There are certain tropes that creep up again and again in fantasy literature, one of which is the “virgin to the dragon” story, whether it be actual virgins to actual dragons or is more metaphorical, whether the sacrifice be compelled or voluntary. At the heart (hah!) of this story is the voluntary sacrifice of Bronne on behalf of her village, Reykjin — for “someone had to pay the cost of winter. The cost of the ice.” Reykjin is one of the northernmost villages, but that doesn’t make the trek north to the temple any easier.
McGee traces Bronne’s path north, accompanied by women of her village all singing songs and bearing witness, through each slow and delicate step. There is a ponderousness about the pace of the story that mimics the gradual slowing down of the body due to cold; but whereas such ponderousness could sometimes be heavy, in this story, it seems appropriate. It’s a beautiful story of the many different facets of love, each as sharp and brittle and beautiful as the facet of an ice crystal.