Friday, May 18, 2012

The Hedge Knight, by George R.R. Martin

The Hedge Knight, by George R.R. Martin - book review

My rating: 2/5

This novel is set in the same universe as the Game of Thrones series, though the action takes place a century before. As such, it draws the inevitable comparisons to Game of Thrones, so I thought I might start my review there.

The world of Game of Thrones is, magic excepted, a simplification of our own world. We have telecommunications: telephone networks, internet, mobiles, etc. The Game of Thrones world has ravens, and communicate between castles by attaching messages to their legs. We have the world's major religions, the Game of Throne's world has the religion of the seven, the lord of light, and the old gods. We have governments and heads of state, the Game of Thrones world has kings, lords, and councils. We have sport fans, the Game of Thrones world has tourneys. We have courts of law, the Game of Thrones world has...

Well nothing, really. There is no justice for the common man/woman in the Game of Thrones series, which is why everyone is so desperate to remain a lord or a king, because though it won't spare one a violent death, it certainly enables one to expect it, sword in hand. The only safeguard against injustice is the oath that knights take to defend the meek. In the Game of Thrones series, a war is under foot and knights' oaths have taken back stage to their war duties, save a band of outlaws.
Hence the interest of this book, the Hedge Knight. George R.R. Martin shows here how one knight will uphold the oath of the knight and defend a maiden against the abuse of a mad prince. The act is spontaneous, unplanned, and plunges the hedge knight into a forward flight in which he risks all to save himself.

The initial act of courage is taken by our hot-headed hero without premediation, and here one could expect that the character's reasons for desiring justice were more detailed, explained. However, this one act accomplished, our hedge knight can do nothing but regret it, ruefully damning his thick-headedness. Was this an existential act? We don't have time to ponder the philosophical implications as the hedge knight scrambles to assemble a team of champions to defend against the opposing accusers who have decreed that he should be given trial by combat.

The plot relies heavily on action, to the neglect of political intrigues and human persuasion we've come to expect from Game of Thrones. Also, I found that the different plot mechanisms fit together a little too easily, and would have liked to see the hedge knight struggle more to gain the adherence of those that will eventually abet him.

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