The Persian Boy
synopsis from the book jacket

In Fire from Heaven, Mary Renault followed the career of the young Alexander the great, up to his accession when he was twenty. In The Persian Boy, we meet him six years later and follow him to his death in a superbly moving narrative told by his young lover and companion, Bagoas, a real historical person, who may well have influenced history.

For the beautiful slave-boy Bagoas, bought plaything of Darius the Persian King, the invader's brilliant victories are at first mere palace rumor. Then, at the battle of Gaugamela, the empire crumbles about its ill-fated, ineffectual ruler. After his death, Bagoas, adrift and destitute, is rescued by a rebel satrap suing for pardon, brought as a peace-offering to Alexander, and taken into his household.

Alexander is a man with little experience of sensuality, but a profound need of affection. Bagoas' famous beauty has been much exploited, but his affection has been needed by no one. Their meeting is irresistible to both.

The adventures of Alexander's last seven years, some stirring, some tragic, are thus told by Bagoas, an expert courtier and courtesan, sophisticated far beyond his years, boyish only in his devotion. It is a tale rich in historical insight and detail, especially in Bagoas' view of Alexander's growing sympathy with his Persian subjects, a markedly different view from that of the victorious Macedonians, jealous of their status as master race.

In a bold shift of narrator and style, Mary Renault finishes here her story of Alexander, leaving us with an incomparable picture of the conqueror and his world, and a picture of human involvement and affection that is rare in the art of fiction about the past.

The Persian Boy