Hey everyone, today I’ll be reviewing The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. If you’ve been on booktok lately, you’d know that this book has been trending for quite a while. But did it live up to the hype? Read on to find out!
(Synopsis from goodreads)
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes 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, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
I really adored the original premise! I’m very new to greek mythology, so I was intrigued to see how the book would play out. At first, the story was much too confusing. There were a lot of greek mythology terms used that I simply didn’t understand. Yes, I could have looked at the glossary. But in all honestly, I didn’t notice it until after I finished the book – which is entirely a fault on my part. However, I just wish the world was built in a way that readers could go into the book with no prior knowledge of Greek mythology.
Alright, so let’s talk about the characters. When reading the title, I assumed The Song of Achilles would be about, well, Achilles. However, it was told through Patrolclus’ point of view. Luckily, I loved that! Patroclus is such a likable character. He’s empathetic and goes through a lot of growth throughout the story. He also had such an intuitive nature. He was kind and determined in such a powerful yet quiet way. Unfortunately though, I was not fond of Achilles. He was selfish. Achilles did anything he could to protect his honour, even if it meant hurting the ones he loved. To me, there is nothing honourable about that. Also, I disliked the way women were portrayed in the book. They were constantly seen as ‘lesser beings’. It made me very uncomfortable, and definitely affected my overall enjoyment of the story. On a better note, I absolutely loved Briseis!! She was such a charming character, and is basically the female version of Patroclus, but much more inquisitive. Moreover, I loved seeing the different relationships Patroclus had with the characters. Achilles and Patroclus had such a unique dynamic, they worked so well together.
“Her safety for my honour. Are you happy with your trade?” “There is no honour in betraying your friends.” ― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Luckily, I adored the dialogue! It really tugged on my heartstrings. The dialogue carried so much emotion. One thing I loved about the story, was how intense the character interactions were. It could literally just be Patroclus and some random side character – but the way Madeline Miller executes these scenes elevates the book to a whole new level.
The writing in The Song of Achilles was impeccable! The prose was amazing. Madeline Miller’s writing style is truly captivating and beautiful. However, the pacing was very uneven. Within the span of a couple of pages, many years pass. This affected my overall enjoyment of the story, because it left no time for me to wonder what would happen next. Something minor that also annoyed me a teensy bit, was how often the words ‘swollen bellies’ were used. I believe it was used as a synonym for pregnant, but it was simply too repetitive.
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
― Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Overall, The Song of Achilles was a unique experience. It was out of my comfort zone, so I’m really happy I read it! While I couldn’t overlook some aspects of the story, I definitely recommend this novel to new historical fiction fans. However, if you’re new to greek mythology like me, be sure to read the glossary at the back of the book. I’m sure my reading experience would have been better if I could connect more with the wold building. Also, the ending was also incredibly frustrating. Nevertheless, it sure is an unforgettable story. 🙂
Age Rating: 16 and up
TW: For the full list of trigger warnings, I suggest this site.
Final Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 stars, or 8.5/10
Have you read this book? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a wonderful day, and thank you for reading!