Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
May Contain Spoilers
Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing. As they grow into young men their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother. 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.
February was an exciting month for me, book-wise. Why, you ask? Because I discovered three Holy Crap This is a Good Book books. Yes, this coveted designation, so carefully thought out, was awarded to three different reads. Deadly by Julie Chibbaro, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, and the last book I started in the month of love, The Song of Achilles. It’s appropriate that I stumbled on this title in February, because it is all about love – love for friends, love for self, love for that one, true soul mate. How love changes, and how it brings out the best, and the worst, in two extremely different men.
I have loved The Iliad and The Odyssey since I was in elementary school. Learning about Ancient Greece started a lifelong fascination for cultures, both ancient and modern, and opened up a whole new world for me: I discovered how much fun independent study can be. I spent hours in the library, reading about the Greek gods and goddesses, about ancient Greek heroes, and how they lived, and about how they died. Reading a re-imagined siege of Troy now that I’m an adult gave me a sense of awe – Homer’s stories survived thousands of years after his death, and have entertained generations of people. These characters are truly immortal, and because of their strengths and flaws, they have become the definition of heroes. What a legacy Homer created for himself.
The Song of Achilles is the story of Patroclus and Achilles, rendered in beautiful prose that enchants and engages. It was hard to step away from the story, as both characters grew in depth and complexity. I came to love Patroclus, and to see him for what he was destined to be. As one adventure rolled into another, he gained wisdom and compassion. As his love for Achilles swelled out of control, too much for him to keep contained and hidden within his heart, he became more dear to me. How could he dare to love this prince, destined to be the greatest hero the Greeks had ever known, and not be destroyed by the turmoil threatening their relationship? Just knowing that Achilles’ mother was so disapproving of him should have ended the relationship before it ever began, but nothing could come between them. This is a love story for the ages. Nothing could drive them apart; not gods or war or those ugly, bitter flaws that lie hidden in all of us.
I was afraid, as I read this book, and as the tide of fate marched Achilles and Patroclus closer and closer to Troy, that there would be no sense of suspense. That it would get boring. That the war would fail to engage my interest. I have read The Iliad many times, and I was fearful that knowing the story, I would not be as interested in the ending. That proved to be a groundless fear, because as Achilles and Patroclus starting making decisions that I knew would have huge and disastrous outcomes, I was even more wrapped up in the plot. OMG! I kept thinking. Don’t do that! Stop! Stop! Stop!! By knowing the story, it made the final moments of the war, the tragedy of Achilles’ pride and Patroculs’ love for his fellow soldiers, even more upsetting.
I loved this book. It’s exciting, larger than life, and features a love story that will not die. It’s also the story of rage and ego, and how an inflated sense of self-worth can tear the world apart. Highly recommended.
Review copy provided by publisher