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The Persian Boy Paperback – February 12, 1988

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (February 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394751019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394751016
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,191 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

?It takes skill to depict, as Miss Renault has done, this half-man, half Courtesan who is so deeply in love with the warrior.??The Atlantic Monthly

The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander?s life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander?s mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

About the Author

Mary Renault died in 1983.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 117 customer reviews
It's hard to know how to express how much I have enjoyed just reading this marvelous book.
W. P. Schaefer III
Mary Renault is a serious scholar of Alexander the Great but also writes historical fiction based on historical characters and events of the times.
J. Okamoto
Bagoas is a beautiful and complex character and the fact that the story is narrated through his point of view gives it much of its charm.
J. B. Pritchard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

148 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Kris Dotto on July 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
Robert Lipsyte, who wrote some wonderful novels himself, said in a column that his father gave him this book to read one weekend. After putting it off, he finally gave in and was hooked from the first sentence. Mary Renault casts a spell from the first in "The Persian Boy", the pivot of her Alexandriad.
Bagoas is born into an aristocratic family; the turmoil following the death of King Ochos claims his father, mother and sisters, and he himself is castrated and sold at the age of 10. The twin horrors are followed in time by another; Bagoas is himself sold by his master to other men as a prostitute. Procured for King Darius, Bagoas's lot changes only slightly; instead of being sold to many men, he is kept by one man, a King he holds in awe for his station, and not out of personal admiration.
Darius has made the mistake of underestimating the young Macedonian King Alexander, who at 20 undertakes the reconquest of Greek cities in Asia Minor. But Alexander closes in on the Persian Empire, and Darius suffers one defeat after another until his own warlords lose faith in him. When a coup sees Darius taken prisoner, Bagoas escapes with only his life. In time he is rescued by one of those warlords, who decides to beg Alexander for clemency. Who does he bring to sweeten the plea? Bagoas--as a gift.
Alexander is presented by Renault as a man capable of more than mortal feats who is still reassuringly human--more than that, he needs love desperately, from the hero-worship of the soldiers who follow him to the intimate devotion of his lover Hephaistion. Bagoas has never known love at all, only use. When Macedonian King and Persian courtesan meet, the inevitable happens--and this is where the enchantment begins.
Renault's mastery is impeccable.
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on May 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
"The Persian Boy" is the second book in Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy and it's by far the best of the three, probably because Renault did a total shift in narrative and style and continued the story in the first person. When Renault writes in the first person, something magical happens; we're so totally caught up in the action that we're inside the book, not only watching but feeling it come alive.

Renault realizes that Alexander underwent a fundamental transformation on becoming Great King after defeating Darius at Gaugamela; he was no longer the king of Macedon but king of most of the known world, most of whose inhabitants were considered by Macedonians to be "barbarians", and she chose to tell her story through the eyes of one of them, the Persian eunuch Bagoas, an actual historical character of whom next to nothing is known except that he had been sold to Darius in childhood as a slave and after Darius's final defeat at Gaugamela was passed on to Alexander. He must have made the most of his position as the historian Aristobulos wrote about Bagoas six years afterwards, when he was evidently still in Alexander's good graces, and had probably seen and heard a great deal.

Renault had to fabricate almost all of Bagoas's own story; we see him as the beautiful child of a Persian nobleman who was betrayed and executed; sold into slavery and castrated to preserve his exquisite good looks, and then presented to Darius, standing by his king and seeing him betrayed and murdered by his own men after his defeat by Alexander, and then being passed on to this strange young Macedonian who looked more like a barbarian than the Persians looked to the Macedonians.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By B. Morse on June 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mary Renault initially captured my attention with Fire From Heaven, the first of the Alexander novels, and gave new life to this revered warrior and hero. But with The Persian Boy, as told through the eyes of Bagoas, a slave boy who becomes confidant, advisor, and lover to Alexander, she humanizes this historical figure even further, and gives him attributes that the history books neglect, those of a man. She probes his mind, as witnessed by the eyes of adoring Bagoas, who first reveres Alexander as his master, and then dotes upon him as lover. Bagoas remains faithful to Alexander through months of separation during the conquest of Greece, and stands by his side despite treacherous efforts to discredit and dethrone his King, through Alexander's 'relationship' with his boyhood companion Hephaistion, and his 'marriage of convenience' to Roxane.
This novel, while it appealed to me on a romantic level, also exemplifies the nature of love, be it between man and woman, or man and man, as a fevered, passionate longing for another, a sense of loyalty to them and to your relationship with them, during hard months of separation, and a desire to do anything to please and/or comfort them. However, the book also accurately recreates Alexander's journey of seige across Greece, and the hardships he and his followers endured. Readers would be hard pressed to find a more descriptive and honest look at Alexander the Great as a flesh and blood creature, and not just the conquering hero of many bloody battles which history books offer us.
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