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Fire from Heaven

(Alexander the Great #1)

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  5,927 ratings  ·  473 reviews
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,
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published September 10th 2013 by Open Road Media (first published June 1969)
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Tom Meyer In general, Renault's fiction is regarded as historically accurate, and rightly so to my mind. This series is no exception in terms of how well she's…moreIn general, Renault's fiction is regarded as historically accurate, and rightly so to my mind. This series is no exception in terms of how well she's researched her subject and brought it to life, but her interpretation of Alexander is controversial and has been harshly criticized.

In brief, Renault presents Alexander as a truly exceptional human being, someone _rightly_ considered god-touched or even semi-divine. To be clear, Alexander is one of the few people in history you could make a plausible case for that being so -- and there's real evidence that both he and those who knew him at least considered the idea -- but it's very odd for a modern author to embrace it as Renault has done.

So, again, you're getting a vivid, historically-accurate, and highly-controversial take on one of history's biggest characters. And if you can't tell, I think it's fantastic.(less)
Tom Meyer I wouldn't say it's necessary to start with Fire From Heaven -- after all, it's a historical novel -- but I would highly recommend it. The series…moreI wouldn't say it's necessary to start with Fire From Heaven -- after all, it's a historical novel -- but I would highly recommend it. The series works very well as a whole and the (highly specific) narrative voice of the second book doesn't make sense without the first or the third.(less)

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Jeffrey Keeten
”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.”

 photo Alexander the Great_zpsffqmjkox.jpeg


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.
Spencer Orey
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.
Sarah (Presto agitato)
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
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone

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
Part 1 of Mary Renault's Alexander the Great trilogy. I'll write more 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 ...more
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 ...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
Mary Renault loves Alexander. I do not. He was a short-tempered, egotistical (albeit charming, generous and glamorous) tyrant less interested in ruling well than in endless glorious conquests. For preternaturally young conquerors I’ll take Augustus over Alexander any day. As such I wondered how much I would appreciate her rosy portrait of a flawless Alexander.

A great deal as it turns out.

This is Alexander as he should have been: proud, loyal, compassionate, fiercely intelligent, curious,
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
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
What I have found striking about Mary Renault's trilogy about Alexander the Great is how much it captures that story through the voices of outsiders, persons marginalised not just in his day but in ours. It is only the first novel, Fire from Heaven, that presents Alexander's viewpoint, albeit interleafed with the viewpoint of Hephaistion. It is also the novel for which history has the least amount of direct material, and a child -- albeit a child who will become a legend -- is also a person ...more
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Ariana Fae
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Renault draws you into Ancient Greece showing us its rich history and Alexander’s world. I enjoyed how she depicted the characters and Alexander’s relationships with each of them: how he is torn between his parents-wanting to please them both, to his friendship and love with Hephaistion.

Renault did a great job of showing us how the characters felt and thought throughout the book. The pacing does suffer in the book with the author switching from different characters’, especially the minor
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jen Medos
Nov 30, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
This was hands down the worst book I've ever read. So confusing! The author doesn't seem to know the English language. Was there no editor on this project?! I would like a refund and the time I spent on this crappy read back please.
I have a weird feeling towards Mary Renault. I’d rather not support her, because she’s horribly misogynistic, but on the other hand she’s a queer woman and her misogyny might not be entirely her fault; I can understand that she might have been conflicted. And then there’s the sheer entertaining value of her books. They’re interesting, they’re well-written, and they’re full of passion. Can’t resist that.

The Persian Boy (which is not without its flaws) is one of my favorite books. Fire from Heaven
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
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fire from Heaven is the first volume of a trilogy on the life of Alexander the Great by Mary Renault. Like all of her historical novels, this one was a joy to read. It is also a remarkable act of reconstruction, considering that nothing was written about Alexander by any of his contemporaries -- at least anything that has come down to us.

The story of the emperor's early years is presented as a struggle between Philip and his wife Olympias, who have grown to hate each other. In many ways, the
Nev Percy
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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, ...more
Mel Bossa
June 13th... 2019... Alexander died 2342 years ago... Astounding. His legacy is so far reaching. Bi-cultural. Bi-sexual. And born between fire and water. He went to the barbarians with curiosity and acceptance until he realized that the OTHER was equal but different...


There's no need to review this. It's the exquisite and unforgettable story of Alexander The Great's coming of age in Macedonia under his father King Phillip. Incredible. I loved every line.
This was a long read because the content is so heavy and historical, and the author's writing so dense, but it was worth it. Felt more like creative non-fiction than anything? Because sometimes we get such beautiful prose and dialogue that you know is fictional, mixed in with long paragraphs about what's happening in Athens and Illyria and on the warfront and whatnot -- a good mix of fiction and non-fiction.

Definitely recommend if you're a history buff, especially of Ancient Greece.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? It was a labour of love, at the end of which I had no idea how much it was worth. But then, how early is too early to judge a book? Some turn up long after you think you've forgotten them.

I loved the play of history within history. Alexander & Hephaistion, modeling themselves after Achilles and Patroklos. Alexander and Lysimachos, after Achilles and Phoenix. The conscious modelling of Alexander into what he wanted to become, how he wanted to be known. And sadly, following
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
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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

Other books in the series

Alexander the Great (3 books)
  • The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2)
  • Funeral Games (Alexander the Great, #3)
“True friends share everything, except the past before they met.” 1267 likes
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