Fire from Heaven

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This article is about the Mary Renault novel. For other uses, see Fire from Heaven (disambiguation).
Fire from Heaven
Fire from Heaven cover.jpg
First edition, 1969
Author Mary Renault
Cover artist Karl Leabo
Country United States
Language English
Series Alexander the Great
Genre Historical novel
Publisher Pantheon Books
Publication date
June 1969
Media type Print (Hardback and Paperback)
Pages 375pp
ISBN 0-394-42492-1
Followed by The Persian Boy

Fire from Heaven is a 1969 historical novel by Mary Renault about the childhood and youth of Alexander the Great. It reportedly was a major inspiration for the Oliver Stone film Alexander. The book was nominated for the “Lost Man Booker Prize” of 1970, "a contest delayed by 40 years because a reshuffling of the fledgeling competition’s rules",[1] but lost out to Troubles by J. G. Farrell.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel, whose memorable opening line is "The child was wakened by the knotting of the snake's coils about his waist," portrays Alexander's complicated relationship with his father, Philip of Macedon, and his mother Olympias; his early courage and ambition, shown in his taming of the horse Bucephalus; his education under the philosopher Aristotle, whose later opposition to Alexander is foreshadowed; and his devotion to his lifelong companion Hephaistion, depicted as both a lover and an intimate friend. The novel contains a controversial portrait of the Athenian orator Demosthenes, portraying him as arrogant, cowardly and vindictive. The novel ends with the assassination of Philip, with Alexander, his heir, poised to begin his career of conquests.

Literary significance and criticism[edit]

The novel has been criticized as an overly romanticized and sanitized portrait of Alexander.[3] It was followed by two sequels, The Persian Boy (1972), dealing with Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire, and Funeral Games (1981), depicting the consequences of his death.