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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only there could be a part 3!!!
The existence of this book is one of those truly life-enhancing experiences, ie when you read a book, think it's one of the best things you've ever read - and then find out there's a sequel! In this case, however, this second volume in the tale of Theseus, the Greek hero-king is so much more than a mere sequel.
The bare bones of the story are well-known, but Mary...
Published on 15 Mar 2005 by The Librarian

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault
Having read and loved many years ago, most of Mary Renault's writing, I was a bit disappointed in this in particular, I feel that she did not quite get into the character as she really did in "Persian Boy" which is much more gripping and entertaining. Perhaps too much animal sacrifice/casual treatment of women in those days!
Published on 4 Aug 2010 by A. Baillie Rose


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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If only there could be a part 3!!!, 15 Mar 2005
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
The existence of this book is one of those truly life-enhancing experiences, ie when you read a book, think it's one of the best things you've ever read - and then find out there's a sequel! In this case, however, this second volume in the tale of Theseus, the Greek hero-king is so much more than a mere sequel.
The bare bones of the story are well-known, but Mary Renault fleshes them out which such consummate skill that the reader is right THERE with Theseus in the landscape of ancient Greece. There is no doubt that Theseus is a real man, with real problems, real happinesses, and a real LIFE! This story runs from his escape from the fall of Crete and the bull-ring of the Labyrinth to his death - an older, wiser and disillusioned man, but still one who had the courage to master his own fate.
These books should be required reading for students of English literature. Mary Renault's writing never slips. Despite some of the very dramatic, even sentimental, events in the story, her prose never becomes purple - but be warned, you may need your hanky at some points.
Absolutely superb - buy buy buy! Read read read!!!!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Legend Continues, 31 Dec 2000
Part two of the Theseus legend (The King Must Die is part one), this book has is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the history or mythology of Ancient Greece.
Mary Renault has managed, quite uniquely, to turn an ancient legend into a living, historically acceptible and real set of characters. Her artistry is defined in her writing - Theseus, the King, is an ordinary man (with an extraordinary fate thrust upon him) who quickly becomes a close and dear friend. The reader identifies with the character and accepts the deeply researched period of ancient Mycenaean Greek history as though it occurred yesterday - to a friend.
No bookshelf can be complete without at least some of Mary Renault's works and The Theseus saga is a truly definitive place to start!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent tale of heroism, romance and tragedy, 21 Mar 2012
By 
T. D. Welsh (Basingstoke, Hampshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
The word "tragedy" is bandied about so much nowadays that it has become devalued. Any death, accident, or painful occurrence is routinely labeled "tragic". But if you want to understand the true meaning of tragedy, read this book! Theseus is a hero - a difficult idea for modern people to accept, in our prosaic times - and Mary Renault does a brilliant job of showing us his heroism, rather than just telling us about it. When danger threatens, when a firm hand is needed, Theseus instinctively takes over; and he always assumes, as he has done since early childhood, that one day the god Poseidon Earthshaker will demand his life in return for his people's safety.

The long series of disasters that, to us 21st century folk, just looks like the worst of luck, can in fact be traced directly to the flaws in Theseus' character: for, although heroic, he is far from perfect. His virtues are great, but so are his weaknesses; and pride is both the best of his virtues and the worst of his weaknesses. The phrase "train wreck", used by at least two other reviewers, is supremely apt because it connotes inevitability and terrible consequences stemming from an apparently slight cause.

Yet, just when things look blackest and he is sure of dying in disgrace, old, crippled, and forgotten by gods and men alike, Theseus is touched by a divine grace that fulfils his fate and completes the pattern of his life. The harmony of this novel is as perfect and satisfying, in its way, as that of a Bach cantata. If you can read the closing pages without at least wanting to cry, you probably have not fully understood the story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read!, 25 May 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
This follows on from The King Must Die, which begins Renault's epic and yet overwhelmingly human re-telling of the Theseus myth.

The first book tells the story of a young man: this sequel is much darker. Here Theseus tries to re-capture his lost youth in the bull-ring of Knossos before realising that that is an impossibility. Restless, he allows his friend Peirithous to talk him into a pirate expedition where they encounter the Amazons and Theseus falls in love.

