Short Book Review: Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
SBR: Fire from Heaven is the first book in Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy – historical fictions based on the life of Alexander the Great. This book traces Alexander’s life from his childhood until his ascension to the throne after his father’s death. The author’s formidable grasp of Greek history, politics, religion, culture and mythology shines unmistakably, without looking deliberate or ostentatious, in the realistic reconstruction of the ancient Greek society .
The language and the writing style has a literary beauty. But it sometimes becomes too convoluted to be comprehended. Combined with the extensive use of Greek vocabulary the book is a difficult read. Another gripe I have about the book is that the characters are not made realistic and relatable. Alexander’s portrayal is romantic and mystic. It seems like the author has not wavered from the depiction provided in her sources and has not attempted to humanize him. I find that disappointing.
To read or not to read: If you are familiar with Greek terms and geography, or if you are willing to put in the effort, you can read it for the history and the literary merit. If, like me, you want human, realistic characters in historical fiction, you’d be disappointed. Also avoid if you are looking for a quick, entertaining read.