The Blurb (from Goodreads):
In this sequel to The King Must Die Theseus defies the Gods’ and claims the throne of Athens a move that culminates in the terrible, fateful destruction of the house of Minos — the Minotaur.
I read The King Must Die when I was a teenager, and it made a deep impression on me. It felt so vividly real and strange. I read it again last year, and when I posted my review, someone told me that I must go on and read its sequel, The Bull From the Sea. It’s taken me a while, but at last I picked it up off my shelf and settled down to read it. The two books chronicle the life of the ancient Greek hero, Theseus. The first covers his childhood and his journey to Crete to become a bull-leaper at the palace of Knossos, his affair with Ariadne, the killing of the Minotaur and his return to Athens. The second picks up from from this point:
It was dolphin weather when I sailed into Piraeus with my comrades of the Cretan bull ring. Knossos had fallen, which time out of mind had ruled the seas. The smoke of the burning Labyrinth still clung to our clothes and hair.
The book then follows Theseus through to his old age. The sweep is broad – years are covered in a few paragraphs at times – and so The Bull From the Sea does not have the intensity of focus of The King Must Die. Mary Renault has a gift for narrative drive, though, and so the pace of the book does not flag. Theseus is not altogether a sympathetic protagonist. He can be cruel and careless, and his temper is quick. His attitudes to women leave a lot to be desired as well, though it must be said it was a cruel and misogynist age, and Theseus’s’s attitudes ring true for the time.
Mary Renault is a really interesting writer, with a powerful gift for bringing the past to pulsing life. Her prose in particular is so muscular and vigorous, so full of freshness and vitality, I can only be in awe. I’m planning on reading more of her work.