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A book is deserving of 5 stars if it s able to spark such intense curiosity about a particular history and country in me And that is exactly what Fire from Heaven did Man s immortality is not to live forever for that wish is born of fear Each moment free from fear makes a man immortal. Fire from Heaven is about the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great No doubt, Mary Renault has done such an extensive and comprehensive research on the subject matter She touched on key events such as his first kill at twelve, the taming of his horse Bucephalus, being made regent at sixteen and commander at eighteen, among other things She touched on key relationships that he has with his tutor Aristotle, and the immense love and devotion that he has for his companion, Hephaistion Alexander was lying flat on his back, staring upward Suddenly he grasped Hephaistion in an embrace so fierce that it knocked the breath out of him, and said,Without you I should go mad I too without you,said Hephaistion with loving ardor.Through her inferences, she brought Alexander the Great back to life We got a glimpse of all the things that made him truly deserving of that epithet It s intriguing to know that what Mary Renault writes are things that could have happened, might have happened the words exchanged could have been uttered When Alexander got up, his eyes had grown used to the shadows He saw they were all looking at him, jealous, despondent, hopeful feeling their pain, and wanting their contribution recognised In the end, before he left, he had spoken to every one of them. This is truly a heavy book the way it s written to be exact The stilted writing made the reading process long and slow But the rich history is worth it The Wikipedia page on Alexander the Great and the film Alexander make great supplements to Fire from Heaven although Colin Farrell makes a terrible Alexander Jared Leto on the other hand makes a fine Hephaistion Conclusion For a brilliant semi fictitious historical novel, be sure to pick up Mary Renault s Fire from Heaven, the first in the Alexander the Great series Alexander the Great lived only thirty two years 356 323 BC , but in that time he attained a stature unequaled in ancient history Celebrated as one of the greatest generals of the ancient world, he expanded his kingdom of Macedon into a vast empire, throughout Greece and extending as far as Egypt and the Himalayas Alexander was a legend in the minds of the Romans who came afterwards, nearly a mythical hero Suetonius reports that the Emperor Augustus, who lived 300 years later, had Alexander s sarcophagus removed from its mausoleum so he could show veneration by crowning his head with a golden diadem and strewing flowers on the trunk Suetonius The Twelve Caesars In Gore Vidal s novel Julian, the Emperor Julian dreams of being the first to surpass Alexander s victories in Persia, since in the seven hundred years after Alexander s reign, none of the great Roman generals had done so.Mary Renault begins her series of novels based on the life of this fabled character with Fire From Heaven The novel covers the first twenty years of his life view spoiler up to the assassination of his father, Phillip II of Macedon hide spoiler @FREE ð Fire from Heaven Ñ Alexander The Great Died At The Age Of Thirty Three, Leaving Behind An Empire That Stretched From Greece And Egypt To India And A New Cosmopolitan Model For Western Civilisation In Alexander S Childhood, His Defiant Character Was Molded Into The Makings Of A King His Mother, Olympias, And His Father, King Philip Of Macedon, Fought Each Other For Their Son S Loyalty, Teaching Alexander Politics And Vengeance From The Cradle His Love For The Youth Hephaistion, On Whom He Depended For He Rest Of His Life, Taught Him Trust, Whilst Aristotle S Tutoring Provoked His Mind And Homer S Iliad Fuelled His Aspirations He Killed His First Man In Battle At The Age Of Twelve And Became The Commander Of Macedon S Cavalry At Eighteen By The Time His Father Was Murdered And He Acceded To The Throne, Alexander S Skills Had Grown To Match His Fiery Ambition This is a masterpiece of historical fiction, weaving together a lot of subtle threads and viewpoints I felt like i got to know this version of Alexander very personally, and I could feel some of his powerful, earned charisma I appreciated the careful attention to his sexuality, dealing with Alexander s relationships and his own feelings about sex while at the same time balancing all of that with respect to the historical time period and what sexual and gender roles were possible at the time That must have been so hard to pull off, even in 1969 Fantastic job Renault isdirect here than in the Thesus books in her treatment of the ancient Greek patriarchy and the violence against women Still, I could see how readers wantedfrom that and how we ended up with great feminist retellings of Greek myths.Alexander s parents come off as real complicated pieces of work, pulling him in different directions with their machinations Wow There s a lot implied that Alexander s ambition is kind of a byproduct of getting messed up by these two charismatic monster parents, though even that is balanced by Alexander s own relationship to the