It was surprising to me how good this book was I m quite a fan of Alexander as a character, so I thought his absence would be noticed In fact, his presence was vivid throughout the book, with every single character reminiscing, mourning, or fuming Everyone had their WWAD moment, and only Ptolemy seemed to approach it correctly Speaking of whom, I never thought I d grow to love someone who founded a ridiculous dynasty of sibling fuckers this much 3 I desperately want to see this trilogy done right in a show that resembles HBO s Rome The only good thing that came from the movie that shall not be named is that, in my head, Roxane is Rosario Dawson and Hephaistion is a young Jared Leto with eyeliner This was honestly one of the most catastrophic books ever I don t mean it was bad, just that everything in it was awful It s the final chapter of a trilogy that no one ever writes, the part, after the hero has died, where everything goes to absolute shit and everything he worked for and stood for disintegrates I loved the afterward where Renault points out that she actually left out a ton of the murders The only one I noticed was Kleopatra s though because her storyline just stopped after Perdikkas s death The worst ones were Roxanne killing the pregnant Strataira and the deaths of Eurydike and Ariadios Eurydike was mostly awesome and so young, she was the perfect foil for Alexander who got near everything right and could see so far, while she was so sheltered even though her nature and nurture had set her such similar ambitions Her storyline was certainly the most well padded out and engaging And her end was so shattering Renault handled all the chopping and changing of characters really well so that the storylines linked well Bagoas at least was left some measure of peace and Ptolemy came out smelling of roses and had the last word which was nice So basically everything was terrible and I loved it. Bullet Review I REALLY REALLY liked the first half and that would have been 5 stars But then we started doing the time warp and I felt I was really an anthology of various people who knew Alexander instead of a cohesive novel Still some good characters, but huge leaps in time skipping numerous events But the end was worst large jump in time, summarizing events.Full Review Alexander the Great is dead this is not a spoiler , and the various men and even women who knew him or of him desperately claw to get on top of the pile and to rule over the massive Empire Alexander carved.At it s most basic, that s exactly what this story is, though there is far going on that this one sentence cannot get into.I m sitting here, thinking, and I don t even know how I would begin to do what Renault did What happened after Alexander died, the chaos, the power seeking there s a LOT of STUFF that happens, many people clawing to get to the top So many people, all with different motivations and hopes for the kingdom, whether it be unification or just a small place to call his or her own.I loved the first half LOVED Slowly, I d been getting Renault and her craft as I ve read through her Alexander the Great trilogy, and it was the first half of this book that everything clicked I loved the characters, the way the story flowed everything.The problem happened as soon as we did the year jump In previous books, time does pass, but it s nothing quite as jarring as seeing the big block letters 320 B.C on the top of the page I think, in order to show as much chaos and all the different peoples intricate plans, Renault felt she had to do the Time Warp And I don t know if it quite succeeded When you jump a year, there are things that happen such a Ptolemy moving to Egypt and taking over governorship there This is something that is a given the audience never sees it And it feels weird that I should just accept it happened, when normally, this would be one piece in the puzzle In fact, I think Ptolemy in general gets the shaft because we hardly see him at all in the book We have quite the build up to talking about Antipatros reign and then fast forward to the end and boom, yet time for another power struggle What about the politics in that year of his reign You cannot tell me that life was hunky dory while he was ruling, that Eurydike and Roxane and Kassandros had just thrown their hands up and accepted his rule.These are just a couple of the instances where I felt that I was only getting a small, small snippet of the most exciting portions of post Alexander life In many ways, it felt like an anthology, a collection of short stories than a full length cohesive novel.And really, the disconnectedness is what makes me rate this lower There s still a mighty good story I loved Eurydike, even if she was incredibly stupid at times but it feels like excerpts of a story instead of a full blown one.Coming to the end of this book, I felt kinda sad I ve been Buddy Reading this trilogy with my friend for over a year now, and it s sad to leave the fascinating and exotic world of Alexander behind I have really grown to appreciate Renault and her way with words and history To people who think all history is boring, lemme just say If you find it boring, you are reading the wrong author Because history is absolutely FASCINATING in the hands of a competent author.NOTE Thank you to the amazing, Iset for a fabulous Buddy Read This was an enjoyable run let s do this again I didn t expect to be doing this, but I m actually marking Funeral Games down from the first two books in Mary Renault s trilogy Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy The difference Renault jumps about a lot in time here Of course her previous novels did this too all of them were selective in their scenes, not comprehensive but this time round Renault covers a much wider span of time, the events of thirty seven years in total, a wider range than the first two books combined And historically those thirty seven years were chock full of conflicts, plots, and sudden reversals of fortune as Alexander s generals duked it out for a slice of his empire As a result, Renault ends up jumping from event to event, and some scenes, especially in the second half of the book, feel abbreviated, and the characters sketched rather than fully, immersively formed That was my single major problem with Funeral Games It was difficult to get into the story in the same way I had with The Persian Boy or Fire From Heaven, when Renault had to sketch the huge cast of characters that pop up over these thirty seven years and resort to a tiny brushstroke here and there to try and convey much about these characters.The first half of the book felt much better written than the second half, largely because it spends a lot of time on the immediate aftermath of Alexander s death, and Renault can lavish pages on events and developing the characters involved It distinctly feels like a coherent narrative This section of the novel retains Renault s signature deft touch at characterisations and breaking down complex events into something lucid and understandable on a human level, without detracting from their complexity In the second half, where many years are spanned and characters far apart in location, there is a greater degree of summarisation going on.A positive addition is that we get inside the heads of some of the people most closely connected to Alexander family members, and the comrades who knew him the best Through their eyes we finally see Alexander, how and why he was revered after his death, and how some who fought to carve up his empire for themselves failed spectacularly A sense of ominous foreboding and unease permeates the whole book as the empire crumbles, and some of Alexander s old friends try to preserve it and his memory, others make a grab for power, and others simply see the writing on the wall The character of Ptolemy provides what I felt was Renault s opinion on the failure of Alexander s empire the nature of Alexander was a mystery, he says, that could inspire great deeds and achieve the unachievable, and with his death they are all left merely fallible men.8 out of 10 The Alexander the Great trilogy was my first reading of Renault She does so much with so few words She s now my second favorite HF author along side Patrick O Brian.
