The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published September 20th 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction, Greek Mythology, LGBT
Representation: m/m relationship
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.
With The Song of Achilles closely referenced to the original tale, I knew it was going to a tragic ending. When Patroclus was first introduced, I thought he was Achilles. I wasn’t expecting Madeline Miller to write The Song of Achilles from Patroclus’s point of view and about his intimate relationship with Achilles.
Started when they were younger, Patroclus and Achilles clicked quickly. To see their friendship develop into something more romantic was adorable and heartwarming. The only thing I knew about Achilles was the phrase “Achilles’ heel” and that he was one of the greatest Greek warriors in the Trojan War. But Patroclus’s story is another different matter. I had no idea who he is and how he played into Achilles’s story. The Song of Achilles is about Patroclus discovering what he’s good at and being a positive addition and great ally to Achilles.
“Now I know how to make you follow me everywhere.”
Patroclus, though unskilled on battlefields, found his place as a medic. People knew him because of that. He balances Achilles’ harshness with kindness and compassion. While he tries to keep Achilles in check by speaking the ugly truths, it seemed like nothing he does can ever help Achilles turn back.
Witnessing cheerful and spirited young Achilles being consumed by his pride and desire to be the best was heartbreaking, to say the least. He became more heartless and ruthless in his method to obtain what he wanted. His achievements in war gradually overwhelm him.
Elements typical in a Greek mythological retelling are present in The Song of Achilles. The gods/kings were prideful and refused to bow down even when it’s necessary. Messy relationships amongst the gods are part and parcel. Women are belittled and only valuable when suited.
“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”
As anticipated, the ending was depressing. Even when Achilles was driven by grief and anger, his love for Patroclus never wavered. Though Achilles became blinded by his own hubris, he still genuinely loved Patroclus. In the original mythology, Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship was never explicated said to be romantic but people speculated that they were lovers. We are really blessed that Madeline Miller wrote this version of their relationship in this retelling.