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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and tragic ending to a fabulous trilogy
This is the third book of Renault's Alexander Trilogy which started with Fire from Heaven and continued with The Persian Boy. It's a difficult book to read as the absence of Alexander, dead in Babylon, is so painful to contemplate, but that's a mark of how involving and real the books are: we really care that this man is dead, and like some of the characters at least, we...
Published on 25 May 2006 by Roman Clodia

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad - not Mary's best
Funeral Games is the third novel Mary Renault wrote, after Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy - the first about Alexander's boyhood and the second about his Asian conquests till this untimely death in 323 B.C.

As is generally the case in any trilogy, this book is the least appealing not only because the hero Alexander is no longer the red tread running...
Published on 27 May 2012 by Argyraspid


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and tragic ending to a fabulous trilogy, 25 May 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
This is the third book of Renault's Alexander Trilogy which started with Fire from Heaven and continued with The Persian Boy. It's a difficult book to read as the absence of Alexander, dead in Babylon, is so painful to contemplate, but that's a mark of how involving and real the books are: we really care that this man is dead, and like some of the characters at least, we too are disorientated and don't know how the world is going to continue without him.

It does, of course. But not as it once was: the death of Alexander forces the hands of everyone ever involved with him and the political machinations of his family, friends, enemies and fellow commanders is what this book focuses on. Political, complex and intricate, it yet subtly shows the strength and force of personality of Alexander himself in the very fact of his absence which haunts this book to the end.

A far cry from Manfredi and Pressfield, this is both steeped in an understanding of the ancient sources and yet is an imaginative recreation of a vanished world that belongs uniquely to Renault.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The final volume in the trilogy on Alexander the Great..., 4 Oct. 2013
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
Mary Renault wrote numerous historical novels set in the ancient Greek world. She meticulously researched her subjects, and her novels are credited for being historically accurate. The interactions of her characters are highly plausible, with dialogue that rings authentic. Her first novel was The Last Of The Wine, written in 1956, and set during the Peloponnesian Wars. Her trilogy was written over a period that spanned the `70's. I've read and reviewed the first two volumes, Fire From Heaven, written in 1969, and The Persian Boy, written in 1972. This would be her concluding volume, written in 1982. She died the next year.

Renault was a homosexual. It is difficult to imagine the full circumstances for her decision, but in 1948 she and her "significant other" fled what they considered to be an intolerant England for a more liberal South Africa, where she would live for the rest of her life. Though she always stated that she did not want to be categorized as a "homosexual writer," she did legitimately depict the various known and suspected homosexual relationships in the Greek world, including Alexander's. Such inclinations had very real world consequences for the survival of his empire. As Renault recreates the words of Ptolemy: ` "A pity his mother was not like her. She would have had him married before he set out from Macedon, and seen that he got a son. He could have had an heir of fourteen by this time. She'd not have sickened him with a marriage while he was a child. Whose fault was it that he wasn't ready for a woman till he met the Bactrian?" Thus, unofficially, did most Macedonians refer to Roxane.'

Though homosexual rights are now the daily grist for Supreme Court decisions, when she was writing, it is important to recall that it was not until 1964 that the same Court declared Tropic Of Cancer : not obscene, and homosexuality inhabited an even further outer fringe from "acceptable society." But the sexuality, as Renault herself would state, was only incidental to her works. And this final volume primarily involved the power struggle upon Alexander's death in 323 B.C. among Perdikkas, who was Alexander's second-in-command, Antipatros, his trusted Regent, and Olympias, his mother. As one might suspect, it was "ugly," with Renault graphically depicting same. It eventually led to four relatively stable power blocks 40 years later. Renault's work focuses on the first 13 of these years, with an epilogue of sorts, in 286 B.C. set in King Ptolemy's book room in Alexandria, in present-day Egypt.

Of the three volumes, I felt the middle one, The Persian Boy to be the strongest. In the final volume, she may have realized that her powers were waning. Still, all three volumes are an important legacy that help the modern reader understand the ancient world. 5-stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book misses Alexander's presence, but that's no fault of the author's..., 27 July 2009
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
This is the last in Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy, although Alexander doesn't really make an appearance in it at all. His shadow hovers over everything that happens, but he is dead by the start of the book. This is about how his followers, relatives, successors tore themselves apart after his death, each striving to assume power, to follow Alexander's wishes, to avenge old scores and feuds. Of course, the whole point of a man like Alexander is that no-one could follow him, no-one could live up to such a legend. Sometimes I think it's a strange way to end a trilogy of books about Alexander, with Alexander dead and gone by the end of the middle book, but I suppose how his empire disintegrated after him is as much a part of his story as anything that went on before.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bolting like chariot horses when the driver falls, 21 Dec. 2012
By 
J.K. Currie (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
Mary Renault's last novel is one of her best and my own personal favourite. The third book of the Alexander trilogy begins in Babylon with the Macedonian king dying and ends in Alexandria decades later with the great survivor, Ptolemy king of Egypt, commenting briefly on what had been the essence of Alexander, what had perhaps made him worthy of the title, `the Great'.

