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Review: The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

the song of achillesAs 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.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

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11 comments to Review: The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

  • Pretty excited about this one! Do you think I should read The Iliad first?

  • Ana

    OMG, yes to all of it! It was one of my fave reads of 2011 and I loved it so so much.

    Jodie, I never read the Iliad in full although I have read ABOUT the Iliad but I don’t think you NEED to in order to enjoy the book.

  • I am unfamiliar with this subject, but you enthusiasm makes me think I need to go out and grab this one right now! I love the way that you described it, and think that it sounds like an excellent read. Off to see where I can find it!

  • I picked up a copy of this one at ALA last week because it sounded so amazing. Now I’m even more excited to get started!

  • Achilles was always a mythological hero that I had trouble with, in the sense that I could never find anything approachable about him. His exploits made him seem cold, dazzling, and distant. Miller’s novel sounds like an intriguing way of acquiring a better understanding of him. Thank you for the enticing review.

  • I got chills reading your review! Achilles has always been rather uninteresting to me as a character, but I love books about relationships, so I’ll definitely keep an eye out for this one.

  • Sounds great, thanks for the review! This is definitely on the list now, and it wouldn’t have been otherwise.

  • I adore Greek Mythology, and this sounds like something a bit different, will definitely be adding it to my tbr list.

  • This sounds fascinating! Definitely one to be on the lookout for.

  • I always thought Patroclus was the older of the two. Still, sounds like a good book. And, yes, Jodie should read The Iliad. It’s terrific. ;-)

  • Sold! Thanks for this great review!!