The King Must Die by Mary Renault. 332 pages, paperback. Random House, 1958.
In this ambitious, ingenious narrative, celebrated historical novelist Mary Renault takes legendary hero Theseus and spins his myth into a fast-paced and exciting story.
Renault starts with Theseus' early years, showing how the mystery of his father's identity and his small stature breed the insecurities that spur his youthful hijinx. As he moves on to Eleusis, Athens, and Crete, his playfulness and fondness for pranks matures into the courage to attempt singular heroic feats, the gallantry and leadership he was known for on the battlefield, and the bold-hearted ingenuity he showed in navigating the labyrinth and slaying of the Minotaur. In what is perhaps the most inventive of all her novels of Ancient Greece, Renault casts Theseus in a surprisingly original pose; she teases the flawed human out of the bronze hero, and draws the plausible out of the fantastic.