The Iron Ring
by Lloyd Alexander
The award-winning author of the Prydain Chronicles shows his versatility in interpreting world folklore in this novel inspired by the mythology of India. If you're a fan of folk tales, legends, and whopping great yarns, you'll enjoy this story. It reminded me of the Arthurian legend about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
The hero is Tamar, the young king of a small country in a fantasy world based on ancient India. Tamar is proud, brave, and devoted to the dharma, or code of conduct, of the warrior caste - somewhat like the chivalric code Sir Gawain followed. One day a mysterious stranger appears in his court and ruthlessly turns the rules of dharma and hospitality to his advantage. In one night of gaming, Tamar wagers his life and loses. His guest puts an iron ring on Tamar's finger as a symbol of the young king's pledge to travel to the palace of Mahapura and surrender his life. Even when Tamar awakens from what seems to be only a dream, the ring remains ominously real.
So Tamar goes out on a journey to find out if his apparent dream was true, and to give up his life if dharma requires it. In his travels he is joined by a pretty gopi (cow-girl), some talking animals, a neighboring king fighting to regain his rightful throne, and other fascinating characters. He experiences romantic love, friendship, hilarious adventures, dangerous intrigues, the terror of battle, and a series of crushing losses that brings our hero so low that his heart breaks - as will yours. But even when he reaches rock bottom, even when the death awaiting him in Mahapura begins to look like an unreachable boon, big things remain in store for Tamar.
If you know who Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper is, you are already acquainted with Lloyd Alexander's gift for sharing great heroes with us. Heroes who grow and transform before our eyes in ways that surprise us and move us. Even though I don't believe in karma, I will say this: If you join Tamar on his errand of growth and transformation, you will be richly rewarded.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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