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The King Must Die

Written by: Mary Renault
Narrated by: Kris Dyer
Series: Theseus, Book 1
Length: 15 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The epic of Thesus, the boy king of Eleusis, ritually preordained to die after one year of marriage to the sacred queen but who defies God's decree and claims his inheritance - the throne of Athens. This re-creation of a Greek myth is written by the author of The Last of the Wine.

©1958 Mary Renault (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

What the critics say

"One of the truly fine historical novels of modern times. Not since Robert Graves's I, Claudius has there been such an exciting living image of the Ancient World on this grand scale." ( New York Times)
"Takes the raw material of myth and makes it credible - I am spellbound by Miss Renault's art." ( Observer)
"Vivid and convincing...it brims with feeling." ( Sunday Times)

What listeners say about The King Must Die

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Subtle and magnificent--why is it unknown?

Blessings to Paeon Apollo--I have stumbled on a largely unknown masterpiece, and am humbled. This retelling of the myth of Theseus is more like Graves' Golden Fleece than Miller's Circe and Song of Achilles. Its writing far exceeds both.

I have never before read a depiction of the mid-2nd millennium BC collision between the Mycenean, Minoan and pre-Greek peoples as believable as in this book.


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  • Lori
  • 2015-03-25

Finally! An unabridged old favorite

I've loved this book since I first read it 25 years ago as assigned reading for a university course. Mary Renault makes the story of Theseus so plausible. I thoroughly enjoyed the unabridged audio version.

11 people found this helpful

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  • J. Brinkman
  • 2015-07-15

Astounding

Any additional comments?

This is the rare book that functions as a great story regardless of how much of the background material you are familiar with. As a retelling of a classic myth, it reads as a coming-of-age story set in antiquity. But, the more familiar one is with the source material, the more astounding the book becomes. There is a ton of historical referencing done, but the genius of it is that it doesn't stand out from the story, it only serves it. The more you know about the mystery cults of Hellenic and pre-Hellenic Greece, the more fascinating the story goes. A little background reading on the Eleusinian and Bacchic/Dionysus mystery cults, as well as the Minoan culture and Palatial periods and even the volcanic eruption on Thera/Kalliste ca 1500BCE open up an entirely different perspective on Renault's talent. For me, this is the finest historical novel I've read. Kris Dyer's narration here is spot-on as well.

16 people found this helpful

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  • =A
  • 2018-08-22

ever a favorite

When i was a child my mom told me all myths have a kernel of truth behind them, and I have always wondered at the events that might have inspired the legends. This was always my favorite retelling of a myth. Now I am old enough to recognize the research she put into it I am even more impressed.

3 people found this helpful

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  • j. brown
  • 2020-05-11

Astonishingly Good!

This is the first book I’ve listened to by Mary Renault and I’m utterly amazed! I joined Audible to listen to the current offer by Margaret George and was very disappointed by a writer I’ve loved for years. So glad I did listen to Ms George because it led me to Ms Renault. Incredible writing and the narration is flawless! I absolutely couldn’t put it down.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-08-02

The authors own bad take on the story of Theseus

If you want the original story of Theseus this isn’t it. The performance of the narrator of this book is excellent, however, the story is written rather annoyingly. Details from the original story about Theseus concerning his birth, his trip to Athens, and more were changed. Annoying and boring takes of someone unconcerned with the action and truth of the story we're told and it made the telling extremely boring. The role of the Greek gods in the story was also downplayed. The story felt less like the original mythology and more like a crappy 1950s fan edition. The greek gods were much more alluded to in a crappy way, kind of like Thomas Jefferson’s bible. All in all, I wish I could get the time I wasted on this audiobook back.

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  • Marsha L. Woerner
  • 2019-04-08

Sections tied together to make a whole life

(As posted in GoodReads)
I had actually read this book years ago, but I really only remembered snapshots from it, so as I listened this time, at first I thought that it was the wrong book. I did not remember the actual connections between the various snapshots that I had. Hearing the whole book together and being able to re-place the remembered scenes in order and importance was very enlightening. I remember having really enjoyed the book, but the only part that left a lasting impression on me was the very end.
I find the representation of the religions and vast relevance thereof to the characters far more powerful that I observe Christianity or Islam, or even Judaism in the current modern lives. Our current knowledge of nature and the scientific basis really doesn't leave appropriate room for the mythology of current religion, but that ancient religion was mythology was highly appropriate. As an atheist, I can appreciate the good done by belief in gods in ancient Roman times despite the fact that our knowledge now leaves only room for imagination.
This book traces the whole life of a king with five (I think) separate stages, each of them unique and complete, although they all complement each other. And the main character executes SOME horrendous activities, but they are all consistent with his beliefs and personality.

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  • Cindy Rummelhart
  • 2019-01-05

Very good read

this is a greek adventure book that is captivating and unbelievably good to read. would highly recommend

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  • Wolfe
  • 2018-09-02

Extremely well written and narrated.

I wanted a little more closure at the ending, But it did make me hungry to learn much more about ancient Greece.

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  • LR
  • 2016-03-24

Good read for classics majors

I first read Mar Renaults books in high school, so they have nostalgia value for me. Good tales, well-researched and plausible. The Theseus story is told in King Must Die and Bull from the Sea, and the parallel Alexander one in Fire from Heaven, the Persian Boy (my favorite) and Funeral Games. Last of the Wine is a lovely picture of Greece's golden age with Socrates and Plato, and the Praise Singer much earlier in history.
The readers are adequate and the books are unabridged. Pleasant and interesting read.

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  • Jax Bur
  • 2018-07-08

Not much happens

I had to read for a class. Very little to really get attached to. Characters don't seem to act in any logical manner.