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King Must Die Renault L/F Paperback – 1 Apr 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (1 April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340404833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340404836
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 676,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"One of the truly fine historical novels of modern times. Not since Robert Graves's I Claudius has there been such an exciting living image of the Ancient World on this grand scale" (New York Times)

"Takes the raw material of myth and makes it credible- I am spellbound by Miss Renault's art" (Observer)

"Vivid and convincing... it brims with feeling" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

One of the truly fine historical novels of modern times. Not since Robert Graves's I Claudius has there been such an exciting living image of the Ancient World on this grand scale New York Times Theseus, the boy-king of Eleuisis, is ritually preordained to die after one year of marriage to the sacred Queen, but he defies the Gods' decree and claims his inheritance - the throne of Athens. His friends are the young men and maidens, slaves of the Gods, chosen for death in the Bull Dance. His fabled enemy is the monstrous, half-man, half-bull, Minotaur, devourer of sacrificial human flesh. In her classic re-creation of a myth so powerful that its impact has survived down the centuries, Mary Renault has brought to life the world of ancient Greece. For here is the true Atlantis legend, with its culmination in the terrible, fateful destruction of the great Labyrinth, the palace of the house of Minos. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By The Librarian VINE VOICE on 24 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone thinks they know the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but this puts magical flesh on the bones of the story. Mary Renault's writing style is always superb - literate without being "literary", spare and vivid. This first volume of Theseus' autobiography takes him from childhood to the violent and epic end to his captivity in Crete, (as one of the Athenian youths taken to perform like gladiators in the bull ring of the Labyrinth), via his reunion with his father (whose mistress tries to kill him) and his time as consort to a queen who will force him to wrestle to the death with the next king. The fantastic elements of the story are all accounted for in a thoroughly plausible way, and the story is exciting and full of action. One of the best books I have ever read.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Mary Renault's great historical novel of Theseus begins when he is a young man in Troizen, a well-bred youth who has never known his father's identity. When, with the help of the gods, he succeeds in lifting a stone to reclaim his father's sword, Theseus discovers that he is the son of Aigeus, King of Athens. On his way to Athens to meet him, Theseus arrives in Eleusis, where after wrestling the king in a fight to the death, he finds himself, unexpectedly, the King of Eleusis. Later, in Athens, when fourteen young men and women are chosen by lot to become bull-dancers in Crete, fulfilling a tribute demanded by the King of Crete, Theseus listens to his god and joins the group, never knowing if he will survive to return to his father.
Renault tells the story of Theseus as if Theseus were a real person, not a mythical character, using history, archaeology, and a deep understanding of the cultures of the period to place Theseus in a realistic context. Her descriptions of the lifting of the stone, the wrestling match in Eleusis, Theseus's arrival at the palace in Athens, and especially his experiences in becoming a bull dancer bring the period vibrantly to life in ways consistent with the historical record. Theseus's devotion to the god Poseidon, to whom he prays throughout his journey, reflects his appreciation of his own smallness in relation to the gods, and his honoring of the gods unique to the kingdoms he visits show how the Greek religion gradually incorporated increasing numbers of gods and goddesses to explain the increasingly complex mysteries of life faced by Greek citizens.
Renault never fails to treat Theseus, his religion and culture, and the traditions of the countries in which he travels with the dignity they would have inspired in their own period.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 10 Jun. 2007
Format: Paperback
Forget Gregory, Chadwick, all those other 'historical' novelists - Renault is the real thing. Not as famous as her Alexander trilogy (Fire from Heaven, The Persian Boy, Funeral Games), The King must Die is the first part of her two-volume re-writing of the Theseus myth.

Here we see the boy Theseus, unsure about his paternity, learn that the god Poseidon is his father before he sets off to Athens. There he volunteers to be one of the youths given in tribute to Minos of Crete and goes to the bull ring at Knossos.

Renault de-mythologises while keeping all the building blocks of myth in place, so we see the famous labyrinth and the minotaur naturalised. The novel ends after the death of the minotaur, when Theseus escapes from Crete with the princess Ariadne, abandoning her on Naxos before returning to Athens and becoming king.

The second part of the story (The Bull from the Sea) picks up from here, and I defy anyone who has read this not to start it immediately. The tone is very different, eschewing the exuberant youth and eneergy that fills this book.

Sympathetic, empathetic and beautifully written, Renault creates a man not a hero. Fabulous stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By IP TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 July 2015
Format: Paperback
The perfect companion for all historical fiction enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Mary Renault had a gift for plucking out a figure from the larger-than-life tales of antiquity and giving them a very real and personal voice. in this particular instance, she's unearthed a plausibly realistic tale to account for the fable of Theseus & the minotaur of Crete. his story reads like a first-person memoir, traveling from one marvelously detailed royal court to the next. Renault's obvious care of and research into her subject matter never weighs down the book, but provides a fantastic example of world-building, beautifully written, the only flaw is that the memoir is written by a middle-aged man recalling his youth...and Theseus' tale doesn't end with this book.
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Format: Paperback
‘The King Must Die’ is a historical novel by Mary Renault, first published in 1958. Set in Ancient Greece: Troizen, Corinth, Eleusis, Athens, Knossos in Crete, and Naxos, it traces the early life and adventures of Theseus, one of the heroes in Greek mythology. Ms Renault’s story constructs a story around Theseus which, while not a simple retelling of the myth, could form the basis of it. The story begins in Troizen, the land of Theseus’s grandfather, King Pittheus. Theseus believes that he is the son of the sea-god Poseidon, and when he discovers that he can sense earthquakes, he considers this is proof of his heritage. When he is seventeen, after lifting a stone to recover his father’s sword, he learns that his father is Aigeus, King of Athens. He decides to travel to Athens, but along the way he unexpectedly becomes the King of Eleusis.

‘To be a king’, I thought, ‘what is it? To do justice, to go to war for one’s people, make their peace with the gods? Surely it is this.’

Theseus eventually reaches Athens, meets his father and then volunteers to become one of the fourteen bull-dancers demanded as tribute by the King of Crete. He does not know whether he will survive, or whether he will return to Athens to see his father.

‘It is a saying of the Bull Court that the longer you live there, the longer you may.’

In this book, Theseus is made real by Ms Renault’s knowledge of archaeology, culture and history. He pays homage to Poseidon, but recognises the other gods who are part of the world in which he lives. The whole book is magnificent, but I especially enjoyed Theseus’s experiences in becoming a bull-dancer. This novel and its sequel, ‘The Bull From the Sea’ (published in 1962) are two of the best works of historical fiction I’ve ever read.
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