Book Review: THE SONG OF ACHILLES by Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy (sold under regular fiction)
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Standalone


the song of achillesGreece 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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Yes, I know – how can I have only just gotten around to reading this book?

Partly because I’ve always had a massive TBR, partly because this book is sold (in the UK, at least) under regular fiction (shelves I have never browsed before searching for this book) and partly because I’ve read THE ILIAD.

I read, and loved (for the most part), THE ILIAD when I read it several years ago. This meant I knew the story rather well once they set off for Troy. I wanted some distance between myself and it before reading this as I didn’t want to remember all the details (didn’t work!).

I really liked how Miller had taken the epic and given it a new lease of life (and missed out the pages of X, Lord of Y, came with Z ships and Q spears. Why would I want to know about that, Homer?).

To me, THE ILIAD is a tragedy. Forget war epic. Spurred by anger, lust and pride, the Kings kills thousands to etch their name into history, and no story line is more of a tragedy than Achilles. Miller plays this up perfectly, and almost had me believing I’d read THE ILIAD wrong. Why? Because the story’s told not through the impartial lens of history and great deeds, but through the eyes of the person who loves Achilles best And watching Achilles’ arc, watching the steps he takes to become a hero, is heartbreaking.

I was very surprised where it ended. I was expecting it to finish maybe four chapters before it did. I like how it finished, rounding off Achilles story (and going post-ILIAD), but I was expecting a more abrupt ending (which might have been more emotional). It certainly didn’t ‘wreck me’, the way I’ve heard many say. Maybe it’s because I could still remember every (major) event of THE ILIAD?

At times, I wished Patroclus would be a bit more active. Despite being the narrator, he’s often just there, a spectator. Half the time, he doesn’t even have an emotional reaction. Yes, Achilles is the main character, but a first person POV allows for a lot more depth and emotion in reactions. Also, I think the tense switched midway?

As with THE ILIAD, I spent a great deal of the final act wanting to punch Achilles. He’s just so arrogant and being so stubborn about his honour. His flaw is hubris, but I wanted someone to knock the heads of the Kings and Princes together. And it all starts because of lust?

I really appreciated how the book never glorified in the appalling treatment of women, despite the fact that it was expected as ‘just part of war’ at that time. I’ve read other books where, on the ground of ‘historical accuracy’, the women are abused and the writing is so gratuitous.

Her writing is very lyrical, taking after the style of THE ILIAD. It sweeps you along, setting the scene and always centering around the mythical figure of Achilles. I’m so excited to pick up CIRCE soon!

Read my reviews of other books by Madeline Miller

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