The Ice Dragon

Author: George RR Martin
Illustrator: Luis Royo
Publisher: Harper Voyager

Do you like dragons? I do. I like all kinds of dragons. From the deadly wyrm to the glorious dragons of the Orient, I love them all. So when I got my grubby hands on George RR Martin’s (Yes, that George RR Martin! Who writes about thrones and games!) children’s book, The Ice Dragon, I was very happy. Very happy, indeed.

The artwork on the cover and throughout the book is spectacular, and rightly so. Master artist Luis Royo, of prolific fantasy art fame, lends his talents to this story, giving it a visual edge, helping to bring Martin’s words to life for younger readers.

The story was originally published in 1980 in an anthology called Dragons Of Light; this is a second reworking, with a series of original paintings by Royo.

Readers should take note that the events taking place in The Ice Dragon do not take place in the same world as Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire, although there are enough similarities and events to draw parallels.

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The story is told through the eyes of Martin’s little protagonist, Adara, a serious little seven-year-old girl who loves winter and everything it brings. Adara lives on a farm with her father and older brother and sister. They don’t quite get her, but it’s all right. Adara has a secret friend in the ice dragon who visits her every winter.

Everything is not happiness and light, however, as Adara’s father is still suffering the loss of her mother, who died when Adara was born. Also, there is a great war happening all over the country, and Adara’s uncle Hal, one of the best dragon riders in the land, fights for the king against the vicious and deadly dragon riders of the enemy. Nobody should be surprised, Martin wrote this book, after all.

Over the course of the book, the enemy gets closer and closer and finally attacks the region Adara lives in. Will our plucky little heroine and her icy friend be able to protect the people she loves? Anyone who’s read any of the Song Of Ice And Fire books will know that these things are hard to predict when Martin is holding the pen.

I thought that this was an excellent book. It is delivered in Martin’s trademark style and, while kept simple (the book is for children, after all), is highly evocative, compelling, and at times, emotional. The artwork throughout the book is simply enchanting, and the Ice Dragon, strikingly beautiful.

Parents be mindful, though, that this book has themes of death, war, and destruction, and may not be suitable for younger children. There are scenes of dragon fire roasting people to death and paragraphs about soldiers with missing limbs. For older children, this is a good introduction to fantasy, what mystical senior librarians call a “gateway book”.

I highly recommend this book, both for older children and for all fantasy fans. Both frostbitten thumbs up.