My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Paperback: 416 pages
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
“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…more”
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology/history, particularly The Illiad, which focused on the Trojan War and the tale of Achilles. And so I was more than eager to get my hands on this book after hearing many a rave review about it.
Was I disappointed? Absolutely not.
The Song of Achilles is a gem in more ways than one. Not only is it a brilliant reimagining of Homer’s most enduring classic work, The Illiad, it is also an epic love story.
Miller masterfully takes a well-known yet fantastical tale that is larger than life and enhances it tenfold by humanizing its characters (gods, demigods, men, and women), gifting them thoughts and emotions that we as readers can relate to on a deeper level. She injects her story with such poignancy that I couldn’t help but be moved by the characters and their connection to one another.
The writing is clear and crisp, lyrical in its simplicity and powerful in its golden imagery. Miller takes great care in transporting her readers to a time long gone by engaging all five our senses, offering us an array of dazzling visuals marked by sweet scents and potent tastes and sounds. And while the style of writing is notable in of itself, it is the author’s careful portrayal of character that is the most remarkable.
The entire story is one of reflection, a story that has already passed and is now being recalled by Patroclus, and so we are only privy to his thoughts and feelings, and his alone. Despite his weaker status and sweeter disposition, Patroclus proves to be a very observant narrator and courageous character. And through him and his experiences and observations of his surroundings and the people he interacts with, we become familiar with Achilles.
In Patroclus’s eyes, we see a caring and ambitious young Achilles, a demigod prophesied to be the victor over Hector and a hero of The Trojan War; though, Hector’s death has its consequences. I won’t spoil the story for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, but I will say that Miller does a wonderful job in staying faithful to the original storyline while adding a bit more dimensions to the characters. And her interpretation of Achilles proves to be complex as we aren’t certain whether to accept him for his confidence/pride or to dislike him for it. Either way, both Patroclus and Achilles are both painted as humans, entirely filled with fault and imperfections as well as love and kindness, and hate and sadness.
The connection between Patroclus and Achilles is pure and strong, a bond that stretches through the years. Their relationship is decidedly one of the most important and touching aspects of the entire book. In more ways than one, their bond is the foundation of the story as both characters fear for the other and love one another despite what others may say about them.
“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.”
Miller excellently displays their love and how it builds up over time, from their youth to their adulthood. For those of us familiar with The Illiad, we know how their story ends. And while Miller had the opportunity to leave it as is, she shared a conclusion that was a bit more compassionate to its characters, bringing in an extra level of light where there could have been darkness. The story is a tragedy, but not in the traditional sense.
And so, I all I can say is I loved this story. There were some characters that I felt could have been expanded on/utilized a bit more (specifically Briseis, Achilles and Patroclus’ “slave” and friend), and the war scenes could have been a bit more detailed, but other than that I don’t have much more to complain about.
Read this book. It’ll break your heart, but for all the right reasons.