The Iron Ring
Young King Tamar of Sundari is the only one who remembers playing a fateful game of dice with the mysterious King Jaya, who wins control of his life and bounds Tamar with an iron ring. Even Tamar himself is unsure if the episode was only a dream, but he is resolved to uphold his dharma and travel to Jayas kingdom to face his fate. Tamar is accompanied by his old teacher, Rajaswami, and along the way they join up with many others, including Hashkat (a scoundrel monkey), Mirri (a beautiful and strong-willed cow-tender), Garuda (a complaining eagle), and Adi-Kavi (a mysterious man who emerges from an anthill). Throughout the journey, Tamar continually upholds his warrior code, even when his actions seem foolish or reckless, and he and his companions join forces with King Ashwara, who is fighting a battle against another evil king. When Tamar must fight in war for the first time, he is ashamed of his fear, but the results of the battle are beyond his worst nightmare. In its aftermath, Tamar must learn to rethink all he has learned about honor, dharma, and castes as he finds the strength to resume his journey.
With a basis in the mythology of India, The Iron Ring has a plethora of characters with different views on war and honor. The actions of various characters towards both friends and enemies offer many potential examples of courage. I normally don't enjoy fantasy, but this book was excellent.