The King Must Die

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This is an excellent account of the early life of the Greek Hero Theseus.
It tells the story of Theseus from his birth, his adventures while returning to King Aegis, his father and his choice to go to Crete with the sacrifice of young men and women to the Minotaur at Knossos.

Mary Renault has taken the stories and stripped out the myth, and reworked them into a plausible history which is just as, if not more fascinating for having had the magic and myth removed. Theseus is neither a large or particularly strong man, so he makes his way through the story reliant on his wit and powers of leadership. He invented scientific wrestling as a means to overcome men stronger than he. He is a very sympathetic character with a strong sense of loyalty and justice which makes him the obvious leader of the dull dancers. The description of the bull dance, both beautiful and deadly is extremely exciting. This book is a revelation even to those already familiar with the history of Theseus.

Although the Gods don't walk among the people, the people are nevertheless devout and the question of how to please an entire pantheon of Gods and to mitigate potential snubs is an interesting problem. Theseus is also moved from bitter experience to replace the old and bloody matriarchal belief systems with the newer and slightly less bloody patriarchal systems. This provides an interesting sub plot to an already fast paced adventure.