Customer Reviews for

The King Must Die

Average Rating 3.5
( 29 )
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Loved It

I thought this book was amazing. In just a few sentences Mary Renaults manages to wow me. At times it is hard to understand, but as all classics go... It was a mandatory summer read, and I am beyond grateful. If it had not been, I would have never heard of this song and...
I thought this book was amazing. In just a few sentences Mary Renaults manages to wow me. At times it is hard to understand, but as all classics go... It was a mandatory summer read, and I am beyond grateful. If it had not been, I would have never heard of this song and never have gotten the chance to ... read it. One of my favorite parts goes:

"For I had felt too much and reasoned too little, hearing what I was ready to hear, not what had been said." (pg 42, Renault.)

Anyways. I recommend this book. Love it.

posted by racingheartbeat on September 5, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

The King Left Me Disappointed

I¿m a big reader of fiction and love classical Greek and Roman history so I figured this story would be right up my alley. I¿d also heard about Mary Renault¿s writing prowess but to be honest, I wasn¿t impressed. It wasn¿t historical inaccuracies that bothered me. W...
I¿m a big reader of fiction and love classical Greek and Roman history so I figured this story would be right up my alley. I¿d also heard about Mary Renault¿s writing prowess but to be honest, I wasn¿t impressed. It wasn¿t historical inaccuracies that bothered me. With Theseus, you¿re more in the realm of mythology than history and mythology is just another name for fiction. I was bothered more that the story wasn¿t true to itself or to what Theseus was meant to represent. In all likelihood, the man Theseus never existed. His name derives from the Greek word for state or institution. He is a founding hero of the Greek tradition, similar to Heracles or Perseus. He was meant to personify all of the noble attributes of an Athenian: fairness, courage, intelligence and resourcefulness. Firmly ingrained in the Theseus I read about from Plutarch is a deep sense of responsibility which Renault¿s Theseus doesn¿t have. When Theseus chose to travel the Isthmus Road rather than take the safe boat to Athens, it was because he was disgusted that a bunch of brutal ruffians could keep decent people from traveling freely and safely. Renault¿s Theseus makes the trip to save face when someone challenges him. Plutarch¿s Theseus was a reformer whose first interest was always his people. Renault¿s Theseus forgets his kingly responsibilities as soon as the next adventure comes along. I even had to question Renault¿s choices. At times is seems she attempts a realistic interpretation of the legend the Minotaur is a guy in a bull mask and all of the nasty characters Theseus meets on the Isthmus Road are really just common bandits. But she also implies a supernatural relationship between Theseus and Poseidon. Theseus is able to predict an earthquake and he keeps getting into battles where all those around him are torn to bits while he escapes without a scratch. This turns Theseus into nothing more than an adventure hero like Conan the Barbarian. Theseus is invulnerable and always gets the girl. This may be okay for some people but I had loftier hopes for this story. I read a lot of history and know the price paid in blood for victory. I know how quickly a reckless adventurer dies and can¿t reconcile that image with the founder of Athens. I can¿t say the story was a complete disappointment. It moved quickly and I never lost interest. The best part for me was the lurid description of the Cretans. It has motivated me to read more about Minoan culture. Renault¿s writing style is engaging enough that I might give her another chance and read The Last of the Wine.

posted by Anonymous on August 22, 2005

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  • Posted November 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I¿ve just finished this novel, and it¿s superb. Beautifully writ

    I’ve just finished this novel, and it’s superb. Beautifully written with a gripping plot, The King Must Die is a realistic treatment of the first part of the Theseus myth, complete with Minotaur, labyrinth, the witch Medea -- and of course Ariadne.

    Renault depicts Ariadne as both princess and priestess of an old earth mother religion in Crete. Theseus, a follower of the newer Sky Gods, grew up believing he was a son of Poseidon. Renault makes the conflict between the two religions a key theme, and uses it to move the plot in a direction that's consistent with the myth.

    I recall seeing this book in my father's library when I was very young. He had all the Renault novels, including a title that fascinated me: Fire From Heaven.

    At about age ten, I paged through Fire From Heaven. There I found scenes related to sex, marriage and jealousy which I never forgot. Though not explicit (these books were written in the 1950s), they disturbed me, leaving the impression that I was getting into deep water with these adult topics.

    What made me decide to read this book after all these years? I recently came across an interview with fantasy/sci fi author Tanith Lee. She cited The King Must Die as her favorite book from childhood. Clearly it was a major influence on her style.

    The power of Renault's descriptive writing is something to behold. Here's how she describes Theseus' reaction on first seeing the city of Athens:

    "Suddenly, at the turn of the road between the low green hills, I saw standing huge before me a great flat rock, like a platform raised by Titans to assail the gods from. Upon its top, glowering bright in the western sunlight, stood a royal palace, the columns russet red, the pink-washed walls picked out with white and blue squares. So high it stood against the sky, the guards on the ramparts looked as small as goldsmith's work, and their spears as fine as wire. I caught my breath. I had guessed at nothing like this..."

    A sequel, The Bull From the Sea, describes Theseus' later life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2005

    A good read...but not recommended for all

    The basic premise of this novel was enough to interest me when I was assigned it for summer reading. The 'action' scenes (fights and bull dances) are easily the best parts, and there are plenty of these in the story for one to enjoy. I am not entirely sure how Renault came up with the idea of bull dances...but it works really well. But Renault's writing style is incredibly frustrating. She uses vague pronouns constantly...a long conversation between Theseus and 'he' could be going on and I would have to turn back over 5 pages just to be reminded on who 'he' is! The dialogue is therefore really hard to follow at times, and that can really hurt one's understanding of the plot. This is why I would have to say that the third part, 'Athens', is probably the weakest part of the story, since most of it is dialouge and it lacks the combative conflict and intensity of 'Eleusis' and 'Crete'. It all sunk in better after having read the novel a second time, though. Theseus' narration, though it suffers from the same flaw in MR's writing that I just mentioned, does a good job in keeping the reader interested. This is probably shown best in the first part, 'Troizen'. But the reader should still be warned: this is not a straight prose telling of the story of Theseus. There is no big minotaur fight scene, for instance. Also, like I said, Renault's writing style is weak. The events that come to pass in her storytelling are often unclear. But if the reader is patient, 'The King Must Die' will deliver.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2001

    Good book

    I was assigned to read this as for an AP class over the summer.Although I would have rather done other things with my summer days it was interesting and not that bad.Even though some parts dragge don a little too long. Over all it was a pretty good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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