One of the most impressive things about this novel is that it can be fully appreciated in its own terms and does not depend on a reading of the first two. It has a lyrical and melancholy atmosphere which evokes a world lost and going astray, of a golden age declining into violence and loss with only a few relics preserved here and there - and this despite the attempts of some very worthy men and women to preserve what had been achieved under Alexander. It is also a convincing meditation on the nature and transience of power, of the qualities necessary for the wielding of authority. It draws convincing pictures of flawed and lesser men and their attempts to grasp what Alexander had possessed. When I first read this novel nearly thirty years ago, I thought of it as Renault's `War and Peace' and I still consider the comparison apt. There is a huge cast of characters, male and female, soldiers and courtiers, and the author carefully, deftly draws out the consequences of Alexander's death and the reactions of those who served him to moving and often tragic conclusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 25 May 2014
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This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
This is a 'have to read' if you have read the first two, and I really did not want to go into this book without Alexander - being just as smitten with him as many of his followers were. And you do feel the pain of the separation - cleverly written by Renault. It is devastating to see how everything Alexander worked for became unraveled, with squabbling and murder throughout, in attempts by all in positions of power to gain control of a fragmented Empire. Alexander is very much still present throughout the book as he would have been in the hearts and minds of both friends and enemies of the time. This at least gives a little comfort. A difficult read if only for the absence of Alexander and the crimes that followed his death.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funeral Games, 7 Dec. 2014
By 
Iset (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I’m actually marking Funeral Games down from the first two books in Mary Renault’s trilogy; Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy. The difference? Renault jumps about a lot in time here. Of course her previous novels did this too – all of them were selective in their scenes, not comprehensive – but this time round Renault covers a much wider span of time, the events of thirty-seven years in total, a wider range than the first two books combined. And historically those thirty-seven years were chock full of conflicts, plots, and sudden reversals of fortune as Alexander’s generals duked it out for a slice of his empire. As a result, Renault ends up jumping from event to event, and some scenes, especially in the second half of the book, feel abbreviated, and the characters sketched rather than fully, immersively formed. That was my single major problem with Funeral Games. It was difficult to get into the story in the same way I had with The Persian Boy or Fire From Heaven, when Renault had to sketch the huge cast of characters that pop up over these thirty-seven years and resort to a tiny brushstroke here and there to try and convey much more about these characters.

The first half of the book felt much better written than the second half, largely because it spends a lot of time on the immediate aftermath of Alexander’s death, and Renault can lavish more pages on events and developing the characters involved. It distinctly feels like a more coherent narrative. This section of the novel retains Renault’s signature deft touch at characterisations and breaking down complex events into something lucid and understandable on a human level, without detracting from their complexity. In the second half, where many more years are spanned and characters far apart in location, there is a greater degree of summarisation going on.

A positive addition is that we get inside the heads of some of the people most closely connected to Alexander – family members, and the comrades who knew him the best. Through their eyes we finally see Alexander, how and why he was revered after his death, and how some who fought to carve up his empire for themselves failed spectacularly. A sense of ominous foreboding and unease permeates the whole book as the empire crumbles, and some of Alexander’s old friends try to preserve it and his memory, others make a grab for power, and others simply see the writing on the wall. The character of Ptolemy provides what I felt was Renault’s opinion on the failure of Alexander’s empire – the nature of Alexander was a mystery, he says, that could inspire great deeds and achieve the unachievable, and with his death they are all left merely fallible men.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History has never been so engrossing!, 19 Nov. 2014
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This account of the consequences of the death of Alexander the Great, at the height of his glory, is almost hypnotic - I couldn't put it down. Once again, Renault's deep knowledge of the places where the action takes place, her skill at breathing life into her characters, and her scholarly command of history, make this book well worth reading. The events are so dramatic as to be almost incredible, yet very probably things went exactly the way she narrates. I would advise this novel as reading material if you are embarking on a long journey - time will fly!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!, 10 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
This is the final instalment in Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. Many authors have written about Alexander in recent times and I've read many of them (by David Gemmel, Steven Pressfield, Valerio Massimo Manfredi,etc) and they are all excellent , but this was the first - and its the best!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unparalleled, 22 Mar. 2013
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
Mary Renault has an uncanny way with the ancient world, both in her reconstructions of myths and in her depictions of historical figures. The Minitaur is explicable, Socrates believable, Alexander heroic but human. All her classical novels are a delight to read, none date, none will be bettered. She is to Greece what Stephen Saylor is to Rome.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 5 Jun. 2007
By 
Reader (Mordon, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Funeral Games (Paperback)
The book can become very complex and broken up, as I imagine the events afer Alexander's death to be. More of a history book than a novel but interesting and even exciting at the same time this book is essential reading to tie up the loose ends of the first two enstallments of this brillient trilogy.
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Funeral Games
Funeral Games by Mary Renault (Paperback - 6 Nov. 2003)
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