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Der König muß sterben (Theseus #1)

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  5,313 Ratings  ·  409 Reviews
In myth, Theseus was the slayer of the child-devouring Minotaur in Crete. What the founder-hero might have been in real life is another question, brilliantly explored in The King Must Die. Drawing on modern scholarship and archaeological findings at Knossos, Mary Renault’s Theseus is an utterly lifelike figure—a king of immense charisma, whose boundless strivings flow from ...more
Hardcover, German Edition, 416 pages
Published July 1989 by Marion von Schröder Verlag (first published 1958)
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Dec 11, 2012 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The past, they say, is a foreign country. One might even go so far as to say that it is another world full of strange wonders and people who both fascinate and repel. I imagine that is why history so intrigues me and I definitely approach the subject with a heaping portion of romance as I in no way attempt to diminish the veneer and lustre which the intervening ages bring to previous eras. Despite this fascination I generally find myself of two minds when it comes to historical fiction. While th ...more
Tiffany Reisz
May 23, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love you, prideful, arrogant, honorable, brave, noble, horny all the time Theseus.
I found myself rooting about in my memory, struggling to recall the Greek mythology that I studied as an undergraduate student, as I evaluated this lovely historical fantasy. My memory is rather hazy, but I think that Renault did a remarkably lovely job of formulating the myth into a plausible tale.

I had to love Theseus’ young-man enthusiasm, his gung-ho attitude, and his willingness to plunge into whatever the Gods presented to him and attempt to succeed at it, whether it is wrestling, chasing
I hoped to enjoy Mary Renault's work a lot. I'm not a classicist so much now, but I'm still interested, and a plausible retelling that tries to put a bit of history into fantastical myth is usually worth a look, in my view. And this was, in some ways: realistic up to a point, detailed, exciting at times...

I just really didn't like Theseus, the narrator and central character. I thought he was smug, and it rankled, especially when he was smug about breaking women's power. There are a few positive
Feb 13, 2011 Iset rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Iset by: No one
Perhaps my most major criticism of the entire book is that it does get off to a bit of a slow start. Renault's attention to details and wonderfully sophisticated use of language are usually a big treat, but we are thrown right into the thick of it straight from the off and what's going on is left to the reader to figure out. As a result some readers may feel for the first couple of chapters that the conjunction of confusing situation, complex language and lack of initial events or action renders ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 23, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Assigned in High School
This book was assigned to me in high school, and after that I quickly read every historical novel by Renault I could get a hold of. It's certainly one of the books responsible for making me interested in both history and historical fiction.

Along with Robert Graves, Mary Renault is my gold standard in historical fiction--but especially Renault. I think because more than any other author, she gave me the sense that the people in other times, though complex and human, aren't simply moderns in stra
Brilliant retelling of the story of Theseus! I started this novel more as a duty than as enjoyment, but was soon plunged into the world of Bronze Age Greece. I can see why this novel has survived all these years and why Renault is a classic. However I have to ask myself, were this novel published in 2015 for the first time, would it be as popular as it was when first published in 1958?

In Troizen, Theseus finds out he is heir to the king of Athens, by his strength in lifting a sword [similar mot
Dec 07, 2009 Zeus_slayer101 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The King Must Die is the tale of Theseus told as if it were realistic, historical fiction. It is a retelling of the classic myth about Theseus’ adventures and most notably, his fight with the Minotaur on the island of Crete. However, the author introduces more plausible accounts for the instances throughout the myth. I really enjoyed how the author tells this story, but maybe that was because of my bias and soft-spot for all historical fiction. However, I did enjoy the idea of creating plausibl ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
Aug 27, 2007 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
‘For a man in darkness, there is only one god to pray to.’

‘The King Must Die’ is a historical novel by Mary Renault, first published in 1958. Set in Ancient Greece: Troizen, Corinth, Eleusis, Athens, Knossos in Crete, and Naxos, it traces the early life and adventures of Theseus, one of the heroes in Greek mythology. Ms Renault’s story constructs a story around Theseus which, while not a simple retelling of the myth, could form the basis of it. The story begins in Troizen, the land of Theseus’s
I am always excited to find a new author to admire. Of course, Mary Renault is not new to the world. She was born in London in 1905 and died in 1983, having built for herself a reputation for vivid historical novels, many of them set in Ancient Greece. She was named by J F Kennedy as his favorite author. I have meant to read her for years and am so pleased to have found a wonderful writer with a great deal of scholarship and intelligence backing up her fiction.

