Review: The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin

Ice DragonHere’s the thing about me and Game of Thrones:  I have not read all of the books, nor have I watched more than three episodes of its television adaptation. When I share this information – rarely, you’ll understand, because nobody wants to be publicly ousted as incompatible with what’s hip – I’m often presented with bewildered stares – you know, raised eyebrows, eyes wide, mouth agape – and vehement avowals I’m a fool, that I just “don’t get it,” and that I should really rethink my life choices. Have I sought therapy? No? Well, maybe I should. Only in this instance, therapy involves taping my eyelids open and perpetual screenings of the show, followed by having my head clamped down and the pages automatically turned on the series’ tomes. Or maybe they’ll reverse the order: book first. Who knows; I’m not a doctor.

Fantasy is simply not my forte. I’m as disinterested in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as I am Game of Thrones, which doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate their epic narratives and the authors’ prose; it just means I don’t read them. There is an assumption that, because a person doesn’t read something – a genre, an author, whatever – they must detest it and what it eviscerated. Not true. Indeed, to prove that I’ll occasionally step into unfamiliar territory, I recently grabbed a copy of George R.R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon – a republished version of his children’s story set in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. And I really enjoyed my sojourn into that world. In fact, it has tempted me to revisit the novels. But one step at a time, okay? It’s an icy pool, and I’m going to ease myself in.

The story’s premise is delightfully simple: it’s about a troubled girl, who doesn’t quite belong in this world – “They said that the cold had entered Adara in the womb, that her skin had been pale blue and icy to the touch when she came forth, and that she had never warmed in all the years since. The winter had touched her, left its mark upon her, and made her its own.” – and her dragon, which, as the title suggests, is composed of ice, and has apparently been referred to but never seen in Martin’s adult novels. The world is at war – her father’s farm is on the brink of decimation – and only Adara and her dragon stands in its way.

Martin’s prose is delectable and augmented by illustrations by Spanish artist Luis Royo. Some of the visuals take up entire pages, or the majority of two; others a smaller space. But all are effective and wonderfully rendered; indeed, my only complaint is that I wish they’d been in colour, and allowed more space to breathe. The Ice Dragon could’ve easily come to life as a more traditional children’s picture book instead of the small hardcover format the publisher has chosen, which I suppose is more likely to appeal to older audiences wanting to add this to their Game of Thrones collection.

It’s a quick read, but an undeniably enthralling and heart-warming one: few surprises are contained within, but its execution is flawless. The Ice Dragon will be cherished by young and old alike: a brilliant tease for younger audiences – further exploration of this world awaits them when they’re that little bit older.

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