Today's book review is The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin, illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert.
This is a peculiar book. It's quite short, nowhere near novel length, and the large print, simple language, and extensive illustrations suggest that it's meant as a children's book. The protagonist is a little girl, I think 8 years old at the end of the book. But the story seems quite inappropriate for children that age -- it is grim, graphically violent, and very sad -- and the symbolic message that justifies it being such a sad story is probably too subtle for a little kid to catch, especially if said little kid is bawling her eyes out. It's well written, but I feel rather ill used being presented with a nice little situation only to have it turn out so sadly. Still, it can't be a total failure if it's well enough written to make me feel so sad.
Since this is almost a picture book, I feel I need to comment on the illustrations. They are crudely drawn, and don't quite match the descriptions in the text. I don't think they enhance the story.
6 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
Adara was born during a terrible cold snap, and her mother died in childbirth when the cold got into her. Adara was a cold and distant child, but she loved the winter. She could hold the ice lizards that were burned by anyone else's touch, and she befriended and rode the ice dragon, even though ice dragons are supposedly untamable, unlike the regular dragons which are used by the army of the kingdom where Adara lives and by their enemies. Adara's uncle is a dragon rider, fighting a war; the war is going badly and the uncle tries to convince his brother (Adara's father) to flee, but the father stubbornly refuses. When the army is finally routed, the uncle and his dragon die trying to defend the farm against three enemy dragons. Adara manages to flee to a cold cave and summon the ice dragon through her need even though it's summer. Adara tries to flee, but when she sees her father, her heart warms and her tears for the first time burn the ice dragon. She pleads with the ice dragon to return her to her father. The ice dragon kills two of the attacking dragons, but the third one takes him down. In one final blast of ice, the ice dragon kills the last attacking dragon, but then he dies. Adara is now a normal girl, and when they return to their farm after the war turns in their favor again, she enjoys watching the ice lizards but she can no longer touch them.