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George R. R. Martin’s The Ice Dragon

martin_ice dragon 2014George R. R. Martin is best known for penning his A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy saga, the basis for HBO’s crazy-popular series Game of Thrones. Speaking from personal experience, it’s shamefully easy for fans of that franchise to forget just how prolific he is. Admittedly, ASOIAF is pretty absorbing — what with bloody betrayals and dragons and reanimated corpses and all — and the enormous cast of characters spread across seven kingdoms takes up a lot of mental space. But right now, with the show between seasons (season 5 won’t start until the spring) and book six, The Winds of Winter, not due out for…let’s say “a while,” it’s a good time to check out GRRM’s other work. His bibliography includes many more speculative fiction novels and short stories for adults in addition to a fantasy novella ostensibly for children, The Ice Dragon (Tor Teen, October 2014).

The Ice Dragon originally appeared in Dragons of Light (Ace Books), a 1980 anthology edited by Orson Scott Card, then was republished by Tor/Starscape in 2006 as a stand-alone volume illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert. This October, Tor Teen released a new edition with illustrations by comics veteran Luis Royo. Set in the same fantastical world as A Song of Ice and Fire, The Ice Dragon is one of several fairy tale–type stories that ASOIAF character Jon Snow recalls caregiver Old Nan telling him and his half-siblings during their childhoods.

In The Ice Dragon, “winter child” Adara is chilly, both physically and emotionally. Her mother died giving birth to Adara during “the worst freeze that anybody could remember,” and her neighbors gossip that “the cold had entered Adara in the womb.” As a small child, Adara frequently stays outside for hours despite freezing temperatures; at age four, she encounters an ice dragon (which breathes cold) and becomes fascinated. The ice dragon seems equally drawn to her, and each winter for several years the pair goes on many long flights. War nears Adara’s family farm and her uncle urges her father to take Adara and her siblings somewhere safer, but seven-year-old Adara runs away, unwilling to leave the ice dragon behind. When the enemy’s soldiers and fire-breathing dragon threaten her family, however, Adara and her ice dragon return to protect them… at a wrenching cost.

In the Spring 2007 issue of The Horn Book Guide, reviewer Deborah Kaplan wrote of the 2006 edition, “The combination of a seven-year-old heroine with scenes of gory violence makes the audience for this fairy tale unclear.” It’s a good point: despite its young protagonist, many illustrations, petite trim size, and large typeface, the book’s violence and formal language aren’t especially kid-friendly. I think the main audience of this new volume will be adult Game of Thrones completists, rather than child or even teen readers; after all, both Martin and Royo have dedicated adult followings. Lush paintings and block-print-looking chapter opener art printed (as is the text) in frosty blue on creamy pages — along with a dynamic poster of Adara and the ice dragon in flight — make this a handsome addition to a diehard GoT fan’s collection.

feastoficeandfireSide note: did you know that Sariann Lehrer and Chelsea Monroe-Cassel, the authors of A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Cookbook based on their blog The Inn at the Crossroads, live (and cook things like boar’s head and eels) in Boston’s Allston neighborhood? Small world! There are several recipes I’d love to try (honeycakes with blackberries, yum) if I could drop in for dinner — but I’d pass on the eels, thanks.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.



  1. Read this to my fantasy-loving girls at bedtime when they were 9 and 12. Someone had given it to us, and I picked it up grudgingly (I have a visceral and admittedly illogical anti-dragon bias). I was shocked by how much we all liked it — I’ve never read any Game of Thrones but given my impatience with super-long sagas (I keep hate-reading Outlander books even though NO NUMBER OF HOT DUDES IN KILTS can make up for the meandering undisciplined unedited spew of it all) and my general anti-rapiness and tendency to like my characters to not die, I don’t think I’d be into them. It’s so short, minimalist yet lush, fairy-tale-ish, otherworldy in the best way, and I think extremely feminist and tolerant of difference. I liked the iciness — it made it feel strange and timeless. I didn’t ask why my girls loved it…but they did.

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