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Fire From Heaven [Paperback]

Mary Renault
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Nov 2003
At twenty, when his reign began, Alexander the Great was already a seasoned soldier and a complex, passionate man. Fire From Heaven tells the story of the boy Alexander, and the years that shaped him. Resolute, fearless, and inheriting a striking beauty, Alexander still needed much to make him The Great. He must survive - though with lifelong scars - the dark furies of his Dionysiac mother, who kept him uncertain even of his own paternity; respect his father's talent for war and kingcraft, though sickened by his sexual grossness; and come to terms with his heritage from both.


Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (6 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099463474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099463474
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

The opening volume of the Alexander the Great trilogy, finally back in print

From the Back Cover

At twenty, when his reign began, Alexander the Great was already a seasoned soldier and a complex, passionate man. Fire From Heaven tells the story of the boy Alexander, and the years that shaped him.

Resolute, fearless, and inheriting a striking beauty, Alexander still needed much to make him The Great. He must survive, though with lifelong scars, the dark furies of his Dionysiac mother, who kept him uncertain even of his own paternity; respect his father's talent for war and kingcraft, though sickened by his sexual grossness; and come to terms with his heritage from both.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brilliant opening to a brilliant trilogy 25 May 2006
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is the first novel of Renault's Alexander Trilogy (continued in The Persian Boy and Funeral Games) and in some ways is the most successful. We see Alexander grow from a 7-year old boy conscious of the tensions between his mother and father, through his education by Aristotle, early relationships, with a girl to prove his parents wrong about his sexuality, and with Hephaistion who remains his life-long soul-mate and friend, to his arrival on the Macedonian throne after the assassination of his father.

The emphasis is on how the experiences of the child form the man who becomes leader of the known world, but Renault is subtle and understated rather than thrusting moral lessons on us. She evokes the 4th century Macedonian world in all its cruelty and alien splendour and yet never leaves her readers behind: she is erudite without ever being earnest or overtly scholarly.

This is a elegiac novel, far removed from the trite and souless tales of Manfredi or the overtly modern and masculine take of Pressfield: beautifully written, haunted and haunting, it will stay with you for a long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Renault's best novel? 4 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback
Fire from Heaven is perhaps Mary Renault's finest achievement - an utterly convincing account of the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great. Life at the court of Philip II is presented with an attention to detail that lends the novel an almost hallucinatory vividness, particularly in the opening scene between the four-year-old Alexander and his mother. As a work of homoerotic romantic fiction it is without peer (amusing to see other reviewers claiming that Renault leaves the question open as to whether Alexander and Hephaistion sleep together or not - their relationship is very clearly consummated while they watch a vixen and her cubs in the woods: their fellow students at Aristotle's school have a bet on as to whether 'those two did anything or not'; after the fox scene they 'recognised the signs and paid up', while Alexander's post-orgasmic melancholy is alluded to several times - it's all there for those with eyes to see). It is true that Renault demands intelligence and some knowledge from her readers, also that she uses more accurate transliterations of Greek names than the more familiar Latinised versions, so this novel will not be popular with everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must to understand Alexander's childhood 27 May 2012
Format:Paperback
Fire from Heaven was one of my very first books that I read on the subject of Alexander the Great, here depicted in his early years up to his accession to the throne of Macedonia. It is a novel, of course, but it is what we call a historic novel as the entire story is based on facts that have come to us through ancient writers. Consequently, the greater part of Alexander's life is fiction and we should not look too closely at the details, but all in all Mary Renault manages to describe the décor and circumstances in which Alexander grew up with a great feeling of trueness since they are interwoven with historical facts.

Although Mary visited Greece only once in her life, she manages to describe the landscape and daily life very vividly and makes you feel part of the events. It is amazing to discover that she wrote this book when she was well into her sixties (1969), to be followed three years later by the controversial Persian Boy. In her later years, Mary Renault, to be pronounced as Ren-olt, managed to create her own Greek world based on what she read in ancient literature and the details she found in statues and painted vases about all facets of life in those days.

