Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been rewatching the whole of the Game of Thrones TV adaptation. Until season 7 and 8, it was a great reminder of how good a show it was. It’s weird to think now, that it was once one of the greatest shows ever created. It also got me wishing that George RR Martin was ready to release the next instalment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I can’t even remember how long ago it was that I read A Dance With Dragons. When the new book eventually comes out, I’m not going to be able to remember a damn thing that happened. Not that I’m complaining. I’d rather he take his time and do it right. If the last two seasons of the show taught us anything, it’s that it isn’t a series you can rush. I’ve often thought about going back and rereading the fifth book but it always seemed like a silly thing to do. My TBR is too big and The Winds of Winter won’t be out for ages anyway. This week I decided to get my George RR Martin fix elsewhere. I’ve tried and failed to read some of his non-ASOIAF books in the past but I just couldn’t get on board with them. So, this time I went for a related book. It’s not actually part of the same world but it’s in the right area.
Despite what copies like mine might say, George R.R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon is not set in the same universe of A Song of Ice and Fire. It was written well before that series was even thought up but, obviously, publishers are hoping to profit off the popularity of the series and show. The book is set in a vaguely medieval fantasy land which resembles Westeros in a few ways but the book never goes into specifics. Instead, it introduces us to a young girl, Adara, and her family. She lives on a farm with her father, sister and brother. Adara was born in a terrible freeze and her mother died in childbirth. As a consequence of the vicious weather during her birth, Adara grew up with a love of winter. She is cold to the touch and can withstand low temperatures without any trouble. The girl is also emotionally cold. Her two siblings are easy-going and excitable but Adara is seriously aloof. She doesn’t really feel connected to her family or anyone who lives in her community.
In fact, the only thing that Adara really has a close relationship with is the ice dragon that turns up every year. The ice dragon was first seen flying over the farm when Adara was born and has visited every winter since. Ice dragons are much like normal dragons only made of ice and freezing people with their breath instead of burning. In this world, dragons have been tamed and can be ridden. Nobody has ever been able to tame an ice dragon and anyone who has tried has ended up as a block of ice. Until Adara’s fifth year when she first rode the dragon. Adara counts down the days until the ice dragon will return and suffers through the Summer months. In her seventh year, Adara’s home is threatened by a rival King and his dragons. Can Adara and her ice dragon save the farm before her family get hurt?
The Ice Dragon may be short but this has everything you’d expect from a George R.R. Martin book. It has great fantasy elements, an engaging story, interesting characters, and an incoming danger. War is on the periphery of the story and, though we don’t experience it first hand, we get a good idea of the toll it’s taking on the land. There are plenty of themes within this book that will be familiar to any ASOIAF readers and you can see that this might have influenced the series somewhat. We don’t find out much about the lore of the land but there are certain interesting aspects to this world. The array of winter creatures that we are introduced to are fascinating. Aside from the Ice Dragon, we meet ice lizards who, as you imagine, are lizards but made of ice. I know this is a story for younger readers but I do wish we could learn more about its history and inhabitants.
In terms of the overall message of the book, it’s a little heavy-handed but charming. We don’t get a great deal of character development because of the length but there is enough there to keep you engaged. Adara is a winter child and loves the cold. A not so subtle way of saying that she is emotionally distant, introverted, and sad. She believes that her father doesn’t love her but he feels the same way about her. The book sees Adara embrace her frosty nature and move further away from her family. She hates her Uncle because he symbolises Summer to her. It is only her ice dragon, a wild and dangerous beast, that Adara really cares about. As its heart, this is a story about otherness and embracing your differences. It is also a story about anger and sadness. Adara is sad and angry about her mother’s death. The ice dragon represents that side of her and, when the time comes, she as to decide whether to embrace those feelings or use them to help her family.
This is a really lovely short story that will leave you feeling warm despite its cold setting. It features a strong female character who will appeal to all readers. The book offers enough excitement and action but also offers a deeper message. It has a little darkness in there but Martin never tips the balance too far. It has the feel of Oscar Wilde’s stories for children but with a George R.R. Martin twist. It feels like a very classic tale despite the fact it was written in 1980. You can tell that Martin was influenced by some classic writers and books. Add to that the gorgeous illustrations that accompany it and you have a brilliant read for a younger reader.