The Iron Ring
This is one of Alexander’s best efforts to date, and a highly enjoyable read. The book follows the adventures of Tamar, an Indian prince who, through a seemingly harmless game of chance, finds himself bound by his honor to seek out a powerful king who has claimed the right to his life. This commission is complicated, however, by the fact that none of the supposed witnesses to the pact remember it; was it all just a dream? Tamar decides to keep his word in any case, and undergoes many adventures in pursuit of fulfilling his quest, learning many lessons about honor, courage, and the value of human life.
This book is inspired by the mythology of India, and once again Alexander incorporates these cultural elements into a charming and thought-provoking fantasy adventure. Indian thought is admittedly quite different from Christian thought, and the concept of dharma is prevalent in the book. Dharma, however, is defined by Alexander in a positive, if slightly simplistic, way: “goodness, virtue, righteousness, conscience; a code of proper conduct, a deep and driving sense of obligation to do what is right”. Therefore, to follow one’s dharma means, basically, to do the right thing. It is suggested at times that different people have validly different definitions of the right thing, but usually in a rather humorous manner; for the most part Alexander seems to hold to an absolute definition of right and wrong, especially as the book progresses. In the end the common humanity and dignity of all people (and therefore the irrelevance of the caste system) is emphasized. Tamar also must consider many significant philosophical and ethical questions, which are not always fully answered, but are treated with sensitivity and weight.
Alexander’s writing is, as usual, quite satisfactory; his plot is complicated rather unnecessarily by a couple too many characters, it seems to me, but it all works together quite well in the end, with a lesson in what could easily be construed as Providence. The characters are colorful and entertaining, and the style is solid.