have Dunk, a young man (possibly 17 or 18, he himself isn’t sure), something of a giant at a little less than seven feet tall. Dunk, who may or may not be Duncan, is suddenly and unceremoniously knighted by his dying mentor, but that is alright, because in the deliberately indeterminate times that Martin sets his tale in, a knight, whether a royal, of good blood or just a plain hedge knight, can bestow the title on any man he deems worthy.

Our Dunk, who now takes on the moniker of Duncan the Tall, proves himself to be more than worthy. His jousting, indeed fighting skills, are very much on the rough-and-ready side, but his heart is stout. Dunk, as suddenly as he becomes a knight, acquires a mysterious little squire, a wiry lad of about 10 with huge purple-blue eyes, a bald pate and a sassy tongue. The little fellow is called Egg and soon the duo are inseparable.

Within a few pages, it is revealed to the reader just who the little squire is… but no spoilers here. Together, the unlikely pair roam the land, meeting adventure headlong and throwing themselves into it with much vim and vigour; winning some, losing some, but emerging barely unscathed.

The adventures include a momentous joust at Ashford Meadow; meeting, challenging and fighting the beautiful Red Widow, Lady Rohanne of Coldmoat; attending what seems to be merely a friendly tourney or two at a wedding feast but is soon exposed to be the crucible for a mutiny of sorts, a rebellion swiftly and ruthlessly put down.

Gary Gianni’s drawings show the keen eye for detail found in those who illustrate comics. He took 18 months to illustrate the stories in this book and it is indeed a masterwork. The sweep of a fair maiden’s gown, the curve of another lady’s braid, the expression of delight on Egg’s face, Dunk astride a warhorse at a joust, the verdant forests, all of it complement the sweep and style of Martin’s storytelling beautifully.

These stories have previously appeared as novellas, in other books, and as part of graphic novels. The reader is told that this book is the first of three official prequel novellas to the Song of Ice and Fire saga. Well, this reader cannot wait to get her hands on the second book. And that, indeed, is the true triumph of a novelist: the eager reader.

This ran in DECCAN HERALD of 20 Dec 2015.

A Knight Of The Seven KingdomsGame of ThronesGeorge RR MartinWesteros

Sheila Kumar • December 20, 2015

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