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The King Must Die (Theseus, #1)
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The King Must Die (Theseus #1)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  3,772 ratings  ·  276 reviews
The hero of this vivid & exciting novel is Theseus, a prince of ancient Athens. Taken as a slave to the island of Crete, he's condemned to certain death as a bull dancer. But he abducts the sensuous Princess Ariadne & makes a daring escape. Brave, aggressive, tough, proud & highly sexed, Theseus faces danger after danger & overcomes them all. His adventures ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1958)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Terry
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
Nikki
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
...more
Iset
Feb 24, 2011 Iset rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Zeus_slayer101
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 23, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
...more
Elizabeth K.
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
...more
Sath
Jul 17, 2011 Sath rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
...more
Ann Schwader
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
...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
Tony
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
...more
Linda Riebel
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
Christin
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
...more
Anirudh
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.
Brian
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
...more
Jon Boorstin
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.
Cyn
Let me start off by saying, I will definitely read the other books in this series so that's a fairly good indication of how much I enjoyed this book. The story it told was one of the early Hellenic expansion in Greece which was also the beginning of the movement away from a more matriarchal, earth goddess culture to a patriarchal, Sky king culture. The book takes the story of Theseus and all it's exotic trappings and relates those well-known mythological events through a lens of realism. The god ...more
Meera
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
...more
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
...more
Laura
From Wikipedia:

Theseus (Greek: Θησεύς) was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra lay with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.[1] As Heracles was the Dorian hero, Theseus was the Ionian founding hero, considered by Athenians as their own great reformer. His name comes from the same roo
...more
Bap
Oct 02, 2011 Bap rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
This is a historical novel based on Theseus a Greek prince who has two fathers, one Poisiden and the other the king of Athens. He grows up unaware of his lineage and when he grows old enough and wise enough, while still a teen ager, to remove a rock and retrieve a sword, his mother sends him off to Athens to meet his father and his fate which includes along the way on the coast road a place where the woman rule and a king lives one year before being slain. Hence the king must die. He survives th ...more
Chris Gager
This is the edition I have now and also the edition I read in prep school(not the same book). I used to keep all the textbooks I couldn't recyle through the book store but now all of them are gone with the wind. This printing was from a couple of years later(1966). I actually found two of them at the local transfer station within a month of each other. The first one had a missing cover. To find the intact one was a gift from the past. I enjoyed reading what a real history of Theseus might have b ...more
Rebecca
I first read this in high school. It was required and we had to write a book report. I wrote several pages, because I absolutely loved this story. I loved the author's voice as well.

I will never deny this book was very well written, and since I have now done a lot of research of my own into the general period of time, I do have an inkling of how much knowledge Ms Renault brought to her work.

However, with age and experience, my feelings about The King Must Die have changed somewhat. I'm not such
...more
SJ
When I bought this book, I was expecting the classic story of Theseus navigating the Labyrinth and fighting the Minotaur. I was surprised to find that it was actually a re-telling of the myth based on history and contemporary theories regarding the origin of the Theseus myth.

There was no circular Labyrinth, monsters, or direct interactions with gods. Instead, Renault tells an adventure story about the Theseus being taken from Athens to become a bull leaper in the palace of Knossos.

It would be d
...more
DoctorM
An old, old favourite--- something read the summer before I went off to university. I can't recall who recommended it or how I found it, but it's a book I've had on my shelves ever since, and Renault as much as anyone shaped my image of ancient Greece.

"The King Must Die" is beautifully written, and the voice it's told in--- Theseus' voice ---strikes a perfect note: aristocratic, pragmatic, quick to anger, concerned with personal honour, attuned to inner voices. Some on Renault's vision of Mycen
...more
Tad Richards
This is a dip into my parents' library -- Mary Renault was popular back in the 1950s, and this retelling of the Theseus legend inspired my stepfather, the sculptor Harvey Fite, to create his epic carving, "The Bull Dancer."
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The story is a retelling of the Theseus legend, with a mastery of the storyteller's art, and an evocative sense of time and place. Renault's Theseus believes in the gods, but Renault herself never strays from natural phenomena, so one of the joys of the book is se
...more
Sherry
I really dug this book! I checked it out only because we were headed to Crete for vacation and the book is set in Crete; I like to read books set in the location I am vacationing in.

The author retells the myth of Theseus, who went to the Labyrinth to kill the half-man, half-bull Minotaur. But instead of simply sharing the myth in all its abrupt plot turns and outlandish character motives, she retells the story in such a way as to make it much more realistic. As a reader, you can see how the lif
...more
Πάνος Τουρλής
Δεν μπορώ να καταλάβω πώς γίνεται να εξυμνεί τόσος κόσμος τη Μαίρη Ρενώ κι εμένα να μη μου αρέσει ούτε ένα της βιβλίο! Στο βιβλίο αυτό έχουμε το μύθο του Θησέα που ξεκινά από την Πελοπόννησο να φτάσει στην Αθήνα για να αναγνωριστεί ως γιος του Αιγέα, γίνεται τοιούτως και μετά εθελοντικά φεύγει στην Κρήτη ως μέρος του φόρου υποτελείας για να ξαλαφρώσει τους συμπατριώτες του (ποτέ υποτελείς ή υπηκόους του) από το απεχθές "έθιμο". Πάρα πολλές λεπτομέρειες, ψαγμένο ως προς τις πηγές, αρκετά καλά δομ ...more
Alexis
I didn't like this nearly as much as the other books I've read by her. But I do wish more people talked about how good a writer she is.

In a book club meeting where we had read The Hunger Games, one member mentioned she saw a parallel between the tributes being sent to the hunger games and the myth of young sacrifices being sent into the labyrinth of the minotaur. So, that sort of weirded out my whole reading of Theseus's time with the bull dancers because it is totally like the hunger games. And
...more
Jed L
With all respect to my English teachers in school, this is how Greek mythology and tragedies should be taught. First introduce the students to the culture, religion, geography, time period and way of life with a thrilling--and as far as I can tell--historically feasible adventure story! Then after the students have a taste and an understanding of this complex culture and background they can start exploring the myths and legends and tragedies in their true form. But to expect students to just be ...more
Jenn
This book is responsible for shifting a childhood interest in Greek myth into a much more serious interest in the archaeology of Crete. I was seventeen, in a new high school, and finally feeling free enough to choose my own direction a little. For reasons that were too vague to define at the time, Crete stuck with me and I'm sure now that part of it was simply Renault's writing.
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Goodreads Librari...: Description 4 23 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
More about Mary Renault...
The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2) Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great, #1) The Last of the Wine The Charioteer 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.” 28 likes
“I was a king and a king's heir and now I am a slave.” 1 likes
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