The King Must Die is the first of
Elizabeth K.
Oct 24, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007-new-reads
I've picked this up now and again over the years, but never read the whole thing. I have this precious Pocket Books paperback edition, I'm guessing circa 1960 - sadly it's very fragile and crumbly and it took quite a beating being carried around in my purse before I realized it. The blurb on the back reads as follows:

Brave, aggressive, tough, proud, and highly sexed, Theseus faces danger after danger and overcomes them all.

His adventures will take you into a world of primitive orgies, sparkling
Robert Case
This is the story of Theseus, a prince of Athens who allied his country with its Spartan neighbors and then traveled to Crete to challenge the minotaur. The author, Mary Renault, stays true to the legend, introducing her heroic main character as a young, insecure boy and following him through teenage trials and into adulthood. She breathes life into his character, showing the weaknesses as well as the strengths of a charismatic man, one with the humility of a true hero.
Renault's Theseus relies o
Ann Schwader
Aug 06, 2014 Ann Schwader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lyrical retelling of the legend of Theseus manages to add a sense of realism (circa 1958 archaeological evidence) without sacrificing the essential magic of ancient Greece. The gods may or may not manifest themselves; but they are fully real to the characters, and they behave as such, often with far-reaching consequences.

Renault does not give the reader modern sensibilities in ancient clothing, but truly ancient ways of thinking -- which can be disturbing at times. Theseus’s perception of w
Linda Riebel
Apr 22, 2012 Linda Riebel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have not discovered Mary Renault’s historical novels, you are in for a treat, and I envy you your discovery. The King Must Die, her first, is a masterpiece of evocation. In ancient Greece, the mythical (or was he?) Theseus becomes a brave hero who penetrates the infamous labyrinth of Crete, where the Minotaur lurks, awaiting his annual portion of Athenian boys and girls to devour. There is much more in the way of plot, but that’s not the main part of Renault’s magic. She so fully conjures ...more
Holly Lindquist
My opinion of this book was highly unfavorable until the main character ended up as a bull dancer on the isle of Crete. That was when the author really hit her stride. Or perhaps I just became interested enough to overlook the overly-affected dialogue and constant emphasis on Theseus's maleness. There are plenty of female writers out there who can write convincing male characters without having them metaphorically cupping their junk on every other page. (I'm sorry, but that's the impression I go ...more
Feb 08, 2011 Sath rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who enjoy older sword and sorcery fantasy and historical-fiction
Mary Renault takes the Greek Legend of Theseus and the Minotaur; combines it with real architectural findings; adds in her own literary skill.. and makes it bigger and better in the telling.

My own telling of the Theseus legend would mostl likely cover half a page. Renault has made it a 350 page adventure that is half historical-fiction and half swords and sorcery fantasy.

The style of thing reminds me a fair bit of Michael Moorcock's Elric series. It's not the ending that counts here, and its not
I love her, I can't help it.

I thought it was very clever how all the fantastic elements of the myth got explained to be more realisitc and still make sense. I read this whole thing pretty fast but I really tore through the end to see how Theseus would leave Ariadne (thousand year old myths don't get spoiler alerts) without being a total moron. Like, "I think I'm forgetting something. OH! It's the girl! Doh!" The way it was explained (ok, that is a spoiler) only mae him slightly douchey, which i
Jason Golomb

“The voices sank and rose, sank and rose higher. It was like the north wind when it blows screaming through mountain gorges; like the keening of a thousand widows in a burning town; like the cry of she-wolves to the moon. And under it, over it, through our blood and skulls and entrails, the bellow of a the gong.”
- from Mary Renault’s “The King Must Die"

Mary Renault weaves a tale so mythic in scope, that the story itself is only outshone by her fabulous prose. Beyond a vague awareness of the Mino
Sep 22, 2016 Kirsty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have read a couple of Renault's novels before, and must admit that I was a touch disappointed. I had heard that her work set within Ancient Greek was marvellous, however, and when I discovered that Hilary Mantel is also an advocate of her work, I wanted to give her another go. I decided to choose a book which I already owned, The King Must Die, for a reading project, which is the first in a series about Theseus.

