Funeral Games (ISBN 0-375-71419-7) is the third novel Mary Renault wrote, after Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy – the first about Alexander’s boyhood and the second about his Asian conquests till this untimely death in 323 B.C.
As is generally the case in any trilogy, this book is the least appealing not only because the hero Alexander is no longer the red thread running through the pages but mainly because it is not adding anything to the person of Alexander. What he left to posterity, right after his dead was only a void that nobody knew how to fill. Alexander’s legacy in the long term is huge. It is the kind of ripple mark effect that has not yet come to a standstill. We owe Hellenism to him and we owe our entire Western culture to Hellenism, and thus to Alexander.
The story starts right after Alexander’s death in Babylon and the disbelief and bickering of his generals. Nobody knows what to do; each general pretends to know best but is utterly incapable of taking full charge. In the end, they agree to give the kingship to Alexander’s simple minded half-brother Arrhidaeus, pending the outcome of Roxane’s pregnancy, not knowing whether it will be a boy. But even when the boy is born and is given appropriately the name of Alexander IV, the leadership of Alexander’s empire continues to fall apart.
Leading figure in the events of the Wars of the Diadochi around the succession is played in Mary’s novel by Eurydice who was betrothed to Arrhidaeus who took the title of King Philip III. Eurydice was the daughter of Amyntas, son of King Perdiccas III, the elder brother of Philip II, Alexander’s father. Since Amyntas was only an infant when Perdiccas died, the throne went to Philip, Perdiccas’ younger brother. If the person of Eurydice really existed as painted by Mary is a possibility, not a historic fact. It makes good reading though and navigates us through the complots and envy that ruled the forty years after Alexander’s death.
I find this a sad story, not only because Alexander is no longer in the picture but because of the intrigues between the great men that surrounded him and the disintegration of all what he stood for. In her comments, Mary makes the remark that Macedonia returned to the feudal way of life from before King Philip’s time, i.e. the only way it knew how to survive. I think she pointed to the sore spot there. It took the world eons to recover and Macedonia, in my eyes, sadly never recovered.
Anyway, one should read this book to make the story complete, but I find it much less than Mary’s two previous novels, which are absolutely superb.
Also available as e-Book.
Also available as e-Book.