Gods, especially his fascination with the tasks of Herakles I thought there d beattention to his time with Aristotle, but I didn t exactly wantpedantic lessons.The last fourth or so of the book lost some steam for me as it moved away from the momentum of conquering and sunk into the dense politics before Alexander s ascension to the throne, but the book never lost me I mostly had to slow down and accept that there were too many people, places, and moving parts to keep track of.There are a lot of things that will stick with me, but my favorite scene minor spoiler is when Alexander first enters Athens and observes this place that he grew up hearing so so much about, that meant so much to everyone around him It was breathtaking.Very much looking forward to the next book. Bullet Review OMG I FINISHED IT After reading for nearly a quarter of a year, it s done This book was a very slow read for me I m not hugely familiar with Alexander the Great beyond the basics, and this certainly isn t your basic story People who are familiar with Alexander and the ins and outs of his life and the war time exploits of his father will LOVE this.Writing style was also VERY difficult to adjust to Everything is EXTREMELY subtle and layered not your average Philipa Gregory or Dan Brown novel to be sure Just as I got it , I found my interest in the story waning there s an incredible amount of discussion about the myriad of wars and political machinations of King Phillip and I d set the book aside for a month.It didn t help that there were SO MANY characters, many of whom appear then are never seen again And I m sorry, but at times, Alexander jumps off the Marty Stu cliff headfirst.That said, the last 100 pages, I just decided I was going to finish and I got it I also loved the dynamic between Alexander Hephaistion.In the end, a good book that makes me painfully aware of how little I know about this era Recommended if you like your novels a slow, subtle build and if you are an Alexander aficionado.I don t know if I can muster a full review This book has worn me out. There s nothing quite like being able to visit another world, whether the new vistas be ones separated from us by time, space, or psychology and that is one of the great joys of reading, isn t it I ve noted how historical fiction, like sci fi or fantasy, takes this to an extreme by depositing us in a world for which our frames of reference are at best theoretical and we are uniquely at the mercy of the author for our ability to understand and appreciate what is going on around us We need, on the one hand, to be able to relate to the human characters in the story and understand their experiences in a way that resonates with us, while at the same time we need to appreciate that it is a human experience viewed through a cultural lens whose expectations and assumptions are very different from our own In my opinion Mary Renault excels at this.Renault s greatest skill perhaps lies in her ability to paint an immersive and detailed picture of the world she is creating while still using fairly broad strokes While I love the genre of historical fiction I have also noted that I often find myself disappointed in the examples I come across I think that one of the reasons for this is that it seems to me that a lot of authors of historical fiction fall into the trap of over explication and verbosity As with some speculative fiction authors it can be far too tempting for the historical fiction author to want to lay all of their cards on the table Look at all of this wonderful research I did Aren t these details about the toiletries of the 18th century just fascinating Isn t this incredibly detailed description of the building I m talking about based on the numerous pictures and architectural diagrams I ve seen of the place just painting the most vivid picture Isn t the verisimilitude I am creating through this very wordy and extensive descriptive paragraph immersive Well no, not always is my response Renault, however, is able to make me feel like I am immersed in the world of ancient Greece without filling up my brain with details and minutiae that tendto distract from than to add to the verisimilitude We are given only the details we need, generally filtered through the eyes of the characters who already understand their meaning, and are left to draw our own conclusions We are given hints and allusions instead of explanations We are permitted to experience the alien world into which she drops us without being told exactly what it is we are supposed to know or feel about it I like that.In Fire from Heaven we begin our journey with Alexander of Macedon the Great to posterity as he grows from the precocious child of a divided house until we reach the point at which he is on the threshold of his role as stupor mundi of the ancient world Raised by a father who is equal parts proud and disdainful and a mother who is both fawning and manipulative, Alexander has his work cut out for him Learning quickly that he must manoeuvre carefully between these two great poles of his life, Alexander makes his way through court intrigues, battlefields, and the training regimen of a noble scion in an attempt to find his own way Renault does an excellent job with her characters, but I think she particularly excels