Victoria is an avid reader whose opinions are based on how each novel ranks within its genre.
The Song of Achilles Synopsis
It's the age of heroes, and Patroclus is nothing special—an awkward young prince whose father has been ashamed of him since the day he was born. After an unfortunate incident with another prince, Patroclus is exiled to King Peleus's kingdom, known for receiving orphaned boys and his perfect demigod son Achilles.
Patroclus remains an outcast among the other boys until, for some unknown reason, Achilles takes an interest in him and accepts him as his only friend. Their bond strengthens and blossoms into something more as they age into young men.
This relationship between the two boys infuriates Achilles' mother, Thetis, who is a nymph and sea goddess. She wants nothing but to separate the two boys until quickly everything changes and Helen of Sparta is taken, and the famous Trojan War begins with Achilles as its figurehead and Patroclus standing by his side. The boys know their story is destined to end in tragedy, but it's everything that happens in between that matters in this tale.
The Three Pros of the Book
This novel had some great writing, and I enjoyed the plot.
It's not hard to follow along with the steady flow of this novel. The Song of Achilles reads like a coming-of-age story between two interesting characters, Achilles (the famous demigod known for his abilities on the battlefield) and Patroclus (the only companion Achilles ever takes and exiled prince).
The reader follows Patroclus's perspective from the moment he is exiled and meets Achilles to the very end of their tragic story together. You will never feel overwhelmed with information or like the story is at a standstill, but constantly moving and enjoying it as you do.
2. Character's Perspective
Just like Sherlock Holmes is written from the perspective of Watson, The Song of Achilles is written from the perspective of Patroclus. At first, I wasn't sure I would like it, for I was hoping for the epic tale of the famous Greek, but as the story progresses, the reader really begins to fall for Patroclus's simplicity—how he watches and understands Achilles on a level no one else would get to and sees him change from a boy to a warrior, always at his side even if he himself was not at all like him.
3. Epic Love Story
It is no secret that Patroclus and Achilles soon become lovers, but I have to say how it is done is so heart-melting. First, they are best friends, so the reader gets to know them together and see how their loyalty to each other develops. Then they are young men discovering themselves and how their feeling for each other go beyond just that of friends.
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Once war strikes, they quickly have to take on the role of men and warriors and support each other in a way they would never have imagined for each other. What I really liked about this relationship is how they never felt shame, their relationship was more or less known, and they weren't shamed for it.
This was a really progressive approach that the author took, showing how easy it is to just accept love for what it is. It is so natural and not excessively highlighted as a problem but just is what it is, and that was beautiful!
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.
— Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Two Cons of This Novel
Although it was an excellent novel, there were a few downsides.
1. Not Visually Descriptive
The Song of Achilles is almost 400 pages long, and I can honestly say it could have used at least an extra 50 pages in order to satisfy my need for more visual details. Many items and setting while reading are very matter-of-fact and not built with imaginative devices.
A great example of this happens at the beginning when Patroclus is talking about his mother's lyre. The author simply says its an instrument and made of finely crafted wood, but as a reader who had never heard of a lyre before, I had to google an image of one in order to properly visualize it rather than just a few extra details which could have been provided to give me the just of what it is.
2. Achilles Is Shallow
I would be lying if I said I entered this book for an epic story and not because it was about one of my favorite Greek characters, but I found I was a bit disappointed in how he was written. As the reader, you know how important he is to Patroclus, but you never really dive into what makes him tin, which makes him so madly in love with Patroclus. I just wanted more from his character when it came to the drive behind his emotions beyond becoming famous.
He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.
— Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
My Final Thoughts
The Song of Achilles is an easy read for anyone looking for a classic twist on Greek mythology. The plot moves smoothly, and as a reader, it will feel as if you've grown up with Achilles and Patroclus. I do wish Miller add written in some more detail, but I know as an author, her style does develop better in her second novel Circe. You just have to use your own imagination a little more with this novel.
I can honestly say, however, that I am now a dedicated fan of Miller and will gladly read whatever books she publishes in the future, especially if it has anything to do with Greek mythology.
Want to read it yourself? Give The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller a try.