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Funeral Games Paperback – June 11, 2002

Book 3 of 3 in the Alexander the Great Series

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Editorial Reviews


"With the haunting-haunted Funeral Games, Mary Renault completes her recreation-and-creation of Alexander the Great. Now that Renault's trilogy is complete, it is plain that her Alexandriad is one of the twentieth century's most unexpectedly original works of art" -- Gore Vidal "Brilliant and brutal... she has retained her unnerving genius for making the remote past live without diminishing its remoteness and alien glitter" Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

?Renault?s best historical novel yet.... Every detail has solid historical testimony to support it.??New York Review of Books

After Alexander?s death in 323 B.C .his only direct heirs were two unborn sons and a simpleton half-brother. Every long-simmering faction exploded into the vacuum of power. Wives, distant relatives, and generals all vied for the loyalty of the increasingly undisciplined Macedonian army. Most failed and were killed in the attempt. For no one possessed the leadership to keep the great empire from crumbling. But Alexander?s legend endured to spread into worlds he had seen only in dreams.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375714197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375714191
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This may well be the best historical fiction ever written..
J. Rice
There is a rich and volatile period of history to work with here and I think this book could have been a lot more interesting.
N. Perz
They emerge as the most likeable characters in the novel, though Bagoas is also enjoyable.
Beth Ann Valek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Kris Dotto on October 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Someone described "Funeral Games" to me as "a ghost story", which is the best way I can think of to summarize this story. It is the most affecting, haunting tale I've ever read. Alexander the Great has died; from the moment of his death, the cohesive force that was the Macedonian army is no more, and his generals, wife, and enemies fight for prominence--as well as a young woman unmentioned in Renault's previous novels.
Once again, Renault brings us deep into that time, so deep we can almost see each character before us; her writing is clear, yet layered in its concise, descriptory power. There are no wasted words, anywhere. The dialogue is direct and to the point; this tale is a much faster "read" than "Fire From Heaven" or "The Persian Boy", but the adventures turn grim as the desire to take up Alexander's mantle overcomes nearly everyone he knew, favored, or despised. Although luxuriously buried in the tomb of his beloved Hephaistion, Alexander is an unquiet spirit all through the book. As Perdikkas, Philip Arrhidaios, Demetrius the One-Eyed, Ptolemy, Seleukos, and Kassandros vie for control of Macedonia and the remains of Alexander's empire--and of his legend--a granddaughter of Philip, Eurydike, steps forward to make her own claim for the throne. Too, Roxane and Olympias take their places, one as mother of the dead king, the other as mother to his only living son. Both women have blood on their hands; both women--in fact, nearly all the contestants--meet their end. The only one left standing by the end of the story is the only man who leaves what was Alexander's alone: his half-brother Ptolemy, who takes up the throne at Egypt and pays honor to Alexander there.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on February 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
...the Center cannot hold. Yeats' immortal words could be a fitting epitaph to the Macedonian empire after Alexander's death. No one could have anticipated Alexander dying so young, and his death left a void it quickly became apparent no one could fill. The army and the empire had been held together solely by one man's dynamism, and when he died, everything fell apart.
"Funeral Games" was Renault's last book, and, fittingly, the subject was the Alexander she was so fascinated with. Coming after "The Persian Boy", which was the best of her Alexander books, "Funeral Games" is a bit of a letdown. For one thing, it's lacking its main protagonist. For another, for some reason I can't fathom, Renault returned to the Latin spellings of many of the Greek and Macedonian names; for instance, Antipatros becomes Antipater. It wasn't necessary and it diminishes the sense of time and place. And thirdly, Renault went back to writing in the third person, as she did in "Fire From Heaven". Part of Renault's magic is that when she writes in the first person, she propels us right into the middle of the action; when she writes in the third person, it's like watching the action through a clear sheet of plate glass. We see it, but we're not part of it.
Furthermore, with Alexander out of the action, the rest of the figures are simply supporting players without a lead.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Wordgirl on June 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Mary Renault unquestionably presented an idealized version of Alexander the Great in the first two novels of her "Alexander trilogy," Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy (which are essential to read before attempting Funeral Games). Although her scholarly research was extensive and thorough, most classical historians acknowledge a much more complex and flawed Alexander than the worship-inspiring icon she presents. It is a measure of her skill as a writer, however, that she can inspire similar devotion to her interpretation of Alexander in us, the readers, and that we subsequently share the despair and disillusionment of Alexander's contemporaries upon his death and the disintegration of his empire in Funeral Games. As a result, Funeral Games is indeed a bleak and sometimes chilling read as we experience the intrigue, plotting, bungling and brutal power grabs by Alexander's former officers, friends, relatives and enemies. The entire narrative is permeated with a sense of bitter regret, a longing for a period of time now forever lost, as Renault's characters romanticize their recent past and take turns lamenting "If Alexander were here..." even as they dismantle his grand achievement. Bagoas, the fictionalized narrator of The Persian Boy, makes a welcome reappearance, though as a third-person, secondary character. Serving almost as Mary Renault's alter ego, he crystallizes the pain and heartbreak and hopelessness she wants us to feel at the prospect of a world without Alexander. Ultimately, however, he overcomes grief and recovers a life's mission in watching over the memory of his lost King - standing in contrast to the doomed and misguided elites of Funeral Games who destroy each other in their attempts to seize Alexander's legacy. A worthwhile read, but again, only if you've read the earlier two books first.
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