Illustrated by Geoff Grandfield
The sequel to The King Must Die sees a triumphant Theseus return to Athens and his throne, only to find his destiny beset by tragedy, desire and the uncertain will of the gods.
In this sequel to Mary Renault’s rousing The King Must Die, a young Theseus returns to Athens to find his father dead and himself the new king. Caught between a hunger for adventure and his own powerful sense of duty, the son of Earth-Shaker Poseidon narrates his eventful life, detailing skirmishes with pirates, the glories of battle and the complex intrigues of the palace itself. When a chance meeting reveals the secret rites of the Amazons, Theseus sees his destiny in the face of their young queen, Hippolyta. Their love, however, incites the jealous rage of his betrothed, Phaedra, and a shadow falls over the couple’s future.
Mary Renault’s Theseus books conjure the Greek hero in all his morally ambiguous splendour. In his introduction to The King Must Die, historian Robin Lane Fox praises Renault’s ability to take historical sources and the shifting details of myth and craft them into something that carries the sheen of truth. Moments of recognisable humanity, such as Theseus’ bemusement that his son should be so much taller than him, sit alongside otherworldly mysteries that are ancient and ineffable even to our hero. Woven throughout the story are Renault’s themes of sacrifice and the inexorable nature of fate, while bright strands of other familiar stories are threaded through this tapestry of myth: we see glimpses of Achilles, witness the doom of cursed Oedipus and hear of the exploits of Jason.
‘We got a steady south wind all the way north to the straits; dolphins curvetted in our bow-wave, and blew glittering spray from so blue a sea that one looked to see it dye the oars’
Geoff Grandfield, who also illustrated the first book in the duology, has provided eight colour images as well as a striking binding design. The illustrations thrum with drama, envisioning in stylised figures the forbidden dance of the Amazons and Theseus’ blind rage on the battlefield. Produced in series with The King Must Die, the slipcase for this edition is emblazoned with the eye of the bull – a symbol intertwined with the fate of Theseus and his sons.
‘One of the truly fine historical novels of modern times. Not since Robert Graves’s I, Claudius has there been such an exciting living image of the Ancient World on this grand scale’
Mary Renault was born Mary Challans in London in 1905. Having trained as a nurse in the mid-1930s she completed her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939. Five further contemporary novels followed before she turned her writing focus towards the ancient world. In 1948 she emigrated to South Africa with her lifelong companion, Julie Mullard, and commenced her historical novels of Hellenic life with an account of two male lovers during the Peloponnesian War,
The Last of the Wine (1956). Alongside her biography of Alexander the Great in 1975, her ‘Alexander Trilogy’ stands as her eminent achievement, the first book of which was nominated for the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010. Mary Renault died in Cape Town in 1983.
Geoff Grandfield studied Illustration at Maidstone College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. Since graduating from the RCA with an MA he has won many awards as a freelance illustrator and has combined his practice with teaching, leading the BA Illustration course at Middlesex University before his current post as Course Director of BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation at Kingston University in London.
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