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Fire from Heaven ❴Read❵ ➪ Fire from Heaven Author Mary Renault – Alexander’s beauty strength and defiance were apparent from birth but his boyhood honed those gifts into the makings of a king His mother Olympias and his father King Philip of Macedon fought each o Alexander’s beauty strength and defiance were apparent from birth but his boyhood honed those gifts into the makings of a king His mother Olympias and his Fire from Kindle - 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 taught him trust while Aristotle’s tutoring provoked his mind and Homer’s Iliad fueled his aspirations Killing his first man in battle at the age of twelve he became regent at sixteen and commander of Macedon’s cavalry at eighteen so that by the time his father was murdered Alexander’s skills had grown to match his fiery ambition.

10 thoughts on “Fire from Heaven

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”He is like the great the famous ones; like Lais or Rhodope or Theodotis they tell tales of in those old days They don’t live for love you know; but they live upon it I can tell you I have seen they are the very blood of his body all those men who he knows would run after him through fire If ever the day comes when they will follow him no longer it will be the same with him as with some great hetaira when they lovers leave her door and she puts away her mirror He will begin to die” Alexander is a boy a long ways from the young man who will conuer the world in his twenties He is the heir to the throne of Macedonia but an uneasy heir His father Philip II and his mother Olympias are constantly sparring for his soul His father busy with campaigns and running an empire cannot devote as much time to influencing his son as his mother can I actually found myself feeling sorry for Philip because though he tries to make connections with his son any progress he makes is uickly undone by one errant word or intercession by Olympias I’ve never been through a divorce but I’ve seen others go through the process where the children become part of a tug of war for dominance as each parent tries to sway their offspring to their side Even though Philip didn’t divorce Olympias he found her bed of ice unappealing and sought comfort in the arms of other women and acuired other wives There is one scene where Alexander has given a girl named Gorgo some violets because he likes her only to have his impressions of her dashed almost immediately ”Silent and motionless he stood in shadow In the patch of light the girl Gorgo faced towards him wriggling and suirming in the arms of a man who stood behind him one dark suare hairy hand sueezing her groin and the other her breast Breathless soft giggles stirred her throat The dress slid off her shoulder under the working hand; a couple of dead violets fell out on the flagstones The man’s face muzzling for her ear appeared from behind her head It was his father’s”ueue dramatic music Philip IITo his father it is just a dalliance with an available young woman which frankly in his position any woman is available to him His power is immense and complete To Alexander Philip is betraying his mother any time he sleeps with anyone other than her but he doesn’t really grasp the politics involved with Philip ever returning to Olympias’ bed Philip prefers women but that doesn’t mean he won’t bend a young lad over a handy table if he finds him handsome In this time period homosexuality is accepted as natural and not treated as an abomination like it has been in recent centuries A man still has a responsibility to produce offspring so even if he favors men he has to occasionally use his imagination blow the lamps out as it were and impregnate a female Alexander prefers the company of his best friend Hephaistion This relationship will have a huge impact on his level of success and also be the catalyst for the end of his reign but then that is a story for later in this trilogy Now Hephaistion is the voice of reason the comforter and the most ardent protector of a boy becoming a man while swimming the treacherous waters of his parent’s relationship HephaistionAlexander will be the philosopher king and Aristotle puts in a few appearances in this novel His influence will be felt later in the story I enjoyed this one scene involving his pupils and the things they would bring him from their explorations ”The boys would ride out at cocklight to go hunting before the day’s school began They would set up their nets in the coverts and get their buck or their hare Under the trees the smells were dank and mossy; on the open slopes spicy with crushed herbs At sunup there would be smells of wood smoke and roasted meat horse sweat on leather dog smells as the hounds came coaxing up for scraps But if the uarry was rare or strange they would go fasting home and save it for dissection Aristotle had learned this skill from his father; it was the Asklepiad heritage Even insects they found he did not disdain Most of what they brought in he knew already; but now and then he would say sharply ‘What’s this what’s this?’ then get out his notes with their fine pen drawings and be in good humor for the day” AristotleCan you imagine the pride one would feel to bring Aristotle something he has never seen before? The great philosophers the great leaders of history are never satisfied with what they know They are always driven by their own burning curiosity to know Aristotle instills that desire for knowledge in Alexander and that characteristic makes him a better leader and a man willing to embrace the differences that he encounters in other cultures rather than rejecting those differences as non Macedonian Mary Renault does a wonderful job exploring the relationships between all of the characters She introduces names events and regions with ease The maps on the back of the boards of the book really helped me keep orientated as Philip and Alexander both campaigned to keep the peace Her scholarship is superb Much of what we know about Alexander was written long after his death but the relationships between Philip Olympias and Alexander are well documented Renault fills in the gaps and brings these characters and their turmoils to life With Renault’s steady hand on the tiller I look forward to navigating the rest of Alexander’s life and seeing him grow from the boy in waiting to the man of greatness You can read my most recent book and movie reviews at out my Facebook bloggers page at

  2. Agnieszka Agnieszka says:

    First part of Alexander The Great Trilogy Beautifully written and very well reaserched Everything we know about the great warrior and conuerer 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 antiuity 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 missedMost 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 conuer half of the ancient world

  3. Spencer Orey Spencer Orey says:

    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 is direct 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 wanted from that and how we ended up with great feminist retellings of Greek mythsAlexander'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 be attention to his time with Aristotle but I didn't exactly want pedantic lessonsThe last fourth or so of the book lost some steam for me as it moved away from the momentum of conuering 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 ofThere 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 breathtakingVery much looking forward to the next book

