Introduced by Robin Lane Fox
Illustrated by Geoff Grandfield
Renault’s acclaimed novel, published in series with The Alexander Trilogy and introduced by the classical historian Robin Lane Fox.
‘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’
As a child Theseus suffers taunts when he claims his father is Poseidon, the fearsome, earth-shaking god of the sea. At 17 he discovers the truth: he is the son of Aegeus, King of Athens, and his sole heir. Determined to fulfil his destiny, Theseus undertakes the perilous journey to his father’s palace, fighting off bloodthirsty bandits and finding himself crowned king in the Earthling town of Eleusis – a title that comes with a grisly price. Finally reaching Athens, he finds the people in thrall to King Minos of Crete and the terrible monster he feeds with human tributes. It is Theseus, aided by an enamoured Princess Ariadne, who will slay the Minotaur and set the people free …
‘As we met each other’s eyes, I thought, “He has stood where I stand now, and the man he fought with is bones under the rock.” And then I thought, “He has not consented to his death”’
Mary Renault’s spellbinding novel combines historical research and mythology to form an unforgettable portrait of the legendary founder-hero. A huge success on publication in 1958, it has given us our strongest images of Theseus and the labyrinthine Palace of Knossos, whose ruins can still be seen on Crete today.
Mary Renault was born Eileen 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), which she followed with two books on Theseus, The King Must Die (1958) and The Bull from the Sea (1962). 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.
Robin Lane Fox has been Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at New College, University of Oxford, from 1977 to 2012 and University Reader in Ancient History from 1990. His books and articles include major works on Alexander the Great and on the relation between the pagan and early Christian religions of the Roman Empire. He has taught Greek and Latin literature, Greek and Roman history, and early Islamic history, in which he held an Oxford Research Fellowship. Folio has previously published three of his works: Alexander the Great (1997), Pagans and Christians (2010) and The Classical World (2013).
Geoff Grandfield, who illustrated the award-winning Folio edition of The Alexander Trilogy, has created a series of striking illustrations for The King Must Die. Geoff's previous work for The Folio Society includes Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void, No Cloak, No Dagger by Benjamin Cowburn and The Alexander Trilogy by Mary Renault.
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Review by loryh0907 on 2nd Jul 2017
"Mary Renault's two-volume rendering of the Theseus story is a mesmerizing take on ancient myth. The striking illustrations by Geoff Grandfield, with their dramatic silhouettes that echo ancient vase p..." [read more]