The Ice Dragon by George RR Martin
Published by Harper Voyager 2014 A review with a difference...
a story of my own
and a plea to publishers.
The Review Bit
The Ice Dragon by George RR Martin is being heralded as his first book for children, having been first published as a short story for adults in 1980 and now repackaged in short chapters and with fantastical illustrations by Luis Royo. It is the story of Adara, a winter child born during the worst freeze ever, and her relationship with the ice dragon that comes each year alongside winter. Only Adara, a child very different to the other children, knows of the ice dragon, and she waits each winter for his return, but it is in the summer that she finds that she needs him most, when the fiery dragons from the north arrive at their village, and only the winter child and her dragon can save them. Described on Martin’s website as ‘an unforgettable tale of courage, love, and sacrifice’ , The Ice Dragon is an enticing read which builds slowly to its action packed climax, drawing readers along as they become more and more intricately involved in the journey of the young protagonist. It is an excellent choice for Fantasy readers of any age, and was quickly devoured by multiple members of my family in quick succession, and, in it, you can find the seeds for The Song of Fire and Ice, but without any of the explicit ‘action’ of Game of Thrones. I would definitely recommend it just for that, but I want to go one step further and add a bit more as to why I find it so attractive as a reading choice.
The Story Behind the Next Bit First, I would like to take several steps back, and explain that my Resident Teenager has difficulty reading. She has difficulty reading for all sorts of reasons: she is gifted but twice exceptional, which, if you are not familiar with the term, means that she also has learning issues (somewhere between a ‘difficulty’ and an outright ‘disability’). Add to having very poor eyesight (corrected by spectacles), that fact that she is *Autistic (old school Aspergers), has ADHD, and is Dyslexic, and now shove a book in front of her. Oh, she is also highly anxious (GAD), a perfectionist, and easily frustrated. Reading is a trial. Welcome back to the present, or the very near past. We are at the airport, RT and I, about to catch a plane. I am looking for a book to read and invite, as I often do, RT to see if there is anything that she would like to get while we are in the shop. I’m taking a long time to find something to read because, whilst there are lots of books, none of them are taking my fancy.
RT says ‘What about this one? It looks all right.’
Yes, it does. It has a dragon on the front, which is always a big draw card for me.
RT starts flicking through. ‘I wouldn’t mind reading it,’ she says.
Book immediately goes into my metaphorical shopping basket. I find something else and we head over to the counter. I won’t go into detail about what happens next because it is all about me spilling boiling hot tea on myself and needing to find some sort of first aid for my finger before we get on the plane. By the time we get on the plane, RT, having been left alone with the books for a short while, is fully invested in The Ice Dragon. I read the other book. By the time we are three quarters of the way to Brisbane, a one and a half hour flight, RT has devoured the book, and is offering deep and considered opinions about aspects of the story that just prove the gifted side of her abilities. How did this happen? At this point I am not sure and I simply breathe in the moment and attend the discussion. Before I can get my hands on the book, both my older daughter and her 10 year old son have read it (I was kind of otherwise occupied with a conference/course over the weekend) and are extolling its virtues. This is pretty good. On the flight home, I get to read it. And now I understand. This book does not look like a ‘children’s book’. It looks like a Fantasy book. It was written by George RR Martin, who we all know writes for grown-ups. And... ...on each page there are gorgeously dark and beautiful illustrations to break up the banks of text. The print is not huge, but it is not tiny either. And the whole story is quickly read without resorting to limited, ‘easy’ language, and nor does it pull punches. There is nothing ‘explicit’, but it is a true adventure, full of suspense and rising tension.
The Next Bit, A Plea to Publishers In short, by accident or by design, Harper Voyager have teamed successfully with George RR Martin to produce a book that is great, superb, amazing for intelligent readers who have difficulty accessing longer texts. They have made a dyslexia friendly book that doesn’t treat readers with dyslexia as if they are incapable. Please, can we have some more? Short, sharp, cleverly written stories that appeal to older children and teen readers, beautifully produced with amazing illustrations, and not patronising in any way. Just a damn good story. Fantasy is great, but they could be any genre. Just with complex and interesting language, and complex and interesting characters who have a complex and interesting problem – all packaged up with glorious art work in a beautiful, sensually inviting book. Although, for RT, dragons are good. That particular apple did not fall too far from the tree. I’m sure it wouldn’t just be RT (or her mum) who would appreciate it.
*Please note: RT prefers identity-first nomenclature,
when referring to her diagnosis, but not all people do.
That's okay. We are all different.
If you know someone who prefers condition-first
nomenclature, continue to respect their choice,
and please respect RT's choice, too.