Graphic Novel Review: George RR Martin’s The Hedge Knight

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I admit to having a love-hate relationship with George RR Martin.  The first three books of his A Song of Ice and Fire series are among my favorites, and that’s saying a lot because I read a lot of books.  That’s where the love comes in.  Now for the darker feelings – I read A Game of Thrones in 1996, and I read the next two books within days of release.  The time between each novel increased incrementally, as did the page count, but as the time between A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows stretched into years and years, I became frustrated.  I decided that I would not read any more books in the series until they were all released.  They are so long that I can’t remember all of the subtle nuances of the story, let alone the ever growing cast of characters, especially with the lengthy time between releases.  Worse, I have the irrational fear that I won’t be around to see the end of the series, and that disappointment weighs heavy on my mind.  So while GRRM doesn’t owe me more timely releases of his books, I do owe something to myself.  I owe myself a read without fears, regrets, or frustrations, so my embargo of the main series  continues.  I won’t even watch the TV series until it’s over (not that I have HBO anyway, but that’s another story altogether).

 

So while I won’t read the novels, I saw that a graphic novel adaptation of The Hedge Knight had been acquired by the library system, and believing it to be a stand-alone work, I promptly requested it.  And waited weeks and weeks for it to arrive, only to learn, after I finished it, that this is a trilogy.  Ugh!  At least the next volume is already available from Jet City Comics, Amazon’s comic book imprint (they also announced the purchase of ComiXology last week, which has me curious about the direction of that acquisition).  So that’s what I get for breaking the embargo!

I really enjoyed The Hedge Knight.  It takes place 100 years before the events in AGOT, and it was interesting to read about the ancestors of the characters from ASOI&F.  It also reminded me of why I like GRRM’s writing so much.  The Hedge Knight is the story of an ordinary man thrown into an extraordinary circumstance, all because he was doing what he thought was right.  Dunk, an orphan from the streets of King’s Landing, was rescued from his extreme poverty by a hedge knight, who taught him the ways of chivalry.  Being a knight meant protecting the weak and innocent.  If you are a fan of GRRM, you know that men of ethics suffer terrible fates, while those who have sworn to adhere to a higher code of conduct rarely do, and yet they survive and thrive.  The concept of fair does not exist in this world, and those lacking the ability to act decisively, and often heartlessly, quickly become victims to the men that don’t hesitate to enforce their will. 

Dunk is a humble man, and knightly vows mean something to him.  When he defends a woman from Aerion Targaryen, and is accused of stealing from DaeronTargaryen, Dunk’s life is on the line.  The two young men are princes, in line to inherit the royal crown, while Dunk is a penniless, nameless hedge knight.  His honor is about to cost him his life, and makes it painfully obvious to him that he hasn’t moved far beyond his humble beginnings in King’s Landing.  When he is challenged to a ritual battle to determine his guilt, he despairs about his impending death.  He needs to find six other knights willing to take up the challenge and fight to the death in defense of his honor.  He couldn’t even get one knight to vouch for him so he could enter the lists for the joust; how will he convince someone to risk his life for him, and take up the sword against the princes?

I thought the artwork fit the story to a T.  The action scenes, especially during the joust, are crisp and exciting.  You can almost feel the power and the speed as the combatants charge towards each other, meeting with a clash of lance and shield.  The art brought the story to life, with color, motion, and emotion. 

I’m glad that I broke the GRRM embargo to read The Hedge Knight.  I was captivated by the story, and read the graphic novel in pretty much one sitting.  I love cheering for the underdog, and Dunk certainly fits that description.  Now that I have been reminded of reason that I love GRRM’s writing so much, I am even more impatient to read the rest of ASOI&F, but I will have to be content with enjoying the rest of The Hedge Knight, because I am not traveling down the road of unfulfilled frustration again!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by my local library

From Amazon:

In this comic book/graphic novel adaptation set one hundred years before the events in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Hedge Knight chronicles a young squire as he travels the cruel and complex path to knighthood in the Seven Kingdoms.

Shouldering his fallen master’s sword and shield, Duncan (or “Dunk”) is determined to reinvent himself as a knight in a nearby tournament. But first Dunk needs a sponsor, and that requirement sends him down a road studded with friends, foes, adventure, and hidden agendas. One such friend is Egg, who becomes Dunk’s squire, yet even he may hold secret motivations of his own.

In this gripping prequel, Dunk and Egg seek glory in a world both familiar and new to Game of Thrones fans. What the two fortune seekers encounter, however, is a world of distrust and political machinations. Chivalry is not lost while Dunk holds fast to his dreams of honor. But such outdated virtues make him a target—and they may even lead to his ruin. This vivid and elaborately wrought tale brings new dimension to George R. R. Martin’s beloved world.

This edition includes fifteen pages of new supplemental material: sketches, character designs, and original pages by Mike S. Miller, plus variant and original covers.