with Alexander s divided parents Philip of Macedon and Olympias his queen We first see the former in a rather unflattering light a seemingly venal and power hungry warlord, eager to consolidate the gains he has made on the battlefield and impatient with the wilfulness and ambition of his wife who coddles his son and heir Olympias herself at first appears to be something of a victim, though one who fights tooth and nail against every transgression whether real or perceived , but it soon becomes apparent that things are not exactly as they seem Throughout the story both Philip and Olympias become complex characters, by turns sympathetic and repulsive Both of them are willing to use their son as a pawn in their game against each other and the world, though both still show the signs of human affection and weakness that make their actions understandable Alexander himself is somewhatof a cipher given his almost superhuman abilities and unerring confidence, but even he is given his human moments when we see the person beneath the legend For the most part, though, we tend to see Alexander somewhat from the outside as those around him constantly gauge and interpret his actions in light of current events For his part Philip is presented ultimately as a conflicted man he is a conquering warlord, but his goal is the ultimate harmonious unification of Greece he is a Macedonian barbarian in love with the ideals of the Greek Hellenes he is a hard master of men who still craves the love and affection of his extraordinary son Olympias is a little simpler a woman in a time when women were generally either victims or property or both , she uses the typical tools of her sex to gain advantage where she can sex as a weapon, political intrigue, and hints of witchcraft to push forward her own goals in despite of her husband and the patriarchal world in which she lives Despite their importance both characters are still playing background roles to their extraordinary son Shown from a young age to be precocious, he excels in all he attempts and is a constant wonder to his teachers and pedagogues one of whom was the great philosopher Aristotle , taking from them what he feels to be of use and discarding the chaff He quickly draws to himself like minded youths who can t help but admire the strength and confidence he displays, among whom is the apparent love of his life, his friend Hephaistion Hephaistion has his work cut out for him as he makes it his goal to watch over his precocious friend and attempt to temper his fiery ambition with some common sense suffice it to say he is not always successful Ultimately we have in this volume of Renault s Alexander trilogy the bildungsroman of an extraordinary person The political, philosophical, and spiritual world of Classical Greece which shaped him is brought to vivid life with Renault s trademark restraint and clarity just as she did for the Archaic period in her Theseus books Indeed these books do well to be taken together as we once again follow the exploits of a protagonist of heroic stature who still manages to remain for us visibly human As with the former series the supernatural world hovers on the edges of sight, informing character, actions, and events, though its veracity is never either simply confirmed or denied If you enjoy historical fiction then you can t choose a better guide to the ancient world than Mary Renault and I recommend this book to you after you ve devoured the Theseus books of course. 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 ahistorical, 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 at the age of just 20 years old, 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 nothingthan 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 A rarefied few, and I happily count Renault among their number, seem to have genuinely researched the period they re writing about and succeeded in getting inside their characters heads not to mention, skilfully conveyed this on the page, another challenge entirely It s a vicarious experience for a historian just about the closest to time travel we ll ever get and I m pleased to say Fire From Heaven swept me away to ancient Macedon.Characterisations are rendered not only deftly but with astonishing vividness and humanity Renault clearly had a talent for understanding the human condition, and how to make her characters breathe with believable warmth, spirit, and life It s easy to forget that the Alexander presented here is a product of Renault s imagination His subtle and complex characterisation gives a stamp of authenticity that adds tremendously to the quality of the story If I can believe a character could exist in real life as an actual human being, my immersion in the tale and my empathy for those characters is exponentially increased Often, the books I most frequently DNF are those populated by implausible, two dimensional characters, existing in an inauthentic, fake setting It s only fiction is quite the rallying cry amongst historical fiction debates but, for me, it s got to be believable fiction Renault actually makes a decision in Fire From Heaven that tweaked my historian s accuracy radar in the story Ptolemy is Alexander s bastard half brother As a Ptolemaic enthusiast I ve got to acknowledge that, on balance