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The Song of Achilles Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Fighting in the Trojan War will make Achilles best of the Greeks but condemn him to an early death. Patroclus, a young prince banished by his father, is Achilles’ best friend and lover. The two forge an inseparable bond which takes Patroclus to war to be with Achilles.


Queer, fantasy, retelling


Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.


Narrated by Patroclus, this book takes an epic classic and renders it as a personal story, more concerned with the emotions and relationships of its characters than spanning a large world of gods and goddesses.

While set in an infamous war, the focus is on the character development of Achilles and Patroclus. Achilles, a young man innocent of the horrors of war, evolves into a warrior whose pride is most important to him. He chooses fame and glory, and in so doing sacrifices his tenderness, compassion, and time with his loved ones.

Patroclus and Achilles grow distant as glory and fame take over Achilles’ mind, but Patroclus loves Achilles unconditionally and never stops encouraging him to do better.

This book will break your heart. The juxtaposition of youthful innocence and passionate love with the war which consumes Achilles is a powerful exploration of the value of fame and glory. The end is predetermined, as we all know Achilles and his infamy, but in going down in history, Achilles as the person he was is lost to his brutal accomplishments.

The Iliad is regarded as one of the finest works of literature ever written, but that doesn’t make Miller’s retelling less powerful. She humanizes these mythic figures, exploring their emotional lives rather than their outward achievements, and in so doing gives greater depth to the tale.

Most poignant is a moment when Patroclus, horrified at a monument to Achilles showing only the murders he committed, insists on recounting the gentle, personal memories he has of Achilles, refusing to let him pass down in history as a warrior and nothing else. This book is a masterpiece highly deserving of the reputation it has.

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