Lloyd Alexander may be most famous for his Chronicles of Prydain series, well-loved tales derived from Welsh mythology. Like Chronicles, The Iron Ring is clearly based on existing mythologies and cultures without being an actual retelling of existing myths. In The Iron Ring, the setting, characters, and conflicts are highly reminiscent of Indian lore, and the protagonist is a young prince named Tamar.
Tamar is kind-hearted and just, despite his lack of experience. One night his life is drastically changed. He is forced to choose between upholding his dharma, honor, or remaining with his kingdom. His decision leads him to danger, magical creatures, a wise gopi or shepherdess, and treacherous rulers. Tamar will plumb the depths of disgrace and learn a better form of honor along the way.
Alexander illustrates Tamar’s character growth in poignant detail. His ups and downs, bewilderment, earnestness, suffering, rage, and other emotions will pierce the reader’s heart. Along the way, readers will gain a taste of Indian culture. For someone like me who grew up in an Anglophilic environment (one that I love!), it felt like a beginner’s course in appreciating eastern storytelling. It’s not intended to be a history lesson, but many of the elements would spark even the most westernized reader’s imagination to want to dig deeper. Read it for yourself and be rewarded.