Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller
Published September 20th 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing 


"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."


I'm going to say now that if you don't know anything about Greek mythology, especially about Achilles and Patroclus, well… let's just say you're missing out on a lot of cool things and there might be some very slight spoilers here.

The Song of Achilles is pretty much what you think it is; a story about Achilles. As in the Achilles... you know the one in The Iliad? The guy with the heel. The spin is, however, that this story is from the perspective of Patroclus, a character in Greek mythology known to be Achilles' most trusted friend, or as many people have argued, lovers. In this story, they are indeed lovers which I'm actually so thrilled about. Why? Well I feel like I just don't read enough books, especially prize-winners, that involve a homosexual relationship. Not that they don't exist but I feel like it's only been recently that I've begun seeing more of them. I love seeing more books talking about sexuality and different kinds of relationships -- am I the only one who's seeing them more only recently?

Despite winning a prize, I honestly thought this book was still only alright. Something I have to praise Miller on is how she wrote the development of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I felt like their connection was so honest and natural as it developed and grew. As much as I loved how well their relationship played out I felt like it focused far too much into it. This was so frustrating for me because parts of it plateaued and dragged on and on. I wanted something to bloody happen and for Patroclus to stop admiring Achille's hot bod. It's really not often I think "somebody die already!" I needed some development, dammit!

Although Miller's language was very thoughtfully used, classical-feeling but read in a very modern state, her take on the characters weren't my favourite. Patroclus was made out to be weak and incompetent as a warrior which is absurd. Patroclus was a pretty able warrior and quite frankly, if you're comrade to Achilles, of course you're going to be weaker in comparison, but on the field? He was as competent as any other non-God warrior. Oh, and let's not mention that Achilles' character in this book is vastly different than how I would imagine him from The Iliad. I always thought he was arrogant and far too self-confident, which, okay, fine, from the perspective of a lover, I understand why that's not as apparent. I feel like the characters weren't really as well-done as their relationship was, and that was disappointing. It's hard following characters that you're not liking quite as much through a story that drags on for ages.

This book is a…decent enough retelling of The Iliad. I felt the characters were rather annoying, and that there was a lot of focus on the romance despite the fact that there was a pretty bloody war going on around the main characters. The in-book-timeframe honestly took forever despite the book only being less than 400 pages long. My only other complaint is that the edition I bought had a foil cover and it flaked on EVERYTHING. My hands were absolutely disgusting every time I picked this book up and there was gold foil bits scattered around the couch I would read on. Annoying.

Rating: 3/5 Bookworms … not horrible, but it wasn't great either.


  1. A foil cover?? That's very weird.... I wouldn't much like the book either! But I read it on my iPad and really enjoyed it. I've read the Odyssey but not the Iliad, so all I knew of Patroclus and Achilles was from the movie Troy with Brad Pitt. I still need to write my review of this, but I was enchanted!

    1. Yeah the cover could have been manufactured much, much better! I read on my bed and after finishing the book, I actually had to wash my bed linen because the foil flaked all over it ><

      Glad the book left you with a good impression, though! I know a lot of people really enjoyed this!