This author of adult-oriented fantasy fiction seeks to prove to his predominantly-male fans that he can write for their little daughters too. He fails.
Martin normally writes for adults. It might not be 100% clear to online shoppers that this volume, when one actually gets one's hands on it, is clearly presented as a kid's book. It contains perhaps 20 to 30 pages of normal text, stretched out to over 100 pages by child-friendly formatting and numerous (but mediocre) pictures. The cover art, picturing a little girl riding an ice dragon, defines the target audience. I understand a different version of this tale, not specifically intended for kids, appeared in the "Dragons of Light" fantasy anthology in the 1980s. I have not read that version. I review this version as a kids' book, since that is what it purports to be.
The main character is a little girl, but the story is, at best, inconsistent about presenting things from the little girl's perspective. It could hardly be otherwise, for this little girl has a heart of ice, never smiles or laughs, and cares nothing for her family. She only loves the winter, and the Ice Dragon that is its personification. She seems quite satisfied with her situation, so we view her from without, as adults might, as a bizarre child with a strange abnormality.
At one point, someone acuses the father of being to blame for the child's strange condition. He is cold to the child (he is told) because he blames her killing her mother in childbirth, and this has caused the child's emotional coldness. The father defends himself again this charge: He loves his little ice girl most of all, but she is cold towards him, and so he is merely reacting to her behavior. The real reason for the child's coldness is that she was touched in the womb by the Ice Dragon. And as far as we can tell from the story, the father is 100% correct. This seemingly endorses the idea that the child is responsible for the parent's behavior -- an odd reversal.
But in the course of defending the poor, falsely-accused father, the author puts forth, almost gratuitously, the idea that the child is to blame for her mother's death. He just lets this notion lie there, uncontradicted and unaddressed, for the remainder of the tale. Any idea that this notion could cause guilt and anguish to some child who has lost a mother seems not to have crossed the author's mind. As long as Daddy is held blameless, it seems, everything is fine. Nobody need worry about the Ice Child's feelings, because the Ice Child has none. Pity instead the poor widowed father whose little girl does not love him enough.
Meanwhile, the author draws a totally-inappropriate contrast between the abnormal ice-hearted little girl, and her normal older sister who flirts with all the boys. Uh -- what do you expect, Mr. Martin? She is only five! The hormones don't kick in for a few years yet.
SPOILERS will follow:
Meanwhile, battle looms on the horizon, and as defeated soldiers flee the Enemy we are treated to descriptions of gruesome battle wounds that leave little to the imagination. The old fashioned trick of hinting at horrors, and permitting children to imagine as much as they are prepared to handle, is not one we get from Mr. Martin.
But don't worry. When the enemy reaches the family homestead, and the little girl hears her Daddy scream, her heart will melt. She will sacrifice her beloved Ice Dragon to save Daddy from the foe, and be a normal little girl from then on. Turns out the little Ice Girl loves Daddy after all. So it's a happy ending -- especially for Daddy!