“A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms” by George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Gary Gianni (Bantam, 2015)

In addition to the main events in his Song of Ice and Fire series, Martin has also written a couple of novellas set a century before the events of the series about a fledgling hedge knight. They’ve been published in anthologies, but are collected here for the first time, with some great illustrations by Gary Gianni.

In the first story, “The Hedge Knight,” readers get to meet Dunk for the first time, who is burying his late lord and master whom he was apprenticed to. Before the man died, he knighted Dunk, as was his right. Now Dunk spends his days traveling from town to town in search of jousting tournaments in an effort to earn some coin as well as notoriety as a mystery knight. Along the way he also gains a most unusual squire in Egg, a young boy whose head is completely shaven; he also belongs to a very interesting family.

“The Sworn Sword” features the unlikely duo dealing with an issue involving a river during a very hot summer where Dunk meets a vivacious young redhead. In the final tale, “The Mystery Knight,” Dunk and Egg once again find themselves at a jousting tournament, but there is a lot more going on here than just a number of knights titling at one another.

In some ways, these stories are on par and perhaps a little better than the lengthy books, for they are simpler, more straightforward and Martin seems to be having more fun in this world when it’s not tied up with the giant, overwhelming series. Though the fun is also in reading familiar names and knowing the important people in history they will become. As for the illustrations, they are numerous and appear on almost every page, giving life and vitality to the entertaining book that is A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.

Originally written on December 4th, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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A Personal Post on HBO’s Game of Thrones

I don’t normally make personal posts about my life and choices on Bookbanter, as I like to keep it mostly about my work, books and writing. But I feel this post needs to be done.

I have been enjoying HBO’s Game of Thrones since its first season. The look of the show is incredible; the detail that goes into the sets and costumes and design is enriching and engrossing. The writers have done a decent job of keeping to the story from the books. Because it’s HBO, they’ve naturally added extra scenes of nudity and sex and even a whole new prostitute character. While this added material hasn’t felt crucial to the story for the most part, because it’s HBO, it’s to be expected. One particular scene comes to mind involving a monologue from Littlefinger gazing out a window, while he has two prostitutes pleasure each other.

Nevertheless, overall I have enjoyed the show and with this new season, because little happens in the concurrent book, they deviated from the story, adding new material that kept the show fresh and interesting.

Except for a couple of particular incidents, unsurprisingly all involving rape.

The first is between Daenerys and Khal Drogo consummating their marriage. In the book, Daenerys is understandably terrified, but Drogo is kind and gentle with her. The TV show chose to make it a disturbing scene of Drogo raping Daenerys.

The second is between Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who are deeply in love with each other, but the writers decided a rape scene between them was necessary.

The third rape scene was in this past Sunday’s episode between Ramsey Snow and Sansa Stark, while Theon/Reek is made to watch, and in fact is the character who is the focus of the scene, as viewers see his reaction with little face-time on the girl being raped. This scene served absolutely no purpose except to abhor viewers. The character of Ramsey had already been established in the previous season with his incessant torture of Theon/Reek, and we already know everything that Sansa has gone through being married to Joffrey. It was so unnecessary.

I didn’t watch the episode, but started hearing about it shortly after it aired, and when I learned what the scene actually was – as I had been somewhat suspecting it in the previous episode – I decided almost immediately I was completely done with the show, and no matter how much they might apologize and admit their error in their terrible decision to do this, they won’t be able to get me back.

Rape seems to be the one conflict male writers turn to when they want to challenge their female characters, and seeing how omnipresent it is becoming both in real life and in entertainment media, it’s a sad telling on our current reality. And I feel the only way to start exposing this as something so very wrong and horrific and to change it is to make a strong and final choice, such as not watching the show anymore, even though there was a lot about about the show I liked.

When I tweeted on Sunday about quitting the show and my reasons for this, I soon received support and other people either doing likewise or those who had been planning to watch the show now choosing never to. There were also other comments and discussions on the events of the episode on social media and the following day The Mary Sue announced its decision to no longer promote the show in this great post.

And over the week there has been more reaction to the episode, from all areas, including TV critics. IO9 made this post addressing the episode. And then there was this fantastic post from Robert Jackson Bennett which I feel is the right note to end this post on.

“The Time Traveler’s Almanac” Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Tor, 2014)

Time Traveler's Almanac
starstarstarstarHalf Star

If you’re any sort of fan of time travel, whether it’s Back to the Future, H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, or even Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure; or perhaps you enjoy discussing, debating and at times lambasting the possibility and impossibility of time paradoxes; then you need to get yourself a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac.