of the evidence, it seems extremely unlikely to have actually been the case But that didn t keep me from enjoying the book It s a minor alteration that ultimately doesn t affect the plot, and it s slipped in to a world that is otherwise highly researched and feels real, not just in the facts but in the humanity of the people The critical factor is not the accuracy, but the believability, and this is something that Renault was a master at creating Moreover, she doesn t shy away from allowing the book to have a complex plot, allowing the characters to be complex, contradictory, unexpected human beings unlike the oversimplified, dumbed down, liquidised historical fiction that some popular authors prefer to spoon feed their readership and this is why Fire From Heaven succeeds as a novel, and does so spectacularly.10 out of 10 When I picked up this book what I was looking for was an understanding of Alexander the Great s personality It covers the first 19 years of his life He died at the age of 33, living from 356BC to 323BC What I learned was that he was continually torn between his two parents He loved them both, but they continually bickered He was a pawn between them The book concludes with the assassination of his father, which I found difficult to follow It was confusing It is very hard listening to an audiobook where so many names are difficult to recognize While it is clearly stated who the assassin was, who lay behind the assassination is much less clear and may be debated I also had difficulty with the battles between the different kingdoms I couldn t keep them all straight A PDF file with maps would have helped tremendously I would have likedabout the cultural differences between the battling opponents I saw Alexander through what he did, through the choices he made He was brutal, but could also show understanding and forgiveness I loved learning how he tamed his horse, Oxhead This showed another side of his personality I also enjoyed the description of the Dionysia celebrations, in honor of the god Dionysus I would have likeddetails about other ancient Greek festivities The writing is, excluding the battle scenes, lyrical in tone Pretty It reads at times almost like a song, with the air of a myth While I did learn what Alexander did, I cannot say I fully understand how he came to achieve such magnificence, such power What made him into the exceptional person he became remains a bit of a mystery to me The audiobook narration by Roger May was very, very good Perfect intonations for different sorts of people Easy to follow and read at a good pace. Fire from Heaven Alexander the Great 1 , Mary RenaultFire from Heaven is a 1969 historical novel by Mary Renault about the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great It reportedly was a major inspiration for the Oliver Stone film Alexander 2004 1382 622 9643114554 20 First part of Alexander The Great Trilogy Beautifully written and very well reaserched Everything we know about the great warrior and conquerer, and one of the greatest strategist in world history comes from later sources for any contemporary to him testimonies didn t survive We can derive knowlegde on Alexander from Plutarch mostly but Mary Renault mentions some other authors either Fire from Heaven follows Alexander from his infancy to the day when after his father death he becomes a king The author leads him from his mother s chambers through study rooms to battlefield She evokes image of a boy constantly weaving between possessive love of Olympias, his mother and rough treatment from his father, king Philip We see Alexander tutored by Aristotle, we witness him killing his first man at the age of twelve We get to know his friends and allies and like him we start to recognise all that string pulling and behind the scene machinations We can see the role of a woman in ancient world, and not very uplifting image it is indeed On pages of the novel history just brings to life Renault doesn t give us mere facts or dull chronology known from school days Under her pen protagonists seem to come alive, are flesh and blood, both in beauty and ugliness, sublime and mundane aspects The author explores philosophical, social and military themes as nature of love as well She gives a lot of space to friendship between Alexander and Hephaistion modeling it on the image of Achilles and Patroclus and creates beautiful portrait of devotion, deep understanding and long lasting affection Theory that Alexander had male lovers has still almost the same number of supporters as opponents In antiquity however homoerotic love or bisexuality didn t arise such controversy, contempt or hateful actions as it happens today And Mary Renault pursues that thread with great care and subtlety She rather implies than states nature of their attachment At the stair foot Hephaistion was waiting He happened to be there, as he happened to have a ball handy if Alexander wanted a game, or water if he was thirsty not by calculation, but in a constant awareness by which no smallest trifle was missed.Most facts evoked here were known to me already but I liked the way Renault wove this tale, how she bridged the gaps where no sources remained and how she conjured image of the boy who in the future was to conquer half of the ancient world.