The Iron Ring


iron ring

Book: The Iron Ring

Author: Lloyd Alexander

Cover Illustrator: Jane Ray

Publisher: Puffin Books, republished 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0525455974 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0525455973 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0141303482 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0141303484 Paperback

Language level: 3 (the “d” word is used as a curse once)

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 10-12 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

Disclosure:  Many publishers, literary agents, and/or authors provide free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review without requiring a positive opinion.  Any books donated to Home School Book Review for review purposes are in turn donated to a library.  No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.

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Alexander, Lloyd.  The Iron Ring (Published in 1997 by Dutton Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). Tamar is the young king of Sundari, a kingdom in ancient India.  One night King Jaya of Mahapura comes and challenges him to a game of aksha in the presence of Tamar’s advisor Rajaswami and the commander of his army Darshan .  When the young king loses the dice game, he loses everything he owns –his kingdom, its riches, and even the right to call his life his own. His bondage is symbolized by the iron ring that appears mysteriously on his finger. To Tamar, born to the warrior caste, honor is everything. So he sets out for Mahapura on a magical journey to make good on his debt, to atone for his mistake, to learn about honor, goodness, and the preciousness of life –and even to give up his life if necessary.  His quest takes him into a world of magic, where animals can talk, the seemingly foolish are surprisingly wise, and danger awaits.

Along the way Tamar meets several new friends, both animal and human, such as Hashkat, king of the monkeys, Ashwara, the rightful king of Ranapura, and Mirri, a beautiful girl cowherd with whom he falls in love.  But he also makes some powerful enemies, including Nahusha, Ashwara’s traitorous cousin who has usurped the throne of Ranapura.  The concept of dharma, or code of ethics for proper conduct, and the rigid caste system, which he comes to abhor, deeply affect Tamar’s actions.   What happens when Tamar tries to help Ashwara fight Nahusha to regain his kingdom?  Will Tamar and his companions ever make it to the mysterious Jaya’s realm?  And was the original challenge that prompted it all actually a reality or only a dream? This semi-mystical epic adventure by author Lloyd Alexander, who also wrote the “Prydain Chronicles” series, draws loosely on the great Hindu myths from the literature of India like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The book is said to be for ages 10 and up, but a few of the descriptions, especially of the warfare and its results, may be a bit intense for some younger readers.  Also, others may be put off by the sheer length of the story, the large cast of characters, all the long names, and the liberal use of Indian terms and concepts (a glossary is provided).  But those willing to wade through these things will find an enjoyable adventure with many twists and turns that will make them think. School Library Journal wrote, “The author’s flexible style moves smoothly from comedy to tragedy and back again; from battle scenes to ridiculous situations, Alexander never loses the thread.”  Booklist noted, “Alexander offers a tale that is thoughtful without being leaden and moral without being moralistic.”  And Publishers Weekly said, “The imaginative scope of the story and its philosophical complexities will make this an exciting journey for the reader.”

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