Review: The Song of Achilles

Published August 28th 2012, 378 pages

Author: Madeline Miller

Overview from the Author’s Site:

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, “best of all the Greeks,” is everything Patroclus is not—strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess—and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative connection gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper—despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Personal Review

I picked up this book after searching for a novel that covered Greek Mythology. I knew I had to give it a shot though after reading amazing reviews upon amazing reviews. This novel seriously lives up to the hype and even goes beyond to become one of my favorites. I didn’t go into it expecting it to be as good as it was; I thought it was going to be decent an satisfy my mythology craving, but nothing too much beyond that.

This novel follows The Illiad, so if you are familiar with that story then you’ll understand the main players a little easier. However, it is not necessary to read it as you can still understand everything with ease. It takes the familiar story of the Trojan War and goes back in time to bring to life Achilles himself by introducing him in his younger years. Instead of it being all about Achilles, you actually read the story and experience the events through the eyes of another character, Protoclus.

Achilles is typically portrayed as a character that’s defined by his strength and warrior skills. Miller transforms him to become the mortal he is in reality with thoughts, emotions, and imperfectness that all other mortals face. It took true skills to make Achilles a character that stayed true to the god-like person we all are familiar with and make him someone that an average reader could find pieces to relate to.

Patroclus was attracted to Achilles from the moment he first laid eyes on him. The two of them form a friendship and their relationship slowly builds over time. Their relationship felt natural and believable through their nuances that were written in each chapter. The two of them feel like magnets that are almost impossible to separate, but you don’t feel their relationship is forced or idyllic. They face obstacles and have disagreements and their relationship takes work.

If you know Greek Mythology, you pretty much know what’s going to happen at the end, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it. The writing transports you to Greece and you feel every experience the two main characters go through both together and apart.  This author mastered romance in a way that you feel the love the two of them shared, but you never read the exact words “I love you.” Instead you feel the chemistry between Patroclus and Achilles and you understand the bond that they share.

In addition to the romantic portion of the story, the novel’s main focus is on growth. Both Patroclus and Achilles grow up from being children to the warriors we later see in the Trojan War. You experience the many aspects of war and how the warriors lived during an active war. The strategies, the fighting, the aftermath – you go through it all in this novel.

The ending is heart-warming and can make some readers sob. If you know the story of Achilles, then you are aware of how this novel will end. You walk away though feeling satisfied and you can’t wait to add this novel right away to a future re-reading list.

Highly recommend this novel if you’re ever looking for a well-written story that can transform a popular well-known world and somehow make it their own. I can’t wait to get my hands on Miller’s other novel to Circe and hope it lives up to the high standards I now have for this author!

12 thoughts on “Review: The Song of Achilles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s