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Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great, #1)
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Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great #1)

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  2,998 ratings  ·  198 reviews
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 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...more
Paperback, 374 pages
Published June 11th 2002 by Vintage (first published 1969)
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Best Historical Fiction
274th out of 4,239 books — 17,704 voters
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Recommended Historical Fiction
93rd out of 1,683 books — 1,685 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic)
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...more
Terry
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 t...more
Crystal Starr Light
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...more
Alicja
rating: 5/5

Alexander the Great is known as the man who conquered the biggest empire of the ancient world, his battle strategies are still being studied in military schools today, some 2300 years after his death. But what made the man who he was? Renault’s first book of the Alexander trilogy follows him from about the age of three until his father’s murder, his life as told from the eyes of his family, friends, lovers, tutors, enemies, fellow soldiers and others who shaped his life.

Renault uses...more
Iset

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 at the age of...more
LeAnn
Jan 07, 2009 LeAnn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historical fiction buffs
Recommended to LeAnn by: Howard Beale
Mary Renault did a good job of bringing ancient Macedonia and Alexander the Great's world to life. I found Alexander a bit opaque, however, and many times her use of personal pronouns was hard to decipher (i.e., I couldn't tell who the pronouns referred back to). I also found the explanation of the ancient Greek/Macedonian viewpoint of erotic love and friendship a bit unclear. Renault has Alexander enter into a homosexual relationship with his best friend Hephaestion, who is pretty straightforwa...more
twelvejan [Alexandria]
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 hi...more
Nev Percy
Aug 15, 2012 Nev Percy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who can handle references from Classical Antiquity that aren't all spelled out
Mary Renault's telling of the Theseus story, 'The King Must Die' was one of the favourite books of my teen years -- one of the first grown-up books I read as an adolescent, and re-read several times.

I was delighted on finally returning to her to find 'Fire from Heaven', the start of the Alexander story (which some appear to call "her Alexandriad"), compelling, mostly beautifully written, and a masterwork of Classics.

It's very economically written, which means it's repeatedly very rich on detail...more
Rachel
Oct 30, 2012 Rachel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rachel by: Christin
Alright...I had this at 4 stars last night when I finished it, but the more I think about it, I have no reason not to give it 5, so I changed it. I don't want to be stingy for no good reason.

Basically, I loved everything about this book except how long it took me to read it, which is not the book's fault, it's my own.

I read The Persian Boy first (even though it's the second in the series) so I had already grown fond of many of the characters. In this book, my fondness changed to love, adoration...more
Sophie
This is my second copy of this book. I bought another one years ago, tried to read it, found I couldn't get into it and sold it. This time, I started reading it and could barely put it down. Go figure.

Since Fire from Heaven is the first volume of Mary Renault's trilogy about the life of Alexander the Great, it's not very surprising that this book is about Alexander's childhood and youth. Like I said, I found it a very compelling read, but not so much because of the plot, but because I didn't wan...more
Matt Brady
What really stood out to me here was the full immersive experience the novel conveys. Ancient Greece and Macedonia are fully realised here as vibrant, detailed, interesting places with complicated histories, dark pasts and spooky gods. Alexander himself, who is, of course, the main character, threatens to be a little too perfect at times, but Renault manages to keep him on just the right side of that line. Some characters, such as Phillip or Hephaistion, are fantastically drawn while others, suc...more
mixal
The book has really impressive beginning - I was really captivated by the description of Macedonia and Greek society. I am also glad that Alexander was not portrayed as stereotypically gay, I have to say I was a bit afraid of that. I liked the complicated relationship with his mother. I was really looking forward to his interaction with Aristotle where I was a bit disappointed since the interaction was relatively brief. I have to say that the initial charm was fading out through the book. Colorf...more
Chelsea
The novel is absolutely AMAZINGLY written, and I’m not even half way done withthe first volume and already I’m dreading the end of the entire trilogy. I can see what my friend Jesi was talking about when she said that this is the book that makes you fall in love with Alexander. And not in that ‘we love him because he was part of history’ way but love as in an overwhelming attachment to what happens to him. And even though Renault makes it fairly clear from the get-go that she’s part of the whole...more
Sue
Wonderful book. Am completely in love with Alexander of Macedon but like his mythical hero Achilles he is doomed to die young. His adult years are spent fighting and capturing Egypt,Turkey, present day Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan even parts of India. This book covers his youth and early adulthood to his accession at age 20. Well researched, the book focuses on his relationships and what he learns from his parents - the lessons on statehood and military tactics from his father and wild di...more
Luke
I rate this book at three stars because I didn't think it properly captured Alexander's arete. I felt like the author focused entirely too much on Alexander's homosexual romance with his lifelong friend and confidant Hephaistion (which is entirely speculation as the author admits in the afterword). too much attention was given to that as well as other things that to me are more or less irrelevant, if not totally unworthy of note in such a short novel. BUT, the author did do well at exposing Alex...more
effie
tl;dr version: Muddled in places and not as good as Persian Boy, but still brilliant work by brilliant lady historian. Also, Hephaestion.

Looooooooved this book. Minus the first eighth (which was historically interesting but narratively not so much), I ate this thing up in one six-hour sitting. Mary Renault (MY IDOLLLL) not only knows her shit upside down and backwards, she is an engaging, evocative, kick-ass wonderful author.
The only reason this took me so long to read even cheating and skippi...more
Pat Anderson
This was the first of Renault's Alexander trilogy and, to my mind, the weakest. Not really having a lot to go on about this period Renault attempts to reconstruct the early life of Alexander. Unfortunately, in her quest to completely whitewash Alexander, the other characters come across as extremely shallow. Olympias is like the wicked queen in a fairy tale, while Philip appears as a drunken oaf. Philip actually built up Macedon from a primitive backwater to a power that held sway over the whole...more
Laura
NetGalley kindly sent this uncorrected proof of this book. Thank you so much.

