In the world of A Song of Ice and Fire the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.
Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home.
And only a winter child-and the ice dragon who loved her-could save her world from utter destruction.
Despite being marketed and advertised as a children’s book, The Ice Dragon is not a children’s book. Sure, the main character is a young girl who needs to prove herself to her family and mature and find her identity, but this book does deal with loss and poverty and is quite dark for a children’s book. Although I do commend George R.R. Martin for addressing these adult-ish themes in a subtle way, so that it’s not blaringly obvious to a child reading it.
This story was actually published in 1980, but has since been re-jacketed (in hardcover) and re-illustrated by acclaimed artist Luis Royo. All of the illustrations are black and white sketches, which add to the moody, gloomy atmosphere of the book and the plot. However, the front cover has some slight colour, which I imagine would help it stand out in a bookstore.
From what I can tell, this book takes place in the same world as A Song of Ice and Fire, but several years earlier. The ice dragon is feared among all citizens, except for Adara, who befriends the dragon. Adara almost seems to be outcast from her family, because her mother died giving birth to her. She was born ice cold, and she has stayed that way – both physically and mentally – ever since.
Adara matures and changes through the book; however, this is done in a lyrically subtle way that you don’t often see in children’s literature. The prose is blunt, but it flows. And Adara’s personality is clear from her actions and not from the character description.
GRRM’s description is extremely vivid and detailed. You can imagine the characters and scenes so well. Here’s an excerpt from the book from when he’s describing the ice dragon:
The ice dragon was a crystalline white, that shade of white that is so hard and cold that it is almost blue. It was covered with hoarfrost, so when it moved its skin broke and crackled as the crust on the snow crackles beneath a man’s boots, and flakes of rime fell off.
GRRM often uses long sentences to enhance his description. It works well with characters, and it works well at the beginning of a story to help the reader imagine that character. Well, children aren’t really going to appreciate his stylistics, but any adults that read this will.