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The Hedge Knight    by George R. R. Martin order for
Hedge Knight
by George R. R. Martin
Order:  USA  Can
Dabel Brothers, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

From acclaimed epic fantasy author George R. R. Martin comes the graphic novel, The Hedge Knight, originally a novella in the anthology Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg. That volume presented short stories or novellas that would add some component to a world or series each author had previously created. For instance, Robert Jordan wrote a prequel to his Wheel of Time, as did Terry Goodkind for his Sword of Truth. Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, and Orson Scott Card also contributed. The Hedge Knight is a prequel to Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, set some hundred years before the first book.

Having just buried hedge knight Ser Arlan, Duncan (his squire and life-long friend) decides to don Arlan's attire and deem himself a hedge knight. Though low in the hierarchy, the title of hedge knight still carries some esteem. Not so much mercenaries but those who choose their own fate, hedge knights travel from lord to lord taking up battles they believe to be just and fair. This is the life that Dunk chooses. No sooner does he bury his friend than he discovers there's to be a tournament at the nearby Ashford Meadow.

Along the way, he picks up Egg, a young and pestering lad who has taken a liking to Dunk. Egg insists that he is Dunk's new squire, despite Dunk's objections. The hedge knight's first task is to gain access to the tournament. Once in, he has larger problems. When an altercation breaks out between his friend and Aerion, the King's grandson, Dunk ends up in prison after assaulting Aerion. According to ancient law, he and six others must now stand against Aerion and his chosen team. Even if Dunk can make new friends quickly, will they be strong enough to fend off the best fighters in the kingdom?

Filled with action and intrigue, The Hedge Knight delivers a great story and better understanding of the world in which Martin places his series. With flashbacks illuminating the relationship between Ser Arlan and Dunk, readers come to appreciate Duncan's evolution from youth to adult. Action scenes are intense and fantastically drawn. The artists display great talent in facial depictions, providing close ups that do not need words - expressions on characters' faces speak for themselves. The one fault (common to epic fantasy) is the difficulty of keeping track of all the characters and their socio-political positions. While a guide to coats of arms is provided in the back, a character guide would have proven more useful - there is a portrait gallery of main characters, but with only a name next to each painting, readers may still have trouble keeping track of who's who.

Regardless of whether one is familiar with Martin's series, this is a great tale of action, intrigue, and honor which anyone can enjoy (and this edition also features a short story, Battle on Redgrass Field). In the Introduction, Robert Silverberg claims that The Hedge Knight is only the first of the novellas and short stories in Legends to be turned into graphic novels. If this is true, one can only wait with anticipation for further editions.

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