Book: The Iron Ring

The Iron Ring
Lloyd Alexander
1997

This book follows the adventures of King Tamar as he journeys to a kingdom he has never heard of to fulfil a destiny he thinks may be a dream. The fictional land that the story takes place in a land that Alexander created using Indian and Hindu stories and mythology. The result is an fascinating world where monkeys can be enchanted people and snakes can talk. The concepts of Dharma and Karma are very important. This is fundamentally a soul-searching quest.

The structure of this book is a pretty typical Alexander adventure story. The king as a vision that causes him to leave home on a quest without any real idea of where he is going. Along the way he assists and meets various different types of people (the monkey king, a beautiful cow tender girl, etc.) who eventually join him on his quest. He is constantly tested and must show that he can follow his dharma. The things that he “knows” are questioned and his view of the world and of people is dramatically altered over the course of the story. This all creates a very interesting and rather cerebral story. As Tamar questions things, so does the reader. It is a wonderfully well done effect that reminds me very much of the legends and stories on which the world is based.

I liked the characters a lot. Mirri (the beautiful cow tender) is a fascinating character who both breaks rules and fearlessly defends them. She is much like some of Alexander’s other feisty female characters, but she is also very different. Nearly everyone on the book finds following one’s dharma to be very important, but for Mirri it means little. She has her set of morality and follows it regardless of the fact that it often conflicts with what would traditionally be considered her dharma. The other characters are also interesting in that they present images of very different types of dharma. What would be morally wrong for Tamar is often morally correct for the monkey king. It makes a very interesting tapestry of characters showing many different ways of viewing the world.

This may be one of Alexander’s most “grown up” fantasies. It is very cerebral and makes references that few children could understand completely. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating read that I would gladly give to a child. The writing is excellent (as is to be expected from Alexander) and the story is engrossing. I highly recommend this book!

Publisher’s Description
Book Blog Post (Monkeys)
Book Blog Post (Strong, Smart Women)
Book Blog Post (Hinduism)
Book Blog Post (Adult Issues)
Book Blog Post (Tactics)
Book Blog Post (Equality)
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