Favorite Dragon-Themed Book of All Time

Dragons and fantasy often go together like shirtless men and unsanctioned martial arts tournaments. That being said, my favorite dragon-themed fantasy books are the ones where the emphasis is on human character development, and the dragons themselves are almost peripheral. George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is an obvious example, though others that I grew up on included many of the Dragonlance books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen.


I think my favorite, though, is Martin’s YA novel, The Ice Dragon. On the surface, the story is quite simple: a young girl named Adara befriends an ice dragon, which appears only occasionally throughout her life, set against a background of her homeland being threatened by fire dragons from the North. But, as is true of any good book, there’s a lot more to it than that.


The book is short (just a little over a hundred pages) but it deftly establishes Adara’s character, plus her feelings of detachment from her family, by using the ice dragon as a metaphor. Like all good metaphors, though, it’s visual, fun, and not too heavy-handed. The book also takes a lot of familiar notions and turns them on their head. For example, the ice dragon appears to be good, and Adara’s friend, yet its very presence is the natural harbinger of frozen desolation.


Especially when working in a genre like fantasy where readers come to the table with certain must-haves, it’s important—and tricky—to show respect for the genre by giving readers at least some of what they ask for, but also be unique and original by occasionally turning those notions on their heads. For instance, dragons are a bygone race in the Dragonkin Trilogy. Men covet their bones, and tell stories about their tragic fall, but otherwise, they exist only in dreams and visions.


Or do they?