The love affair/marriage between him and Hippolyta is one of the most moving relationships in literature, but if you don't know the myth I don;t want to spoil it for you. This is a fine, fine book: imaginative, compelling, enthralling, filled with true emotion and drama. Buy it!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remote Lives and Beliefs Come to Life!, 28 Aug 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bull from the Sea (Paperback)
First, let me take a moment to explain what this book is . . . and what it is not. Many people like historical fiction. To me, that genre means creating a modern novel that is set in an earlier historical period. It may or not not include well-known historical characters. The Bull from the Sea is not, by this definition, historical fiction. In fact, if you like historial fiction a lot, you may not like this book.
Instead, I would describe what is done in this book as literary restoration. Ms. Renault has taken well-known stories about a famous Greek character and made them more accessible to the modern reader. By staying within what is known about the character, that limits an author's ability to create a modern novel. For example, if Theseus was idle for many years (as he was on occasion), Ms. Renault is stuck with that as part of her story. By contrast, a historical novelist could simply invent interesting things for such a flat period, and not have to worry about dealing with any story limits other than general credibility.
Mary Renault has done an outstanding job of fleshing out the life of Theseus from the time he returned from Crete after escaping from the Labyrinth and became King of Athens until his death. We especially learn a lot about what kind of thoughts drove him as he united the Greeks, established law and order, and reformed religion.
The ancient Greeks always seemed larger than life to me as a child. They were playing on a cosmic scale, with gods and goddesses lurking behind every bush. Often with little room to maneuver, they suffered from complications of the gods' preoccupations with their own quarrels. The fate of civilization always seemed to be in the balance.
Yet these people did not seem real, despite their appeal. The story telling style of epics and plays leaves much to be desired for helping the modern reader understand the figures as people. Ms. Renault has done a skillful job of working within the outlines of those ancient tales and creating an understandable modern story out of them. For the first time, Theseus came alive for me in this book.
There is a lot of interesting material to work with in this part of Theseus' life. He finds the love of his life (Hippolyta), marries another woman (Phaedra) to secure his alliance with Crete, and fathers two sons (Hipplytos and Akamas) who could potentially vie to succeed him. Anyone who has ever lived in a step-family will soon recognize the potential for complications.
Theseus also liked to rove, and was often off acting the pirate. These tales make good adventure stories.
He was a central religious figure, constantly balancing the older religion of the Earth Mother with the newer religion of the Sky Gods (like Apollo and Poseidon). There is also a split between women and men involved in this religious tension that makes for interesting reading.
Although the gods make no more than cameo appearances (usually through causing Theseus to hear the sound of the ocean or be sick, or by omens), nature is a major character. Earthquakes and storms play an important role as irresistible forces that provide boundaries for Greek life at the time.
If you are like me, the most valuable part of this book will be your increased understanding of leadership though considering Theseus' decisions and actions. Theseus has much talent for leadership, and is constantly striving to be a role model. He is as concerned about slaves as he is about barons, and his concern for public opinion rivals that of any modern politician in a democracy. Undoubtedly, there will eventually be a book on the management lessons of King Theseus.
After you finish reading this book, stop to reflect on how your example and actions can make a difference in creating more understanding, communication, and cooperation. Then, go set that example!
Enjoy a life of inspiring purpose!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular ,Spectacular,Spectacular., 28 Nov 2008
By 
C. R. Ibbetson (Great Britain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
Everyone thinks they know the story of Theseus and the Minotaur but Mary Renault takes you on a thought provoking journey through the terrible,ruthless world of ancient greek legend like no other author before or since.This is quite an old book,but don't let that put you off as it has really stood the test of time.You really feel you are a spectator in the stands of the bull ring in this the second novel (the first being the King must die)of Theseus' life.You can smell the desperation and feel the bull dancers fear as you turn the pages.Definatly a must have for anyone even minutely interested in Ancient Mythology.I couldn't put it down the first time I read it and have since picked it up again a couple of times.Enjoy!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Always excellant, 1 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
Always an excellant writer who never fails to impress.have several of her books and all have been reread often.
cheers
margaret Bell
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 22 July 2013
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
Excellent retelling of the second half of the myth of Theseus covering the tale from his return from Crete onwards. The first half of his life is covered in "The King Must Die"; if you haven't read that, do read it first, as greatly enhance your enjoyment of "The Bull from the Sea". Mary Renault expertly creates an entirely plausible story, managing to weave in not just the Theseus legend but several other myths too. Renault knows her subject and retells it beautifully.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly detailed, rich portrait of Bronze Age Greece, a wonderful retelling of the legend of Theseus., 15 Oct 2010
By 
Isis (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
As in this book's prequel, we are thrown right into the middle of the action from the word go, but because "The Bull from the Sea" is a sequel to "The King Must Die", as readers we find our feet immediately, having read the events of "The King Must Die" and knowing instantly the situation in which Theseus finds himself. Once again, the book is told in first person, from Theseus' point of view - clearly he is recollecting his own past, but nothing is given away about how events will eventually unfold.

The plot arc is less obvious here than the classic coming of age tale which characterised "The King Must Die", but in a way "The Bull from the Sea" follows the coming of age tale in reverse. Having won his place as king of Athens, Theseus as an adult must lay down its laws and governance, and as a young man encounters Oedipus in an echo of what he himself will become, and also finds bond friends in Pirithoos and Hippolyta. However, as he grows older, events fall out of Theseus' control. The triumphant heroic epic of the first half of Theseus' life, covered in "The King Must Die", is mirrored by the second half of his life and turns into a tragic epic. Again, this cannot be put down entirely to Mary Renault, but the legend of Theseus itself, however Renault highlights these stark contrasts well, and "The King Must Die" and "The Bull from the Sea" are very comparable in this way.

There's not much new to say about the quality of writing in this sequel, since it matches the high standards of the first book. On the historical accuracy front, Renault is as ever extremely good, considering that she was writing in 1962 with only the historical and archaeological knowledge of that time. Renault addresses the fantastical elements of the Theseus myth with realistic and plausible interpretations, too, which is no easy task. Renault understood her subject intimately, and brings Theseus, and the Bronze Age Aegean, absolutely to life. As a reader I was sucked into the world she created on the page and at times forgot that I wasn't right by Theseus' side through all his adventures. There was never a single dull moment, and Renault hits each and every note perfectly, not once falling down in terms of literary quality. Thoughtful, clever, gripping. A true classic. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in ancient history.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping from start to finish, 20 Mar 2010
By 
Dr. S. Newton (East Anglia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Bull From The Sea (Paperback)
In my opinion this is an absolute masterpiece of historic fiction, even better than Renault's The King Must Die and Alexander trilogy, though I loved them too. From the first chapter to the last I was completely taken into Theseus's world and bowled over with the level of detail, pace and storytelling. Theseus comes across as a real person, with flaws and problems galore, and the story is often moving. Even the romantic elements are written with such verve that the pace never slackens.I first read The Bull from the Sea aged about 22 but I think I would have enjoyed it just as much if I'd discovered it in my teens. A great present idea for anyone about to go to Crete.

Sally Newton
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