This is the first book of the trilogy Alexander the Great. In this book, the author mainly describes Alexander's childhood and youth showing his relationship with his father - KIng Philip II of Macedon and his mother, Queen Olympias.

Along the plot, the author also introduces Alexander's relationship with Hephaistion who may (or may not) have been his lover.

The careful research work made by the author is a typical charac...more
Sara Giacalone
Now I understand why Dorothy Dunnett is so often compared to Mary Renault...

I originally read this novel many years ago and I admit much of its history and subtleties were lost on me (hence my original 3-star rating). Upon rereading, I absolutely loved this book (although I read it rather slowly, partly to savor its nuances). I love how Ms. Renault doesn't tell the reader everything, she expects her readers to be intelligent and either understand the history and backstory, or to look up informat...more
Seth Reeves
Don't read the Author's Note at the end. Spoiler Alerts had not been invented yet

As someone with only a passing knowledge of the life and times of Alexander the Great, he lived in Greece a few hundred years before Christ and conquered lands from Egypt to Afghanistan, I was happy to discover this trilogy of novels covering the subject. The author Mary Renault is not the best writer I've ever had the pleasure to read and I found myself having to read several passages multiple times, not because I...more
DoctorM
The boyhood of Alexander the Great, ending with his accession to the Macedonian throne after his father's murder. Renault as always creates characters whose lives and personalities will stay with the reader long after the novel. Her depictions of Philip and Aristotle are fascinating, and the love story of Alexander and Hephaistion is as lovely as anything you'll find anywhere.
Absynthe
This is a magnificent book. It's a fictional recounting of the early life of Alexander the Great. It is highly historically accurate, meticulously research and well written.

This is a classic of historic fiction.
Amber
I felt the book started a tad bit slow while recounting Alexander's childhood, but that could just be due to my impatient excitement to get to the good stuff haha. His teenage/young adult years certainly didn't disappoint in the drama department. I really enjoyed all the royal intrigue and machinations; it was almost like a soap opera.

Something I found a bit odd about this book was that when a physically intimate (sexual) act occurred between a male and female character, the act was described wi...more
Holly Lindquist
Ahem...
So this book starts with Alexander as a young boy, in bed, playing with his pet snake. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) Then his snake slithers away. He trundles off on his little toddler feet to search for it and wanders into his mother's room. (He really loves his mother. This is VERY important!) And then he sees his father naked.

Two words: SIGMUND FREUD.
On a billboard, approximately 900 feet tall, on a mountaintop, glowing with the brilliance of a thousand suns. Avert your eyes, lest you b...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
My introduction to Mary Renault was The King Must Die, the first of two novels about Theseus--it was actually assigned reading in high school. What impressed me so much there was how she took a figure out of myth and grounded him historically. After that I quickly gobbled up all of Renault's works of historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. The two novels about Theseus and the trilogy centered on Alexander the Great are undoubtedly her most famous of those eight novels.

The first book of that tr...more
Michelle
This should have been at least a 4. It had all the makings of a 4, but it was so concentrated on war that I had to demote it. I understand why - war was a major impetus in Alexander's life. But I don't much like war, so 3 it is.

What I did like was how Renault constructed the relationships between Alexander, his parents, his best friend, and his sister. I wish the book had focused more on those, particularly the constant power struggle between his parents which kept Alexander in the middle of a p...more
Ashley Arthur
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from Open Road Integrated Media.

The story of Alexander the Great is quite an undertaking. The politics of ancient Greece, with its kings and lords and constant wars could very easily make for a dry read. But Mary Renault has a gift for storytelling, especially storytelling that evokes Greek mythology. This is the first novel of her trilogy about Alexander, and it follows his story from the time he is a toddler living in the women’s chambers to the day...more
Karen
This is the first book of Renaults trilogy on the life of Alexander the Great. If you enjoy historical fiction this is probably a book for you. I first read all three books as they came out and have gone back to them over the years to reread. Renaults creation of the ancient world of Alexander is flawless with many of the accounts reworkings of existing Greek and Asian history. Alexander is created here very human, flawed but also a genius at warfare and friendship. A few years ago I watched a P...more
Patricia Bracewell
It's clear that Mary Renault fell in love with Alexander as she was writing this novel. He comes across as all that is good, especially in his relationship with his father - protective of the king at the same time that he is angry with him, disagrees with him, sees and judges his faults.

There are flaws in this novel - one is the writing style - a certain reluctance to come straight out and say something; she likes to be mysterious, to a fault, I think. Another is an assumption that her readers...more
Caroline
I love Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy. This first book deals with Alexander's early life and ends with the murder of his father Philip. I know some people have criticised it, because she really does romaticise Alexander, but I don't care. I'm not mistaking this for history, after all - the whole 'son of the god' thing gives that away! - although her attention to detail really is incredible. And I love the attention she gives to Alexander's relationship with Hephaistion - he really was the most...more
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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
More about Mary Renault...
The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2) The King Must Die (Theseus, #1) The Last of the Wine The Charioteer The Bull from the Sea (Theseus, #2)

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“True friends share everything, except the past before they met.” 51 likes
“One might have supposed that the true act of love was to lie together and talk.” 19 likes
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