Whether you know about Alexander or not, you witness a vivid and lively account of daily life in Macedonia in the fourth century B.C. and more specifically at the Royal Court. Both Alexander's parents show themselves each with their own character, King Philip II the womanizer but highly successful warrior and leader of the peoples in and around Macedonia; Queen Olympias with her dark furies and mysterious Dionysus rites very possessive of her son. We witness how Alexander struggles within himself with this heritage, but also how he finds comfort in Hephaistion's unwavering trust and devoted friendship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fire from heaven 28 Oct 2013
By Clare O'Beara TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Renault's novel is now being released in e-book to bring her story of Alexander to a new generation. Growing up in the home of his father Philip of Macedonia, Alexander is a little boy of seven, riding, handling a house-snake, learning from his half-brother Ptolemy. King Philip is a jealous, warlike ruler - he has to be - and his only son must grow up fast.

People believed the gods might send mortals blessings or curses, might lie with mortal women and give them sons, or send the Furies to drive sinners mad. Macedonian Greeks considered everyone else to be barbarians, and Persian envoys are wearing trousers, the notorious sign of a barbarian. For their part the envoys consider the kingdom small and provincial; the king even drills soldiers himself! "Gold is the mother of armies," Philip tells his son. Philip has captured gold mines to pay his troops and invented the sarissa, or extra-long spear, by which a massed troop provided the hedgehog defence.

Alexander is sent to begin training, and ordered by Leonidas the Spartan to speak better Greek than the Macedonian barrack-room talk. His mother is outraged by the succession of girls that Philip enjoys. Through their eyes we see everyday life in Greek times; theatre, clothing, food and drink, music on kithara and lyre, with references to the gods, to the fall of Troy and the labours of Hercules. The jigsaw of kingdoms and alliances, armies paid by looting and melting down temple treasures, a culture where manhood is achieved by killing a boar and a man.

Alexander meets and tames the spirited black horse Boukephalos or Oxhead, in accordance with the writings of the first horsemaster Xenophon. Aristotle the philosopher teaches him science and statecraft.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Beautifully written first of the Alexander trilogy. I am wanting more and have already ordered the set! Read more
Published 2 months ago by nicola rush
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime storycraft
Where to begin in reviewing such a classic of historical fiction? I’ve read Mary Renault before – The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea; engrossing tales based on the legend... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Isis
1.0 out of 5 stars Not yet received
I have waited for this book since before Christmas. Also waiting for another Mary Renault book - The Persian boy. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Gil
4.0 out of 5 stars Love, death and the God-Touched Golden Youth
I first encountered Mary Renault's books in my teens, as they fed a fascination I had had with Ancient Greece from a young child - not the Ancient Romans, always the Ancient... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lady Fancifull
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Excellent book well written and engrossing from start to finish. Look forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy
Published 15 months ago by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars Long before `Don't Ask, Don't Tell'...
This is the first in a trilogy of historical novels on Alexander the Great, whose phenomenal military and political achievements in the ancient world have fascinated students of... Read more
Published on 11 May 2012 by John P. Jones III
3.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge not lightly worn
I can't understand how such a badly written book should have acquired the reputation of being something of a classic. Read more
Published on 19 May 2011 by Ralph Blumenau
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a good start...
When I first read Mary Renault's trilogy, I began with 'The Persian Boy' and 'Funeral Games'. Consequently I looked forward to reading number one to fill in the missing pieces of... Read more
Published on 30 Sep 2009 by Ms. C. Ridgley
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely wonderful, magical read...
I love Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. This first book deals with Alexander's early life and ends with the murder of his father Philip. Read more
Published on 27 July 2009 by C. Ball
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the best of the series.
I wouldn't say this is a boring book, but it also isn't entirely engaging, mainly because Alexander himself fails to be. Read more
Published on 30 Nov 2008 by S. Caughie
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