First published in 1958, the gorgeous new Virago reprint (#684) has an introduction
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The King Must Die by Mary Renault is a re-telling of the Greek myth of Theseus. Renault begins with Theseus’ early childhood and concludes with his killing of the Minotaur in Crete.

Although Renault does an admirable job of fleshing out the historical setting and situating the myth in a realistic, historical context, her story-telling abilities did not live up to expectations. The first part of the novel was flat and plodding. The pace did pick up with Theseus’ arrival in Crete with the descript
Nov 07, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
THE KING MUST DIE. (1958). Mary Renault. ****.
I first read this novel back when it first came out. The timing was perfect; I was still in the middle of my historical fiction kick, and was still intensely interested in Greek and Roman mythology. As I recall, I got my copy as a member of the Book-of-the-Month Club. It may or may not have been the first of Ms. Renault’s books I read, but it was the catalyst that led me on to read most of her other novels. Mary Renault (1905-1983) was a prolific wr
The King Must Die by Mary Renault is a historical take on a legendary character. The writing is interesting but the plot is too slow to get the readers interested. Since the narration is in first person it makes it even more difficult to grasp the world in which it is set.

Despite having an impressive prose the slow pace of the story weighs it down. An okay read. Recommended for those who like good writing.
Nov 30, 2015 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: women-writers
It's historical fiction based on myth and also history, which means it's basically an amazing fantasy story. Theseus, founder-hero of Athens has amazing adventures. There's battle, ancient kingdoms, magic, ancient rites, messages from gods, incredible heroism, pride and honor, tragedy, wonder. And it's all from the point of view of Theseus, whose Ancient Greek way of thinking is different enough from our own that you might as well be reading science fiction. It is so, so good.
Mar 19, 2016 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vintage-reads
I enjoyed this novel overall, but the pacing was uneven. There was an abundance of foreshadowing, and sections that were rather dull and descriptive. Theseus's time in Crete was by far the most interesting section of the novel. I felt the ending was a bit anticlimactic.
Jan 12, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well it was about time! I've known about this book and its sequel, The Bull From the Sea, since I was in high school. I recently read the Percy Jackson series, and wanted more Greek mythology, so I finally read The King Must Die. While reading it, I kept wondering what took me so long. Well, these things happen.

Just in case you don't already know, these novels are about what may have been the actual Theseus in ancient Athens. They depict events that would have later inspired the legends. The sto
Sep 30, 2015 Kiwi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love Greek history and mythology so I was looking forward to reading this novel but I feel disappointed by Mary Renault retelling of the myth of Theseus. He is the greatest Athenian hero, but Renault managed to make his story dull for the most part.

The first half of the novel dragged a lot, the second part, after the hero arrival at Crete, has more action. The historical references, especially the descriptions of Knossos and of the Minoan sea-empire of the second millennium BC, are pretty det
Apr 14, 2013 Meera rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately “The King Must Die” was a disappointment. I was expecting something more like David Gemmell’s epic re-imagination of the fall of Troy; a masterpiece recast of a legendary myth.

Part of the novel’s problem lies with its one-man cast. Theseus is neither a conflicted nor complex hero -- he’s emotionally detached, a little bit narcissistic and adheres to a strict moral code, but not in the interesting “Dexter” way. The story really suffers from the first person POV and, perhaps, could
Jon Boorstin
Apr 01, 2014 Jon Boorstin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this as a young teenager. It showed me that the pleasures of Oz could play out in a real place, distanced by time. With the added plus of lissome bare-breasted acrobats. I could taste Ancient Crete. In college, I worked on a dig on the Ionian coast, excavating ancient Sardis, where King Midas once lived, and the taste still lingered.
Jan 15, 2015 Stefan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zanimljiv pogled na mit o Tezeju i na staru Grčku, uopšte. Dosta realan. Preporučujem ljubiteljima istorijskih romana.
Sada se bacam u potragu za nastavkom "The Bull from the sea"... Naći ću ga negde.
Lynne King
Mar 19, 2013 Lynne King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've just come across this. I read this book years ago as it was one of my father's books. I must try and get a copy of it.

Ah Theseus!
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Goodreads Librari...: Description 4 24 Feb 03, 2014 08:11PM  
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Mary Renault was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander
More about Mary Renault...

Other Books in the Series

Theseus (2 books)
  • The Bull from the Sea (Theseus, #2)

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“A man is at his youngest when he thinks he is a man, not yet realizing that his actions must show it.” 39 likes
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