The Iron Ring: by Lloyd Alexander
This mythic tale is set in India, following a young king who loses a bet to a tyrant from a far off land and is forced to become his slave. When the tyrant mysteriously disappears the next morning the hero feels obligated by his word to journey to the tyrant’s homeland to meet his fate (which may be death).
What I learned Part 1: The power of the open question to drive you through a story. Lee Chi, the hero, isn’t certain whether the tyrant was real or a dream, and the dread of what he will face at the end of his journey keeps you reading.
What I learned Part 2: The power of myth. This book introduces a great number of allies for the main character and side-tracks in the plot. It also follows the Hero’s Journey story beats very closely. But it feels very much like true Indian folklore (which it may or may not be), and this mood combined with the open question carries the book through.