George RR Martin famously called Maurice Druon s Rois maudits series the ORIGINAL Game of Thrones He could easily have been describing Funeral Games instead, which depicts the struggle for power in the years following Alexander s death Funeral Games is certainly bloody, as characters are stabbed, strangled, poisoned, and in one memorable scene trampled by a herd of elephants Throughout the book, Renault shows us that the center simply cannot hold without Alexander s charisma He could make anything seem possible , order becomes chaos as his army fractures into warring factions, and his generals attempt to seize power for themselves.There s a strong sense of inevitability running through the novel, as if the characters fates have already been determined and they have no choice but to follow events to the bitter end In this sense, the book resembles Greek tragedy, and Renault appropriately enough makes numerous references to plays, theaters, actors, masks, etc in telling her story I have to confess that I almost skipped Funeral Games, thinking that without Alexander and Hephaistion, it wouldn t hold my interest Both are actually present in the novel, as is the beautiful Bagoas who s seen here from the third person POV, adding another layer to the story told in The Persian Boy.The book s most compelling character, though, is Eurydike Alexander s niece Told from childhood that she should have been born a boy, she sports short hair and travels around wearing men s clothes Seeing herself as Alexander s true heir, she plots to seize power But at the pivotal moment, just as she s preparing to address the troops, she feels a sudden cramp and realizes she s menstruating How could it happen now Why was she alone subject to this betrayal, cheated by her body at a great turn of fate Renault s point, of course, is that Eurydike is not alone Alexander and Hephaistion suffer similar betrayals, dying in the prime of their lives Funeral Games was Renault s final novel, published when she was 76 So perhaps we shouldn t be surprised by her elegiac tone, or by her insistence that how we live our lives i.e., whether we conform or decide to take a somewhat different path is ultimately important than what we leave behind us when we re gone. Whereas The Persian Boy made me want to linger, this one made me want to get through it quickly because I knew everything would go to hell in a handbasket in a major way Like Anna says in her review, it s that third book few authors would have the gumption to write From the intimate, loving dignity of Bagoas voice, it switches to a brisker tone a chronicle, still beautifully written but also much matter of fact, of how after the golden hero s death, his legacy falls rapidly and perhaps inevitably there was only one Alexander to pieces, his lovers dead or irreversibly diminished, his potential heirs future precarious at best, his generals and former friends tearing down each other and his kingdom.Ptolemy was the only breath of fresh air, wisely choosing to stay out of the succession wars and go found a dynasty in Egypt instead I d always liked him but I loved him madly for thinking of Bagoas and making sure he had a place that might eventually mend his soul a bit it hurt so much to see Bagoas reduced to a broken shell, and his offhand mention of the only reason he didn t kill himself because he didn t want to intrude on Alexander and Hephaistion s reunion made me cry long after I thought I was done.Apart from Bagoas, my sympathy here lay mostly with the women Roxane, Eurydike and Olympias who tried to make a place for themselves after Alexander s death, and were thwarted Roxane and Olympias have mostly been characterised as ruthless murderous harpies but let s be honest, either of them could ve done as good a job or better as any of the men who grasped for power and Eurydike was mostly lacking age and experience.The whole thing stays pretty brutal all the way through, so I was glad she chose to end on the chapter with Ptolemy it was a little bit of a breath of relief. Renault has done something really incredible with her beloved source material Each entry into this series is spectacularly different While I very much enjoyed it, the first, Fire from Heaven, was written in such a way that I am sure will deter anyone from reading further into the series Subsequent entries into this series are much improved and, while the former always builds on the latter, each feels like it could be read and savoured independently While the series is subtitled with a novel of Alexander the Great, only Fire From Heaven was from Alexander s perspective The rest of the series explored how his actions affected everyone else The Persian Boy was about Bagoas, a eunuch in the service of Alexander It is glorious and depressing It is everything one could want from historical fiction Funeral Games was about the fallout facing Alexander s empire following his early death The only way I can really describe this is historical Game of Thrones The fictional components made the story flow, but it s really the truth of the events that make the book so engaging and satisfying It s hard to believe stuff like this happened I pretty much gasped or shouted every few pages So much drama The third book had a very large and in charge cast of females which is sort of my thing Overall this series is magnificent and I am deeply satisfied with the time I have spent living in Renault s depiction of the ancient world.