NOTE: The Sworn Sword was originally published as a novella in the Legends II anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg. As before in my review of The Hedge Knight, I did not read many of the novellas due to spoilers, so this review will only cover The Sword Sword, which is the second Dunk and Egg novella. (Actually, the only other one that I read was Gaiman’s American Gods novella, which was pretty good, by the way.)
The Sworn Sword opens a year and a half after The Hedge Knight. Egg is still squiring for Dunk, hiding his distinctive Targaryen lineage by shaving his head. Dunk has temporarily sworn his services to a landed knight named Ser Eustace, whose family the Osgreys used to have wealth and lands, but now have neither. Ser Eustace is the last Osgrey, his wife long dead, his daughter taken as hostage by king (and now dead), and his three sons dead in the Blackfyre Rebellion over ten years past.
The main action of the story starts when Dunk and Egg return from fetching casks of wine to find that the stream that provides sustenance for all of Ser Eustace’s crops has dried up. This is potentitally disastrous, as there is a drought on. Upon further investigation with Ser Eustace’s other sworn knight, Ser Bennis, they find that the Red Widow (Ser Eustace’s neighbor, the lady of Coldmoat, which also happens to be the castle Ser Eustace’s ancestors once owned) has constructed a dam and diverted the stream for her own use. When Bennis and Dunk find the dam, Bennis attacks one of her knights and they hightail it out of there. Dunk knows this means trouble. From there, Dunk has to help Eustace train some truly pathetic smallfolk to defend their tower and lands against the widow, who will surely come seeking vengeance, and when one horrible thing leads to another, Dunk wonders if he should even be fighting for Ser Eustace at all.
As always, what makes reading stories in Westeros so satisfying is what Martin does with the inner lives of his characters. Unlike in the main series, we’re only getting Dunk’s point of view, but he’s a good character to see the world through. He’s honest, steadfast, and his position as a lowborn knight gives him a perspective his peers don’t quite understand. But even though we only get Dunk’s POV, Martin also makes sure that all the other characters in the story get their due as well. Ser Eustace is a washed-up knight whose family used to be nobility, and is suitably bitter about everything he has lost (including his family, a king, and his legacy). The Red Widow is even more interesting. Martin takes what could have been the role of a straightforward villainess and makes her one of the most interesting parts of the story. My only complaint about this one is that there just wasn’t enough Egg, dammit. I know he’s only ten years old, but I like the kid, and I’d like to see him play more of an active role in their adventures.