Although a collection of stories from the larger Shahnameh, "Rostam: Tales of Love and War" reads as a remarkably complete tale in its own right, centering on the title character but also the generations both before and after him (Rostam himself does not appear in the tale until about 50 pages in, as the story starts with the interesting tales of Rostam's grandfather Sam and his parents Zal and Rudabeh). When we first meet Rostam, it is his heroic, larger-than-life nature that is most apparent; his "seven trials" remind one of the twelve labors of Heracles/Hercules. But as the story continues, Rostam becomes an increasingly tragic figure who endures insult, loss, and grief due to circumstances that are out of the control of even this great figure. For me, it was these times of vulnerability that made Rostam a surprisingly sympathetic figure despite his prodigious martial prowess, and resulted in "Rostam" being a well-rounded, enjoyable read.
Even though the Shahnameh is probably not as well-known in the West as the classic Greco-Roman epics or even the classic Indian tales such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the tales of Rostam shows that it clearly deserves recognition as part of this group of paradigmatic "heroic" works. Although I cannot vouch for its accuracy vis-a-vis the original Persian, as an English-language work the translator has done a masterful job to make this tale accessible even to someone like me, who is largely unfamiliar with the Persian history and culture. "Rostam" was my first foray into Persian literature but I doubt it will be my last. Reading these tales was so enjoyable that at some point in the future I hope to go back and read the entire Shahnameh to gain an even greater appreciation for the context of the tales told in "Rostam". However, as a starting point into this larger work, I found "Rostam" to be very enjoyable and highly recommend it to even the general reader, such as myself, who is seeking a greater appreciation of the depth of world literature.