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The Iron Ring Paperback – May 24, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
This semi-mystical epic adventure draws loosely on the great myths and literature of India. "The imaginative scope of the story and its philosophical complexities will make this an exciting journey for the reader," said PW. Ages 10-14. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-9. Alexander's latest epic adventure is rooted in the mythology of ancient India. A losing game of chance with a mysterious stranger seems like a dream to young King Tamar, but the iron ring on his finger is a very real token that his life may be forfeit. A journey to the stranger's distant kingdom seems his only chance to discover the truth. Many adventures and diversions crop up along the way as Tamar gains some surprising companions, including a brave and beautiful milkmaid, a cowardly eagle, and a wiley monkey king who used to be a man. 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. Set within the action are small gems of poetry and folktales. The concept of dharma, or proper conduct, and the rigid caste system deeply affect Tamar's actions. Plot, characters, and setting all have their parts to play, but it is the tension set up among the lively characters and the cultural conventions binding them that create the structure of the story and lead inevitably to its conclusion. This wise and witty adventure can be enjoyed on many levels.?Ruth S. Vose, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Known for exploring worldwide folklore, Alexander takes to the world of India for this. He explores mystical gods and makes a wonderful and powerful social commentary on the caste system.
It's the usual journey of growth and discovery, but that is always a great journey. I cry every time I read this, it touches me so.
Excellent piece from the awesome Lloyd Alexander.
I recommended it for young readers!
Although i'm 26 and am enjoying it as well.
Some concepts seem elementary (being a children's book), but the Morals are spot on!
Like many adventure stories, The Iron Ring establishes the hero and the villain without much ambiguity. However, the book's setting in the birthplace of Buddhism and Hinduism sets the stage for some interesting explorations of truth and illusion as the hero wonders if he is fulfilling his destiny or forsaking reality for a dream. Furthermore, the young king gains a stronger understanding and respect for the lives of those outside the life of his small kingdom, as his perception of the world around him grows. If you demand historical accuracy and drink your philosophy strong, this book is not for you. But if you're looking for a good straight-up adventure story, Lloyd Alexander is your man.
This is a nice combination of philosophy and action. In the philosophical aspect, it ranges from questioning reality -- did Tamar really bet his life on a throw of the dice, or was it all a dream? -- to questioning the definition of honor and duty, to questioning whether fate and destiny are truth or illusion. At the same time, it goes through a great adventure, one with a much greater range and fluidity than is the norm in young adult books: rather than leading steadily and surely up to a great conflict, following the bell-curve plot diagram that is the bane of English students across the US (and presumably worldwide), this one goes through some sharp twists, drop-offs, leaps and bounds. The best part of that, for me, was that every moment when the action slowed, there was a thought-provoking moment of philosophy, and then when the action picked back up, the concept revealed in the lull just previous was put to the test. That much control over the story is the hallmark of a great writer, which Alexander was.
Here's what I mean. The hero, Tamar, initially loses his great struggle against the villain, and is captured and put into a hellish prison, chained and enslaved by an Untouchable. This was especially interesting to me as a Westerner because it is a spiritual torment, one that I would not experience the same way. Tamar survives through it and gains strength and wisdom from it, and then when he is freed from that torture and he goes back to fight once more, he has gained the maturity he needs to turn his final confrontation with the villain into a spiritual victory, rather than a defeat -- and it is immediately clear that the change in his attitude, his growth as a man, has come about because of what he has been through. The message here, that killing is not a path to victory, is made absolutely clear by the preceding section's painful immersion in death. It worked, I thought, extraordinarily well, though I can see it being tough for a younger reader to puzzle out the first time through. Still, there is a lot to digest in this book.
Add to that some genuinely funny parts, particularly those featuring the whiny Garuda and the mocking Hashkat, and you have a book that is both entertaining and thoughtful, as well as multi-layered enough to be read and re-read by all ages. It's a book I would love to teach to younger students in an English class, or read to my own kids and maybe even discuss a little bit. It's definitely worth a read.