Tuesday, 6 November 2007
‘The Ice Dragon’ – George R.R. Martin (Starscape/Tor Books)
George R.R. Martin is one of those authors whose ease at writing in any number of different genres must reduce other authors to tears. Ok, I’m a big fan but it’s true. For horror, read the darkly brooding ‘Fevre Dream’. For science fiction read ‘Sandkings’ and ‘A Song for Lya’ (amongst many others). For fantasy read… well, you don’t need me to tell you. It seems like there aren’t many genres that GRRM hasn’t written in (I think ‘trashy romance’ might be the only one left) and now ‘young adult’ fantasy is another one of his conquests (and in fine style too).
‘The Ice Dragon’ was actually first published last year but it was the mass-market paperback that came through the door yesterday morning. After a rotten day at work this was a good thing to come home to…
Born during the worst freeze in living memory; Adara is a winter child, a distant child who rarely smiles for anyone. Adara’s smiles are saved for winter, the only time she truly feels alive. Winter is also the time when she is visited by the mythical Ice Dragon, a creature rarely seen but feared by all. Against a backdrop of war, a relationship grows between girl and dragon that will end in a tide of far and ice…
While ‘The Ice Dragon’ is very clearly aimed at a young audience, fans of GRRM (and fans of well-written fantasy) will love this book. At only 107 pages long, ‘The Ice Dragon’ is tiny (compared to some of his ‘heavyweight’ works) but Martin lavishes the same care and attention on it that he does on all his works. You’re left with the impression that every word was carefully chosen and that he is one of those authors who won’t let his books go until they are absolutely perfect.
GRRM pays a great deal of respect to his younger readers by coupling the classic fairytale elements of the story with his customary blunt approach to warfare and its after effects. The attitude seems to be that while children do need protecting, it’s actually insulting their intelligence to try and hide the darker aspects of life from them. Martin reckons his young readers can handle it and shows them the horror of a battered army’s forced withdrawal through Adara’s village. As with any book by GRRM, no character is guaranteed a long and happy life! Although it didn’t quite have the same impact as the execution in ‘A Game of Thrones’; I was still shocked by the death of one of the characters (in a particularly powerful scene), I never saw that coming! The ending is also poignant yet upbeat at the same time, a fairytale ending for a modern fairytale.
I can’t finish the review without making at least some note of Yvonne Gilbert’s striking illustrations. They’re done simply yet effectively and capture the essence of the story in the best possible way.
If you want to get your younger siblings into fantasy then ‘The Ice Dragon’ is a great place to start. As far as I’m concerned though, my copy will be staying on my bookshelf and any younger family member can find a copy for themselves!
Nine out of Ten