I was a big fan of Lloyd Alexander when I was a kid. I read and reread the Chronicles of Prydain - a quintet based on Welsh mythology. (One of the Prydain books - The Black Cauldron - was later made into a movie). I also liked his Westmark books, and Time Cat.
While we were at Disneyland I read The Iron Ring for the first time, and as I expected, enjoyed it. It's based on Indian mythology - which I'm largely unfamiliar with - so I really liked the newness of the experience.
Tamar, young king of Sundari, plays a game of dice with the mysterious king of Mahapura and loses everything in the process. An iron ring appears on Tamar's finger, marking his servitude to this strange king. Determined not to break dharma (honor), Tamar sets off on a journey to Mahapura to repay his debt. He takes with him only his horse, and his teacher, a Brahmin, who goes along to make sure Tamar sticks to his caste and doesn't fall into trouble on his journey.
Along the way many creatures and people join Tamar and aid him in unexpected ways on his quest. A snake, a monkey, a tiger, an elephant, a cow-herder, an Untouchable, and several kings will teach Tamar important lessons in life, love, and the true importance of dharma. The ending is very transcendental, but the main book is surprisingly straightforward for such a fantastical book. Tamar has to make some difficult decisions about whom to side with, when to keep his mouth shut, and whether or not the caste system is as important as he always thought it was.
I think this book could be especially appealing to boys - because Tamar is a warrior, and thus there is a whole lot of fighting and battling. But he does fall in love along the way, which might lend it to girls too...
Have you read Lloyd Alexander?
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommended age: 10 and up
This post is day 23 of my 31 Days of Awesome Kids' Books.
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