Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Published: September 20th, 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Genres: Historical fiction, mythology, LGBT
Rating: ★★★★★ – 5/5 stars
Synopsis: Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men 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. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.
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I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started this book. To see one of the stories I love from the perspective of a character that is usually not spoken of enough? I think that was about it. I did know this was an LGBT book beforehand, you can get that from the premise. I was not expecting however that this book is pure genius. I cannot express how much I love this book. I already know it will be featured in my favorite reads of 2015 and it’s only January. Probably in my all-time favorites as well. So let’s get into it!
If you did not know, The Song of Achilles is a retelling -sort of- of the Iliad, which was written by Homer. Unfortunately, I have never read the Iliad itself although I know the story well. At first, I didn’t really know how the author would make this twist work. How would she write a version of the Iliad in which Achilles is gay? The answer is: masterfully.
I won’t say too much about the plot as it is quite famous so I’ll keep it short. The novel starts when Patroclus is only a child and he is banished from his country -which for a prince, would have been quite the scandal. He is sent to Phthia to be fostered by its king, Peleus. That is where Patroclus really meets Achilles. The story continues on through their teenage years and brings us to the beaches of Troy, where war is at hand. I absolutely love Achilles’ story -or the story of Troy, or Helena, however you may see it- and although I already knew what would happen, it didn’t lessen the emotional impact this story had on me. I feel like those are the truly great novels: the ones that capture you from page one until the end, even though you already know what the end will be. And being honest, tears were shed by the end of this book. In fact, I sobbed which for me is quite out of the ordinary. There aren’t many books or movies that truly make me cry -I’m not talking about eyes welling up, I’m talking about actual crying- but now I have added one to the list.
I feel as if this novel’s truly great quality lies in its characters. Oh, Patroclus… I can’t tell you how much I feel for the boy. A child never appreciated by his father, who saw nothing but failure in his son. A guy who doesn’t even know his own values and worth, though there is much to be appreciated there. He is often insecure I had never really thought about Patroclus before while thinking of the story of Troy. He was just a side character to me. This book has forever changed that. I will never overlook him again. Doesn’t that show how powerful this book was? When it can show you layers of depth and meaning in a story you have always overlooked. I have always viewed Achilles as an arrogant guy who only ever wanted fame. Again, this book has changed my opinion on even that. Now, I see a guy who did what he loved most -fighting- but who still loved with all his heart.
While this book does hint at more mature content, it’s never really written or described, so I think this novel would be suitable for young adults as well.
I could talk about this book forever, but fortunately -for all of us- I won’t. All I can say is: PLEASE READ THIS BOOK IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY. Whether you mainly read YA or adult, historical fiction or not. I don’t think it really matters.