This is another short story by George R. R. Martin set in Westeros. It follows the events of The Hedge Knight, which I read recently in volume two of Dream Songs. This story, however, I read in graphic novel (or graphic short story) form. It was adapted by Ben Avery, with art (entirely solid, though unexceptional) by Mike Miller.
In this, Ser Duncan has pledged himself to a down-on-his-luck lord, who becomes embroiled in a small scale conflict with a neighbour over control of a local river, made deadly serious by an ongoing drought (though this didn’t seem to stop Dunc from taking a prodigious number of baths). This neighbour is initially thought to be a wicked and murderous old witch, but Dunc’s loyalty is tested when it turns out that she’s actually young, beautiful, and intelligent, and tested further when he learns that his increasingly erratic current employer was on the losing side of the civil war that occurred a decade or two ago.
There is some bloodshed, but everything resolves very neatly indeed. Dunc doesn’t quite get the girl (he’s too poor and low-born for that), but the two sides of the conflict end up reconciled, and the last scenes are of rain as the drought comes to an end.
This, the second Hedge Knight tale, isn’t quite as good as the first. The characters are complex and interesting, and the central theme of loyalty tested is well depicted, but there’s a certain emotional power that’s missing here. Still, though, it seems ideally suited to be turned into a graphic novel. Unfortunately, though, the writer/adapter chose to include lengthy exposition regarding the exploits of characters long dead. This sort of stuff adds texture to Martin’s lengthy tomes, but here, in this primarily visual format, it’s stultifying and tedious. Cutting this content (either reducing it or removing it entirely) would have made the story skip along much more smoothly, without impinging in any serious way on the plot or the themes therein.
I haven’t read the first adaptation, so I can’t comment on it directly. Nor have I read the original text that this adaption is based on. This puts me in a slightly awkward position, but I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend that readers go straight to the source material.