Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book Review: Fire From Heaven

I’ve previously raved about Mary Renault in my review for The Persian Boy. I went back to the first book of her three novels on Alexander The Great – Fire From Heaven.

First of all, I’ve been growing increasingly more interested in Alexander the Great since reading The Persian Boy. I had started reading this book late last year, and then got distracted by eBooks since I had those with me on holiday. But then once I was back into this book, I just couldn’t stop.

Mary Renault goes into a lot of detail in this book. So if you love getting tons of descriptions within your story, then you will love her writing. There were times when it felt like it was a lot of information to take in, but it’s all part of her story building. She writes great fight scenes, and great emotional moments.

Fire From Heaven is a historical novel that covers the time from when Alexander was a child until the death of his father [shouldn’t be spoiler, that’s history yo]. It makes sure to highlight some of the major moments of his childhood from the perspective of Alexander, but also those around him. Unlike The Persian Boy, this isn’t from a first person POV – sometimes the inner monologue jumps around. Actually, more than sometimes. But it gives an interesting view of how people could have seen the events around them unfold, including his mother, father, and Aristotle.

The way Mary Renault has written her characters, in particular Alexander, is entrancing. I believed all of them – disliked the right ones, loved the right ones, I was played like a harp by her writing, falling into each character’s story. Does that make sense? Make it so. I watched on as Alexander grew up before me while reading, and his development was believable.

The most interesting part [okay, fine, for me, what, don’t judge me, I don’t have a problem] is how she writes the friendship of Alexander and Hephaiston. When I finished this book, all I wanted was for them to be together forever. She had obviously done her research, and used what information she could find to build upon the way these two historical people could have interacted with each other – and it’s believable. It still makes my heart break thinking about it. BREAK.

/wipes tears

If you are looking for an iteration on the life of Alexander the Great that has emotional depth and really brings this historical legend to life, then please read this book. I really loved it.


Book Review: The Persian Boy

I was extremely sad when I discovered that writer Mary Renault had passed away many years ago, though she had lived a long life, and I wouldn’t have been able to read her books when they were being first published. XD Since reading The Persian Boy last December, I have been in love with her writing style and stories. She wrote from the first person, but always spoke from the time period that she was writing from, really transporting the reader to the era she was writing in. This had me hooked, and I don’t usually enjoy reading first person.

Also, she was writing about m/m relationships set in a historical period, and I just can’t ignore that awesomeness. And not to mention that she had been writing stories with gay/lesbian relationships since the 1940s. I wish I could have met a woman who was strong about her beliefs during that time period. Though she did have to move to South Africa in order to live her life and write what she wanted to, but dammit, she made it so that she could do it, and that probably took guts.

The story of The Persian Boy isn’t that far off from what history already claims, and it’s not over the top and keeps the romantic relationship realistic to the time period. It follows the life of Bagoas, a son of a wealthy family who is captured and made to be a eunich, sold to King Darius III and eventually falls into the hands [or bed] of Alexander the Great. From there, Mary takes the reader on a journey of Alexander’s conquests through the eyes of Bagoas, and we see how they grow closer together as his army travels. Even though I knew how the story of Alexander ends, I was still brought to tears [and not little tears, I’m talking bawling here] at the end of the book, and one of my other friends who was reading it couldn’t even finish it. The connection between Bagoas and Alexander is believable and strong, and I was totally drawn into the story and couldn’t put the book down.

The Persian Boy is one of two fictional books that Mary writes about Alexander, the other one being Fire From Heaven, from Alexander’s point of view from childhood up to his father’s death. I will definitely be picking up that book, as well as reading her other historical fiction! If you enjoy Greek history, then I definitely think you will enjoy this book, and her others as well!


Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’ll be honest: when I first heard that Stephen King was coming out with a new book, my first thought was “meh”.

While I’ve been a fan of his since I was ten and had the longing to ever drive a car scared out of me by Christine, reading the last few books King’s put out has been more of a chore than a pleasure. But when I heard about 11/22/63, I took notice. I mean, time traveling to stop John Kennedy’s assassination? How could that not be awesome? I know that’s not a terribly novel concept, but I wanted to see what King would do with it. (I should probably disclose that like Tori, I’m wildly fascinated by the four presidential assassinations that the United States has experienced in the last 150 years, and will cheerfully devour any related material.) So I went ahead and hit “confirm” on the download page, wondering if I was wasting my money.

Thankfully, I was wrong about that. This book was freaking incredible. I almost got myself into trouble a few times at work because it was so hard to put down. The last time I found myself crying at a book was in July, right as I was finishing up George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, but this one got me in several places. Some other reviewers have complained that 11/22/63 is too long and could be trimmed in places, and perhaps that’s true – but I was quite happy with it the way it is, which I can’t say for most of his other books over the last ten or fifteen years.

The first thing that struck me about 11/22/63 was the level of deep and consuming research that it must have taken to write this book. It’s clear that King took the time to make sure he knew what the hell he was writing about so that it would appear plausible to the reader. As I’ve said before, I’m kind of a stickler for that when it comes to historical fiction – even though I suppose this book could be, and probably is, classified under “science fiction” – so I really appreciated that aspect of it. For once, King isn’t heavy-handed when writing about the past; he manages to make it come alive without screaming, “Look at this here old-timey stuff, gosh, it sure is different from how things are now!”

The original characters we see in 11/22/63, meant to complement the historical figures of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedys, are woven into the story with refreshing subtlety and deftness. The narrator, Jake Epping, is one of King’s most complex, sympathetic characters – and one of the most realistic. Even the supporting characters manage to avoid the usual clichés, which is something I’m definitely not used to seeing in his later work. Yes, there are callbacks to his other books, but in this particular case, it feels more organic, rather than just thrown in as fan-service. One thing I’d like to say that I think is really important about this book is that it manages to be incredibly tightly written, and it’s one of the few books this year that kept me in real suspense the entire time I was reading it.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot in this review, which I know sounds bizarre given that most Americans are somewhat familiar with the events that took place in Dallas on that day, but trust me – if I told you any more, you’d probably kill me for spoiling it. And as far as the ending goes? Let’s just say that like the rest of the book, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from Stephen King.

I’m glad that he decided to wait to write this book. I don’t think it would have been half as good if he’d followed through with the idea in 1971.