Well-known editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer do a magnificent job of grouping the many time travel stories together into categories, and breaking them up with nonfiction articles on different aspects of time travel. The greats are of course included in this fantastic anthology, including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, H. G. Wells, George R. R. Martin and Ursula K. LeGuin. But there is also a plethora of other, lesser known authors all with their own individual and unique stories on time travel.

There’s the one about a person who travels through time in New Delhi seeing its many forms and the variety of inhabitants throughout its history. The story about a cheap, wonderful apartment in a fancy area of San Francisco, the catch is you have to live in it in the past. One of the most moving stories is “Red Letter Day” set in a world where you receive a letter from your future self on the day of your graduation about how you should lead your life; and what it means for those who don’t receive a letter.

The Time Traveler’s Almanac features 70 stories and has a little bit of everything that can be sampled slowly over time – as I did – or gobbled up as quickly as possible. You’ll be taken to many different worlds, in different times, and no one will be like the other.

Originally written on February 11, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Book Report: A Taste of George R.R. Martin, Checking into The Overlook, Gritty Fantasy & More!


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George R. R. Martin has released an excerpt from his forthcoming Song of Ice and Fire book.

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Now that The Walking Dead is done for another season, you’ll be yearning for some new zombie-related material.

Reading Habits
A recent detailed survey from Book Riot on people’s reading habits.

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Book News: New DRAGON TATTOO, No New GAME OF THRONES, Reading a Book Series & More!


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Furthermore, 2016 might not see author George RR Martin’s book, The Winds of Winter, published either.

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Swedish author David Lagercrantz to write a fourth novel in the franchise, created by the late Stieg Larsson.

Oscar Bookish Breakdown
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“Game of Thrones: A Pop-up Guide to Westeros” illustrated by Michael Komarck, designed by Matthew Christian Reinhart (Insight Editions, 2014) [REVIEW #800!]

Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros



It’s that time of year again, deep in the dark of winter, when Christmas is almost upon us; and we sit a fair distance away from the next riveting season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and even longer from the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. You’re probably thinking in these dark times what possible gift could I be rewarded with that will make everything feel better, what pricey item would make the perfect Christmas present or possibly a worthwhile spending of the Christmas money? Why not take a look at Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros.


There aren’t many books out there to which nothing bad can be said about them, and this is one of those very rare books. However, there is a dilemma with this beautiful pop-up book, which is that you want to continuously open it and lift every flap and card and pop-up section and study and read and admire; but at the same time you also want to keep everything pristine and mint and unopened to preserve its value and perfection.


Much as with anything Matthew Reinhart puts his mind and skill to, this is simply an astonishing work of art. One of his more recent popular works of genius is Star Wars: A Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy. The level of detail and work that has gone into this pop-up book knows no bounds.


Generally, your average pop-up book will have maybe one or two on a page, and sometimes none to continue whatever story it is trying to tell, not so with Game of Thrones. Reinhart pushes the envelope with multiple levels of pop-ups cunningly conceived and designed to defy artistic logic, while other great page-spanning scenes rise up from the paper like Lazarus to dazzle your very eyes.


In addition to the main pop-up on each page, the smaller sub-pop-up has a little corner cover to be folded into so that it remains firmly locked in place and protected, making it easy to release and open up and admire, and then put back again in safety. This device also makes it easy to know how to open up a pop-up so it doesn’t bend the wrong way and possibly get damaged.


The book takes you across the scenes and locations of Westeros, showing you the lands and its citadels, giving you information on the people and characters and some of the familiar story pieces you have come to love and hate and perhaps love again.  Whether you’re an addict of the books, the TV show or both, as you slowly and delicately leaf through this incredible book you will no doubt have the Game of Thrones theme song running in your head.


Originally written on November 23, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Dangerous Women” by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (Tor, 2013)

Dangerous Women

While George R. R. Martin may be taking his time with his next book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, he definitely has an ability for finding some great talented storytellers when working with the master editor and anthologist, Gardner Dozois. Dangerous Women is one of those books that you’re very thankful for being a giant tome, as you look forward to finishing the thrilling story you’re currently reading, so you can see how it ends, as well as discovering what the next story is going to be like.

A number of big fantasy name authors make the contents list in this collection, as well as a number of other mainstream authors you may not have read before. Each of them write about heroines or female villains or powerful stories with moving female characters, from the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughan and S. M. Stirling, as well as a new novella from George R. R. Martin set within his fantasy world.  Not all the stories are fantasy or horror or science fiction, such as with Carrie Vaughan’s riveting story about female fighter pilots.

The beauty of a collection like this is that the reader has a chance to discover a number of new authors they never planned on reading, or maybe have wanted to try. Also, since the book is called Dangerous Women, it does respectfully feature more stories written by women authors, as it should. Ultimately, it’s a collection that features wall-to-wall female characters everywhere, which sadly cannot be said for most books published these days.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dangerous Women from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.