Author(s): Mary Renault
In myth, Theseus was the slayer of the child-devouring Minotaur of Crete. What the hero might have been in real life is another question, brilliantly explored in The King Must Die. Drawing on scholarship and archaeological findings at Knossos, Mary Renault's Theseus is an utterly lifelike figure - a king of immense charisma, whose boundless strivings flow from strength and weakness-but also one steered by implacable prophecy. The story follows Theseus's adventures from Troizen to Eleusis, where the death in the book's title is to take place, and from Athens to Crete, where he learns to jump bulls and is named king of the victims. Richly imbued with the spirit of its time, this is a page-turner as well as a daring act of imagination. Renault's story of Theseus continues with the sequel The Bull from the Sea.
The King Must Die retells the story of Theseus, bringing mythology vividly to life.
Mary Renault (1905-1983) was born in London and educated at St Hughs, Oxford. She trained as a nurse at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, where she met her lifelong partner, Julie Mullard. Her first novel, Purposes of Love, was published in 1937. In 1948, after North Face won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa. There, Renault was able to write forthrightly about homosexual relationships for the first time - in her masterpiece, The Charioteer (1953), and then in her first historical novel, The Last of the Wine (1956). Renault's vivid novels set in the ancient world brought her worldwide fame. In 2010 Fire From Heaven was shortlisted for the Lost Booker of 1970.