The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
The legend begins…
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.
Although I was curious about The Song of Achilles, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. I found it a little slow to start in terms of plot, but I was hooked on Miller’s prose from the very beginning. Her writing is lyrical and descriptive. It harkens back to the epic poems from which her characters are taken. I was soon swept up in the story and the blossoming relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. By the end, I was on the edge of my seat; despite the fact that I already knew – more or less – what was coming.
This is a very clever re-imagining of the events of The Illiad and the Trojan War. I’m not that well-versed in Classics or ancient history, but I still found it easy to follow the plot and to keep up with the characters. Miller vividly brings to life the world of ancient Greece, and perfectly blends the fantastical with the realistic. Her gods, goddesses, and mythological creatures interact with her mortal characters in a very believable way.
And it is the characters that will stay with me most after finishing The Song of Achilles. Patroclus is a wonderful and sympathetic narrator. I wanted only the very best for him; sometimes that included Achilles, and sometimes it did not. There were points at which I thought Patroclus would’ve been better off without the tempestuous warrior. However, Achilles’ adoration of Patroclus eventually won me over. I became incredibly emotionally invested in this unforgettable love story; so much so that the ending left me near tears.
Madeline Miller has infused these larger-than-life figures with a real sense of humanity. Her compassionate depiction of their relationship is more memorable and compelling than even the most dramatic battle sequence. This was a rollercoaster of a reading experience. I was torn between wanting to race to the end, and wanting to savor each little moment. The sense of fate and tragedy was always omnipresent, yet the book was all the more beautiful because of this.
Miller has forged a vibrant and glittering novel from this story that’s been told for thousands of years. The Song of Achilles is an exciting, emotional, and engrossing read. It is simultaneously epic and intimate. I am so glad my curiosity got the better of me, and that I picked this up. I will certainly not wait as long to read Circe.