Book Review: The Song Of Achilles By Madeline Miller

Book Review: The Song Of Achilles By Madeline MillerTitle: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Romance, War
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: 20th September 2011
Goodreads Summary: 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 companionship 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’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale 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.

The Song of Achilles Review

The Song of Achilles is centred on two main characters: Patroclus and Achilles. Patroclus, a prince, is exiled from his home lands at a young age after accidentally killing a boy. He is fostered by Peleus, father of Achilles, and although Patroclus is at first ignored by Achilles and all the other boys fostered by Peleus, he soon catches the attention of Achilles and the two become great friends. The two, although a strange match (Patroclus is weak and skinny whilst Achilles is a strong and handsome demi-God), become almost inseparable and Achilles names Patroclus his companion (basically his right-hand man).

The pair develop an interesting relationship (wink wink) and Patroclus follows Achilles wherever he goes. There is a prophecy which says that Achilles will be the greatest warrior of his time which has great significance throughout the story. The story spans over many, many years and the beautiful relationship between Patroclus and Achilles develops slowly despite the other more turbulent plot lines in the novel.

I absolutely loved this book. I am a big fan of Greek mythology and books based on classical references, both of which are at the core of The Song of Achilles. This book surprised me a lot as the story unfolded with many different and unique plot strands weaving into each other and the story was about so much more than I thought it would be. I’m not a classics student therefore I can’t say whether or not the classical references were exactly accurate, but the author doesn’t alter what we already know about these mythological characters too much. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is slightly ambiguous and Madeline Miller’s spin on it makes a fascinating story.

The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is absolutely beautiful. I didn’t think that I would be that great a fan of it (I’m not homophobic – just didn’t think that these characters would work together), but the love story between the two Greeks was simply mesmerising. Their relationship isn’t sappy in any way, it’s a relationship borne out of friendship that is really rather subtle and that’s what makes it so beautiful. The love story is one of the biggest themes in The Song of Achilles, though it’s more of an undercurrent rather than a piece of dramatic action. There were a couple of times when I doubted one of the pair’s sincerity, but for the most part, Achilles and Patroclus had a deeply moving and heartbreaking relationship.

The plot of The Song of Achilles has so many twists and turns that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. A lot of major themes are introduced in the first parts but aren’t explored or don’t come about until the second half so you feel this great sense of anticipation as you’re waiting for events to unfold. That said, this book wasn’t predictable in the slightest. Although there were a few major events that you could see coming, it’s the minor details that you haven’t even thought about that creep up and surprise you. Even if you think you know the story of Achilles already you won’t be able to predict some of the twists that happen in this book.

All in all The Song of Achilles is a really poignant love story. I’d even go so far as to call it a a tragedy, as well as a hero’s battle for glory. This book is written in such a beautiful way with such a brilliant and devastating story that you can’t help but fall in love with the world the world and characters that Madeline Miller has created. I would thoroughly recommend this to all fans of mythology adaptations and even those who aren’t! This is a must read tale.

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