As a result of an unfortunate accident with another boy, young Prince Patroclus is exiled from his homeland and sent to grow up in a foreign land with a set of strangers. In Phithia, his new home, he is merely one of many boys growing up under the shadow of the king and his half-god son, Achilles. Almost immediately, Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing and draws him into a new, mythical world, where Achilles is destined to become the world’s greatest warrior and Patroclus his steadfast, fervent lover.
I can’t do justice to this book with my review. It is simply incredible – moving, emotional, mythical, and simultaneously epic and close in scope at the exact same time. If I had to say one thing to you about it, I would say, please read it, it is incredible.
Let’s start with the setting. The Trojan War is relatively familiar for people versed in mythology and literature; if not, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Trojan horse and the face that launched a thousand ships. This takes place around that war, primarily because it is there that Achilles will become a legend. This is The Iliad, but personal, close, and loving; for the first time I felt like I could understand Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship and just how they got to that final, brutal, excruciating point of both their lives.
This is truly a fantastic retelling, one that manages to be both timeless and relevant. Achilles and Patroclus have existed for thousands of years in readers’ minds, but in our society today, many people wish that a relationship like theirs would not exist – a travesty, if you ask me – but a book like this demonstrates just how beautiful that relationship can be, and moreover, how appropriate. It’s partly a romance, writ large on the world stage as these two players tangle with gods and the most powerful of men.
Speaking of gods, there are plenty here, and they walk the world right alongside the characters. Patroclus and Achilles encounter figures of their own legend, like those who trained Hercules, and Achilles’s mother Thetis is a goddess. Their power is appropriately terrifying, especially for Patroclus, who has the dubious role of keeping Achilles from fathering further children, and thus earns his mother’s wrath.
For anyone who may have the slightest interest in a literary, romantic take on The Iliad – The Song of Achilles is a book for you. Very highly recommended.
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