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Fire From Heaven Paperback – 6 Nov 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (6 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099463474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099463474
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 437,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Written with her usual vigor and imagination...Mary Renault has a great talent. The New York Times Book Review" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

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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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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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Format: Paperback
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 of the Greek hero Theseus but grounded in a more historical, plausible world by Renault – but this was my first time reading Renault’s magnum opus. Fire From Heaven is the first book in a trilogy about Alexander the Great, and covers the conqueror’s life from childhood through to the moment he became king, and is far and away her best work. Frankly, it puts The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea in the shade.

Renault has an innate sense of time and place, situating the story within its historical and cultural context with sublime skill and understanding. This is such a critical point in immersing the reader in the story. As some who loves both history and reading, it’s fair to say I actively seek out novels recreating the ancient past, and it’s equally fair to say that some of them disappoint the historian in me. I’ve read historical fiction where it’s obvious that the author has completely failed to understand the times he or she is writing about, failed to understand the culture, society, and thought of ancient peoples. For me it’s incredibly frustrating, not to mention jarring, when I want nothing more than to be immersed in ancient Rome or Egypt, only to find myself on a 21st century stage with unconvincing cardboard sets and characters spouting dialogue espousing 21st century values. It’s cringe-inducing. Thank goodness for wonderful writers like Mary Renault.
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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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