Reviewed by David Maclaine
Fire From Heaven tells the story of the childhood and coming of age of Prince Alexander of Macedon, tracing the emergence of gifts that would lead in manhood to world-shaking accomplishments and everlasting fame as Alexander the Great. It is a story of a brilliant mind and fierce spirit finding its way in a world defined by fundamental conflicts between his father, the King of Macedon, and his violently jealous mother, and between growing Macedonian power and opposition from the traditional Greek powers. The vision that would lead to historic victories reveals itself here in smaller-scale battles, some literal, many others waged within his soul. The young prince learns much from a succession of tutors, but as is always the case with prodigies, it is what he learns on his own that sets him apart.
In this novel Renault sets aside her more usual first-person viewpoint to round out Alexander's perspective with those of his friend and lover Hephaestion and an assortment of others. We follow the political steps that will end in the defeat in battle of the united Thebans and Athenians, and the plots and feuds that will lead to Philip's assassination. Just as important as the sequence of events that puts Alexander on the throne at the moment his father's long-planned invasion of the Persian Empire is about to begin, is his emergence as a leader of men, in love with both honor and a burning dream of glory. It's almost unthinkable that anyone could read this novel without an ardent desire to know what happens next. Several novels portray the adult accomplishments of Alexander the Great, and it takes more than one to get a full perspective on those remarkable deeds. But Renault's great work of imagination in Fire From Heaven, delving deep into the heart of the boy who would someday rule most of the known world, seems unlikely ever to be surpassed. (1969, 375 pages)More about Fire from Heaven at Powell's Books, Amazon.com or The Book Depository