  4. Sarah (Presto agitato) Sarah (Presto agitato) says:

    Alexander the Great lived only thirty two years 356 323 BC but in that time he attained a stature uneualed 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 soMary 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 spoilerup to the assassination of his father Phillip II of Macedon hide spoiler

  5. Terry Terry says:

    There’s nothing uite 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 uniuely 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 thisRenault’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 tend to 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 thatIn 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 eual parts proud and disdainful and a mother who is both fawning and manipulative Alexander has his work cut out for him Learning uickly 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 ueen 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 somewhat of 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 conuering 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 uickly 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 sensesuffice 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

  6. Crystal Starr Light Crystal Starr Light says:

    Bullet ReviewOMG I FINISHED IT After reading for nearly a uarter of a year it's doneThis 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 thisWriting 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 monthIt 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 headfirstThat said the last 100 pages I just decided I was going to finish and I got it I also loved the dynamic between AlexanderHephaistionIn 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 aficionadoI don't know if I can muster a full review This book has worn me out

  7. Iset Iset says:

    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 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 conueror’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 shadeRenault 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 eually 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 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 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 MacedonCharacterisations 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 uality 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 freuently DNF are those populated by implausible two dimensional characters existing in an inauthentic fake setting “It’s only fiction” is uite 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 liuidised 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 spectacularly10 out of 10

  8. Paul Paul says:

    This is the first of Mary Renault’s trilogy about Alexander the Great It covers the period up to his father Philip’s death when Alexander is in his late teens Renault’s sources are the usual ones Plutarch and co and she then adds to the bare historical bones She takes part of the mythology and uses it for her narrative purposes adopting a third person omniscient narration Renault does not shy away from Alexander’s sexuality and clearly portrays him as bisexual which the historical records indicate he probably was The relationship with Hephaistion is central to the book and the strength and depth of their relationship is important to Alexander Hephaistion understands his role in supporting Alexander“You’re with me’ Hephaistion said ‘I love you You mean to me than anything I’d die for you any time I love you”In parallel with this Renault at least in this novel implies that sex itself wasn’t that important to Alexander“He’s as chaste as Artemis; or nearly”“One might have supposed that the true act of love was to lie together and talk”Renault draws the comparison with the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus and Alexander is very conscious of this Parts of Alexander’s character also feel uite modern consider this exchange with his younger sister towards the end of the book as she discovers she is to marry her uncle“He crossed over and drew her against his shoulder He had scarcely embraced her since their childhood and now it was in Melissa’s arms that she had wept ‘I am sorry You need not be frightened He’s not a bad man he has no name for being cruel The people like him And you’ll not be too far away’She thought You took for granted you’d choose the best; when you chose you had only to lift your finger When they find you a wife you can go to her if you choose or stay away with your lover But I must be grateful that this old man my mother’s brother has no name for being cruel All she said was 'The gods are unjust to women’'Yes I have often thought so But the gods are just so it must be the fault of men”Renault seems to want to make Alexander a benevolent and consistent tyrant The historian in me doesn’t approve at all However for novelistic purposes it works overall and I’m glad that Renault does not shy away from the uestion of sexuality The characterisation and the portrayal of Alexander’s context are both strong The descriptive passages have bothered some readers because it means the novel doesn’t flow so well but Renault isn’t writing an action novel This passage comes from Alexander’s boyhood“The mild summer day declined to evening On the salt lake of Pella fell the shadow of its island fort where the treasury and the dungeons were Lamps glimmered in windows up and down the town; a household slave came out with a resined torch to kindle the great cressets upheld by seated lions at the foot of the Palace steps The lowing of homebound cattle sounded in the plains; in the mountains which turned towards Pella their shadowed eastern faces far distant watch fires sparked the greyThe boy sat on the Palace roof looking down at the town the lagoon and the little fisher boats making for their moorings It was his bedtime and he was keeping out of his nurse's way till he had seen his mother who might give him leave to stay up Men mending the roof had gone home without removing their ladders It was a chance not to be wastedHe sat on the tiles of Pentelic marble shipped in by King Archelaos; the gutter under his thighs between his knees an antefix in the shape of a gorgon's head the paint faded by weather Grasping the snaky hair he was outstaring the long drop defying its earth daimons Going back he would have to to look down; they must be settled with beforehandSoon they gave in as such creatures did when challenged He ate the stale bread he had stolen instead of supper It would have been hot posset flavored with honey and wine; the smell had been tempting but at supper one was caught for bed Nothing could be had for nothingA bleat sounded from below They had brought the black goat it must be nearly time Better now not to ask beforehand Once he was there she would not send him awayHe picked his way down the long spaces of the ladder rungs made for men The beaten earth daimons kept their distance; he sang himself a song of victory From the lower roof to the ground; no one was there but a few tired slaves going off duty Indoors Hellanike would be searching; he must go around outside He was getting too much for her; he had heard his mother say so”There is much like this I’m glad I read this and I like the understated way that Renault gets her points across One interesting aside; Oliver Stone’s film is very much based on Renault’s trilogy

  9. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    Part 1 of Mary Renault's Alexander the Great trilogy I'll write tomorrow but for now it reminded me of Robert Graves mixed with a bit of Patricia Highsmith's penchant for psychological tension Renault isn't trying to give some accurate account of Alexander the Great only use the template of Alexander to paint her ideas of Hubris upon So many great characters in the books and the prose was fantastic I'm giving it only 4 stars right now because it is only my 2nd Mary Renault novel and I don't want to presume to know her peak

  10. Chrissie Chrissie says:

    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 liked about 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 liked details 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

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