Warriors Review: The Mystery Knight by GRRM


Warriors, the all-star anthology edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, will be released next week on March 16th.

Some of my favorite writers contributed to Warriors; for months I have been waiting to get my hands on it. Writers like Naomi Novik, Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, and Joe Haldeman draw me no matter what they write. To have them in one place at one time is a dream come true.

I was fortunate enough to receive an early review copy of Warriors and, upon reading it, knew I had to do something special for its release. This week, I will be reviewing five different novellas from Warriors, as well as hopefully adding short interviews by the writers themselves.

Today, I will start with The Mystery Knight by George R. R. Martin.
Out of all the novellas in Warriors, The Mystery Knight is the one that will see equal parts absolute happiness mixed with absolute parts annoyance.

The novella is easily, in my opinion, the best of the Dunk & Egg stories, more complex in its story and execution than the previous two entries. George crafts a wonderful tale, pitting Dunk and Egg against the most dangerous—and thereby most interesting—foes they have encountered thus far. George excels at colorful characters and it is true here. Traveling the lands on their way to the Wall, the hedge knight and his squire make a stop where a wedding tournament is being held.
The prize to who wins the tourney? A dragon egg.

I read the previous two Dunk & Egg stories in preparation. I’m glad I did. The telling signs of George’s craft are present in all three. Great dialog. Great gray characters. Great story. Dunk and Egg both have developmental story arcs and both are growing as individuals—not only in companionship but what they mean to Westeros. In short, The Mystery Knight will be a welcome addition to fans who want to revisit Westeros in any and all capacities.

For others, it will be a sad reminder that A Dance With Dragons is not finished. Despite the novella being great, its publication will result in the usual outcry that such news seems to draw.

At least this Dunk & Egg tale is fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough. Those who love Ice & Fire will find it an amazing story. I am really looking forward to the future exploits of these two great characters.

To highlight the anthology and the novella too, I sent an interview to George and Gardner:

1. How did the Warriors anthology idea come together?

Gardner Dozois: It was George’s idea. We were sitting in the very crowded lobby in the main hotel at the Anaheim Worldcon, discussing the idea that we ought to edit an anthology together, and George said that one of the anthologies that he’d always wanted to do was an anthology of stories about warriors down through the ages. That sounded like a good idea to me, so we agreed that we’d work on it as a collaborative project, and, after hashing it out some more, that we’d like to do it as a cross-genre anthology, if we could find a publisher who would buy one. When we got home, we began working up dream lists of authors we’d like to get for the book—most of whom we got, as a matter of fact (we were in discussion with Tony Hillerman, a favorite of both of us, about doing a story for Warriors, and he had tentatively agreed, when he tragically died). The rest was just a lot of hard work, a LOT of emails exchanged, and a couple of years assembling the book and dealing with the sudden emergencies that are the lot of any editor. Nothing to it!

2. How is editing an anthology filled with the genre’s best writers different from your own execution as a writer? What do you get out of it?

Gardner Dozois: What I got out of it (other than the money, of course, and the opportunity to work closely with George, one of my oldest friends) was the chance to work with some of the sharpest minds and most talented authors working today. I got that when I used to edit ASIMOV’S too, of course, but in a way this was an even more broadening experience, since the cross-genre nature of the book meant that I had to deal with writers from a number of different fields, some of whose work I had previously been unfamiliar with, and which I got to familiarize myself with while working on the book.

3. The Mystery Knight is your third Dunk & Egg story. It is my favorite of the three. What is it like writing about two characters whose destinies you have hinted at in Ice & Fire?

George R. R. Martin: Glad to hear that you enjoyed The Mystery Knight. It was definitely the most complex and challenging of the three novellas, and took much longer to complete than either of the others.

I am very fond of Dunk & Egg. The hints about their destinies in A Song of Ice & Fire, though…. well, that’s actually the tricky part. The characters are part of the history of Westeros as far as the characters in the main series are concerned, so it makes sense that they would be mentioned from time to time, but I have to be careful that I do not reveal too much. If my Ice & Fire readers already know how things are going to turn out for Dunk & Egg, the novellas will lose a lot of suspense. My hope is that I can do a little literary sleight-of-hand along the way, and ring in some unexpected twists and turns. We shall see.

I actually credit a lot of the popularity of A Song of Ice & Fire to Dunk & Egg. That first story, in Robert Silverberg’s landmark fantasy anthology Legends, won me legions of new readers. Time and time again, at conventions and signings, I’ve had fans come up to me and say, “I’d never heard of you until I bought Legends for the Robert Jordan story (or the Stephen King story, or the Terry Pratchett story, or the Ursula LeGuin story, fill in the blank), but when I read The Hedge Knight I fell in love with Dunk & Egg and went out looking for your books.”

4. Will we see more Dunk & Egg stories in the future? And will this one be adapted into a comic book series as well?

George R. R. Martin: Yes, I expect that The Mystery Knight will eventually be adapted into a comic book miniseries, and then collected into a trade paperback as were The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword. Ideally I would want the same creative team who did the first two—scripter Ben Avery and artist Mike S. Miller—to handle the adaptation of this one as well. They’ve done a fabulous job to date.

The legal situation might be a bit complex, however. The Hedge Knight comic was done by the Dabel Brothers (aka DBPro, aka Roaring Studios), in partnership first with Image Comics and later with Devil’s Due. The Sworn Sword was again done by the Dabel Brothers, initially in partnership with Marvel. When that arrangement came apart, Marvel got custody of Dunk & Egg in the divorce. So where does that leave The Mystery Knight? With Marvel, I assume, but I have no idea whether Marvel would want to continue with the Hedge Knight series. Guess I will find out eventually. If not, there are other options…
In any case, it is a few years down the road. We have a two-year exclusivity period for Warriors, so the earliest any comic could appear would be March, 2012.

As for future stories… my hope is to write a whole series of novellas, follow Dunk & Egg from their youth to maturity to old age, and eventually collect the stories together in a book… or more likely, three or four books. I have the ideas for the next several stories already, and of course for the last one (which could be very difficult to write).

The hard part is finding the time to write them. My original intent was to write a new Dunk & Egg novella between each volume of A Song of Ice and Fire… but both The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight proved troublesome, and in both cases I had to put the story aside for a time, let it stew in my subconscious while working on the latest Ice & Fire book, and return to it later. I do hope to write the next Dunk & Egg after I complete A Dance With Dragons… but I’m not making any promises.

5. From the editor’s point of view, why should people buy Warriors?

Gardner Dozois: People should buy Warriors because they’ll be getting a lot of good stories. A LOT of them. First and foremost, that’s why. It’s a big book, but it’s a lot of reading value for your money—no matter what genre an author was working in (and some of them tried working in genres other than the ones they built their reputations in), we insisted that they tell an exciting and engrossing STORY above all else, and we got that from everybody involved. There’s a strong emphasis on good storytelling, strong plots, strong characters, in the book—I don’t think any of the stories are going to bore you, no matter what kind of story they are. Which is another value of the book: the very wide range of variety you get. There are science fiction stories here, fantasy stories, mystery stories, romances, westerns, and historical stories with settings ranging from ancient Carthage to the days of the Vikings to World War II. It gives you a chance to explore other genres you might not be familiar with, find authors whose work you like. And we deliberately mixed the Table of Contents, so that you don’t get two similar kinds of story in a row; there’s no science fiction section or fantasy section, it’s all swirled together throughout. In the words of Forrest Gump, “You never know what you’re going to get.” That keeps it exciting, and fresh, and unexpected.

Warriors and The Mystery Knight go on sale March 16th!
More tomorrow. Stay tuned!