You can’t go too far on bookstagram without The Song of Achilles being recommended to you. In Madeline Miller’s debut novel, she focuses on the story of Achilles and Patroclus as they grow from boys to men and the different directions life takes them despite their love for one another.
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The Song of Achilles very much intrigued me as I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology (as any nerd is) and especially the stories from the heroes and their legends. Madeline Miller has a MA and BA in Ancient Greek, instantly explaining her keen knowledge of the story. However, with The Song of Achilles, she throws a small twist into the tale – what if Achilles and Patroclus’ friendship was much more than just a friendship?
Plot – 5/5
The Song of Achilles follows the first-person perspective of Patroclus who is born a prince to a rather mean King and is one day exiled from his kingdom after killing a boy from a wealthy and influential family. He’s exiled to the same kingdom that Achilles lived in. The rumours of Achilles are that his mother is a sea-nymph God and so he has been blessed with god-like powers. Soon Patroclus realises that there’s far more to Achilles than the natural speed, power and abilities he’s been born with – he soon realises he’s kind, gentle, honest and generally seems to have his morales in the right place. However, as they grow older, Achilles must follow a path to become a hero, whereas Patroclus not only has to keep their relationship quiet but is a nobody to many men.
I adored this plot. Every single page had me hooked – there wasn’t a moment in this novel that I wasn’t utterly encapsulated by the outstanding journey you’re taken on with these two men. Their relationship blossoms and becomes admirable. Achilles constantly announces Patroclus as his companion and never lets him remain unseen or feel unheard – he uses his status granted to him by his abilities to bring Patroclus to the very top with him. However, Miller then takes a turn in the second half of the story that will see you reaching for the tissues. It becomes difficult for them to both remain as close when Achilles’ fate and destiny lie so much higher in the stars than Patrcolus’.
Characters – 4.5/5
I brushed on it above, but the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is arguably one we all seek to have. They never lie to one another, they always answer one another’s hardest questions and they always stick up for one another, despite what everyone else around them might say. The fine line played with here by Miller in that to announce their relationship would see them both killed but to have them able to remain as close as they are is brilliant. It’s difficult to describe their personalities as one of the absolute highlights in this book is the character development journey that we see Achilles go on. The influence from his mother causes him to seek much more than the mere admiration of his peers – he wants to be remembered for thousands. of years to come and this causes much conflict.
I will say: both Achilles and Patroclus are loveable, Agamemnon is utterly detestable and there are other characters too that you will love or loath. These characters are deep and truly understood. I always mark well-written characters out in two ways: they’re either deeply loveable or detestable or they’re given such unique personalities that you always know who is speaking and what decisions they’ll make because they’ve been fleshed out so well. I believe the former is more relevant here.
The Song of Achilles summary – 5/5
The Song of Achilles is definitely a must-read. It’s a must-read because the characters are great, it’s a must-read because it tells a genuinely emotional and believable (despite the setting) love story, it’s a must-read because the Greek Mythology is so well done and incorporated but most importantly it’s a must-read because I said so! Pick this book up if you want to like Romance, Historical Fiction or Fantasy.