Review: The Song of Achilles

12:27 Cilla P 0 Comments

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Source: The Book Grocer, Melbourne
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.

Review: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆
'“Name one hero who was happy."
I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family; Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason's children and new wife were murdered by his old; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus' back.
"You can't." He was sitting up now, leaning forward.
"I can't."
"I know. They never let you be famous AND happy." He lifted an eyebrow. "I'll tell you a secret."
"Tell me." I loved it when he was like this.
"I'm going to be the first."'

I don't remember why I felt compelled to buy this book at the bookstore. My knowledge of Greek mythology is limited at best, though I am familiar with the Trojan War and Achilles' story if only because I was once forced to watch the director's cut of Brad Pitt's Troy. I don't generally like stories of war either - they're often a little too violent for my taste. I did buy it though (it was only $5 anyway), and I'm really glad I did.

From the moment we meet Patroclus, I was hooked. I have no idea if his backstory was lifted straight from the original myth, but it doesn't really matter to me. I felt for him, and I love his capacity to love despite how little of it he received before Achilles. (I thought he was the better man out of the two of them too, but that's perhaps a whole other discussion). I loved the way the story is told from his perspective, especially later on, and the little explanations about ancient Greek culture. I love all the characters; I was occasionally irritated by Achilles, but it's not the way he's written, more the way he is.

Being blind to most of the details of the mythology was an advantage in that I couldn't predict any of the twist. I could not put the book down. I don't think knowing the myth would spoil the story though; the writing is brilliant, every scene was vivid on my mind (as were the battles, but if I can swallow it, so can anyone else with a weak stomach). As for the love story - I don't generally enjoy tragedies, but this one hurt my heart in the best way.

'In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.'


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