FUNERAL GAMES by Mary Renault


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In this last of her popular series concerning Alexander the Great, Renault's You-Are-there reportage--of ancient military/political conflicts and conspiracies--is displayed to the optimum; this is the dark story of the struggles for the spoils of Alexander's empire after his death in 323 B.C. From then until 310, when ruthless Kassandras (the doomed future King of Macedon) will have stamped out the last opposition, there'll be deaths of many hideous-to-noble varieties: poisonings, beatings and wallings-up, a stoning, a mass slaughter by crimson-footed elephants--as well as forthright assassin's work. And Renault recounts the plots and counter-plots of Alexander's survivors with a dispassionate chill. First off, Perdikkas, Alexander's second-in-command (who itches for regency power over Alexander's two as-yet-unborn children), is successfully shunted aside by his enemy Meleager--who has Alexander's retarded brother Arridaios crowned Philip III. But Meleager's men will be elephantized to death while Meleager is dispatched by sword. And, meanwhile, one of those unborn princes--with his Persian mother--is eliminated by the clever poison of barbarian Roxane, the other pregnant widow; her son, however, will not survive boyhood as Alexander IV. Enter, then, Renault's most appealing character: Eurydike, granddaughter of two kings, who marries (for all sorts of canny reasons) daft Philip III. A soldier-lass of ""naive dignity,"" Eurydike will gamble much and almost succeed: she gathers four-fifths of the army to her cause; for a brief time she reigns as Queen; she handles Philip with compassion and cleverness; she loves to don armor, to mix with and lead the troops. But Eurydike will be both outwitted and betrayed, eventually forced (by Roxane and the men of Alexander's mother Olympias) to hang herself by the body of pitiful Philip III. So finally: Kassandras mops up, poisons Roxane and Philip IV, and has Olympias stoned. Gloomy, doomy stuff--but it glints with outsize heroics, one-dimensional yet vigorous super-people, I, Claudius-style shenanigans, and Renault's muscular research. A find wind-up for the series.

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 1981
ISBN: 0375714197
Publisher: Pantheon