Title: Fire from Heaven
Author: Mary Renault
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBT Fiction, Ancient Greece, Alexander the Great
Stars: ***** (5)
Summary: 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.
Review: Renault uses historical records of Alexander the Great’s life (youth) and embellishes them with a brilliant tale tying these real glimpses of an extraordinary life into a complete tale of what could have been. I read the second book, the Persian Boy, first. This book differs in that it is told from many points of view which don’t just show us Alexander but paint a picture of the politics and culture around him. Her descriptions of the ancient world are just as stunning and place the reader right in the middle of the action. Her words are beautiful, almost poetic, making the ancient world come alive. Born of Olympias and King Philip (or Zeus as the legends and Olympias herald), Alexander was born into a household filled with drama; right into the hatred between Olympias and Philip, Philip’s lovers and other wives (and children), and friends and enemies (and sometimes both). Taught by the famous Aristotle, born to battle Alexander’s development is wonderfully chronicled. I love Bagoas, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love Hephaestion either (or I mean Renault’s characterization of them both). The love between Alexander and Hephaestion is presented beautifully (paralleled against Achilles and Patroclus) and shows the impact that it’s had on Alexander’s life. But my favorite love story is that between Alexander and Bucephalus (Oxhead). Renault presents them as one of a kind, with a spirit that is greater than any other. I even cried during the scene where Alexander and Oxhead first bonded. Alexander’s life and destiny is crafted carefully without leaving a prophecy, legend, or symbol unturned (just like the ancient Greeks would have done it). Renault shows brilliantly how his personality and temperament collided with outside forces in his youth to create the man who became a legend lasting through thousands of years.