Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

(Vague spoilers ahead)

There aren’t any major spoilers ahead but if you have no idea what this book is about and you want it to stay that way before you read it, then don’t read ahead! If not, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it!

Summary: The Song of Achilles follows the story of Patroclus who is exiled after he accidentally kills another young boy. His father sends him to the home of Achilles, where he becomes a ward to Achilles’s father, Peleus. He loses his title and his inheritance and must live out his life as a ward. He doesn’t fit in with the others, and dislikes the weapons training and other tasks that he is supposed to partake in. Fortunately, Achilles takes an interest in him and he becomes a personal guard of sorts (despite his lack of physical skill). The two boys develop a bond and the story follows them as they grow from children, to teenagers, to adults, and the development of their feelings for each other over that time. When Menelaus, the king of Sparta’s wife Helen is abducted by Paris of Troy, Achilles and Patroclus are dragged into the war. The rest of the book follows them as they build their lives on the beach, within the war camp, ever on the brink of bloodshed.

Writing: The writing is both descriptive and simple. It doesn’t meander, nor get dragged down in metaphor and excessive wordiness (don’t get me wrong though, I am ALL for excessive description and pretty words). However, it  is well-written, with the words used purposefully and powerfully to convey the characters and their story.

Plot: Madeline Miller has effortlessly intertwined myth and romance, pulling parts of story, myth, and history together to weave a tragic romance that feels realistic and true. Miller delves into the childhood’s of Patroclus and Achilles, giving context to the famous greek hero who we all know from Troy and legends of this extraordinary, undefeatable character. Half of the book is based in their growth from children to teenagers, and the rest follows the war and the roles that both Patroclus and Achilles played. It’s not just romance, but their relationship is central to the entire arc of the story, and the events that play out. I don’t have to warn you that this story ends in tragedy, you likely already know. If not, it’s probably a good thing that you now know because it is truly devastating and I am very glad that I was ready for it.

Characters: I loved getting to know these characters. Both of our central protagonists are flawed, and frustratingly so at times. In fact, vague spoiler, it is a flaw that cements their fate in the end. I found myself getting annoyed at them, especially Achilles and that’s what makes these characters so realistic. Achilles is a hero, a beautiful, ‘perfect’, brave hero. But he is prideful and arrogant and these aspects humanise him. I didn’t love Patroclus in the beginning (nor Achilles), and I found him to be a little boring and difficult to like. I didn’t really understand what drew Achilles to him and I wanted to understand more of his appeal as a character. However, as the book progressed, he showed himself to be brave, resourceful and kind. I liked Briseis as well, and her friendship with Patroclus was another reflection of his goodness.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It was my favourite book from last month and if you’re up for a few tears then I’d say give it a whirl!

Cass xx


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