Song of Achilles Book Review

Song of Achilles Book Review

The book market is extensive, with so many genres to choose from it can be difficult to pick one. Whether you check out online book reviews or simply base your decision on a book suggestion with no further research. Only you know the type of book you to read. However, it is rare we see a modern retelling on mythology, and so I’d very recommend giving this lesser known genre a try. Song of Achilles takes the retelling of mythology to a whole new level, yet still keeps the tales close to the original Iliad. 

A Tale of Two Friends in Greece

Set in Greece and at the time where most are considered heroes, a young prince begins his journey of love and friendship. Meet Patroclus, a prince who was exiled after a horrific accident in his hometown. When taken to the court of the well-respected King Peleus, Patroclus meets Achilles. Achilles is the king’s precious and perfect son. On meeting one another Patroclus and Achilles develop a warm-hearted friendship that soon blossoms into something more.  

Photo by Pablo Fisher. Source: Europa Nostra

However, when word reaches King Peleus and his court about the kidnapping of Helen of Sparta, Achilles leaves to join the army in Troy. Filled with worry, Patroclus follows his long-time friend into the heart of Troy. In the years that follow, both Achilles and Patroclus are put to the test. When fate drives them further apart it is up to both Achilles and Patroclus to mend it. This is a tale of both friendship and love during a war of epic proportions.

Characters

Patroclus is a character that seems to be fearful of everything and anything. However, this isn’t the case. The story focuses on his journey from a shy quiet boy to a fearless warrior. He also learns about betrayal and loss during his time with Achilles and how it can shape a person.

Achilles, the perfect son, is the opposite of Patroclus. Always smiling, he is charming, bold, and brave. Throughout this book Achilles comes to learn the true meaning of friendship. Both Achilles and Patroclus complement each other as Patroclus learns about what it is to fight against fear and come through the other side. Whereas Achilles learns what it is to support those around you. If in anyway, these fundamental traits of the original Greek heroes had changed then, I believe, it would lose its authenticity and wouldn’t fit right.

There are other characters that are introduced throughout the story. They may not be in the story a lot but they do play a bigger part. These characters supports the protagonists in their journey to Troy. A supporting characters they may not shine as much as Patroclus and Achilles do, as they’re not the heroes of the story, but they leave such an impact that you may feel that you can’t help but agree with them.

Song of Achilles Writing Style

Miller’s writing style is something quite unique. She mixes history and myth to create an extraordinary tale that has a modern feel. Now, the original tale is in a male perspective and Madeline has not shied away from this. Keeping the original narration, she is able to incorporate her own take on Ancient Greece and keeps it flowing. She even experiments with a couple of time skips, but done in such a way that it doesn’t confuse the reader.

Miller is a great example of female authors who can use the history of the world to create a modern fairy-tale. Whilst not shying away from the male-centric origin story, which is the case with a lot of mythology. There are a few chapters where it focuses on one character and not both. However, the transition between storylines is very smooth, meaning the reader doesn’t feel jarred by the change. Additionally, this style of writing offers two unique perspectives to the overarching story.

About the Author

Madeline Miller is a New York Times bestseller and won the Orange Prize for Fiction back in 2012. She has been focusing on taking the classics readers know today and reworking them into understandable modern stories. Madeline was also been shortlisted for the Stonewall Writer of the Year in 2012 for Song of Achilles. Her novels have been translated in over 25 languages that range from Japanese to Greek. 

song of achilles autho
From: madelinemiller.com

Madeline has written a variety of stories in her career, from essays and short stories to YA novels there is a story for everyone. Her short fiction collection features two stories; Galatea and Heracles’ Bow. Galatea focuses on a Greek marble sculptor that was gifted an extraordinary gift by a goddess. Learning of her beauty, Galatea is kept under lock and key but is determined to escape her obsessive husband.

Now, Heracles’ Bow is another set in Ancient Greece. This is a short story that was published in a special edition of the book by Waterstones. The story follows Philoctetes and how he is charged with the honour of executing the Prince of Troy. Both these short stories are great book suggestions for readers looking to start out with Greek Mythology. 

Miller also wrote Circe and was published in 2018. Circe focuses on a young girl who is cast out to an isolated island. This is where Circe learns her own craft through taming animals harvesting plants. Fighting a war between both mortal and immortal, Circe must use all her strength to protect what she loves the most. The book earns its place on recommended book to read lists as it has a slew of positive book reviews and has won an array of awards. These awards include, Indies Choice best adult fiction and audiobook and was shortlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. 

Song of Achilles Target Audience

Song of Achilles is mainly aimed at adults but can be recommended to those who enjoy a little mythology from time to time. However, this book also appeals to those in the LGBTQ+ community. This book explores a romantic relationship of both Achilles and Patroclus which is very rare to see in many young adult novels. Now, reader reviews of books usually focus on both the flaws and positives but for this book the target audience really enjoyed this modern twist on Achilles’ story.  

Personal Thoughts

There are a lot of different takes on Greek Mythology out on the market. However, Miller’s take on the Trojan war and Achilles’ story serves a breath of fresh air for this well-known tale. Song of Achilles serves as a reminder to not take friendship for granted even in the most difficult of times. Whether, readers enjoy fantasy or just a friend to lover story, this book should make it on any book suggestions list.  

Song of Achilles Availability

Song of Achilles is available in multiple forms across the UK and US. We’ve listed below the available options for you to check out if you fancy giving this book a try for yourself:

Abi

Abi

Abi is an introverted gamer who prefers survival horror and JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games) who also has a love for reading and anime. When she isn’t busy, you can find her playing either a Resident Evil or Final Fantasy game.

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