Michael's Reviews > The King Must Die

The King Must Die by Mary Renault
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's review
Mar 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

While The King Must Die is perhaps a bit dated in style, it's still an interesting read. And I'm sure was pretty shocking in it's day with it's rather frank homosexual references, though there is nothing even remotely graphic about it, it was simply part of life back then without issue. Mary Renault brings ancient Greece to vivid life. This book is the first time I got a sense that the ancients gods were real. I don't mean that Zeus et al are actual characters meddling in the lives of mortals as in so many other stories set in ancient times, but rather you get a sense of how ancient people would have interpreted their surroundings as being controlled by a god. Renault also gives insight into the realities of what would have been the theater of the religion, when Ariadne tells a god-fearing Theseus how she plays up her religious rites.

I appreciated that Renault didn't waste time with battle scenes, they happen off stage (perhaps a nod to the Greek theater, or perhaps her writing style and time). The violence in the book is also understated, which I personally like. I really really hate reading battle and fight scenes. Renault more concerns herself with the details of life. The book does start slow without exposition, so stick with it and by chapter five you'll be home free. And while I'm mostly familiar with the ancient world, a map would have been helpful (my edition is pretty old, so perhaps there is one in later editions, I don't know).

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