Apparently, this book has been taking BookTok by storm lately and it has actually been on my shelves for years now so I’m glad that I finally got to reading this! I previously read Circe by Madeline Miller and absolutely loved it (see review here), so I tried not to set my expectations too high even though 99% of others seem to LOVE this book and tell me that they cried while reading it.
Did this book live up to the hype? Let’s get onto the review!
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…didn’t cry while reading this and I’m sad to say that it didn’t live up to the hype for me, which is disappointing because I did enjoy Circe so much, and I do respect Madeline Miller’s writing a lot. Miller’s writing is just as beautiful throughout this book but the story just didn’t grab my attention.
For majority of the novel, we’re reading in third person from Patroclus’ point of view as he meets Achilles and goes on an incredible journey towards the end that most people may know. This novel is a retelling of The Iliad by Homer – I’ll be honest in saying I’ve never read the Iliad and didn’t know the story so this was completely new to me. I will agree that I’m sure people will enjoy this more if they have read The Iliad. I had no previous connotations, or really much attachment to Greek mythology in general. I did do quite a bit of Wikipedia browsing after reading this book because it peaked my interest for the first time since 7th grade from the Percy Jackson series but the ominous lack of information on this story, even on Wikipedia made my attention wane pretty fast. Anyway, as someone who was completely new to this story and the existence of Patroclus himself, I do admit that I found myself lured into the story just to find out what happened as I didn’t know what would happen or how this story would end.
Unfortunately, that’s how far I got when it came to interest in this novel. I found myself almost analysing Patroclus and Achilles as if I was in English class and ready to write an essay for it, and did really enjoy finding the moments where Patroclus’ love for Achilles gave him a serious case of looking through rose-tinted glasses. It definitely had depth to the characters and so many layers to a relationship that I might almost enjoy writing an essay about it. Achilles was an interesting character and his relationship with Patroclus was indeed sweet, so I can see why many people got emotional over this, particularly towards the end. However, I really struggled to get through this book because I didn’t actually like Achilles…he was kind of an arsehole? As much as character analysis and plot intrigue had me continue this book, that’s all there was to it. I had no real attachment to these characters, because although Madeline Miller’s writing was beautiful, I just couldn’t connect or care less about them. I definitely cared a tiny bit about Patroclus but his love for Achilles was a bit of a bummer half the time.
Achilles and the plot, when it came down to it, bored me quite a bit. For those who don’t know much about The Iliad and the basis of this story, it is set during a war that lasts like 10 years and I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of warfare and it wasn’t extremely political so there didn’t seem to be much going on other than death and bloodshed majority of the time. It’s really disappointing that I couldn’t get into this, but it just didn’t capture my attention. War’s not really my thing and it almost made the book drag on slower because it really felt like 10 years had past.
I did rate this a 3/5, purely because I do credit Madeline Miller for modernising this tale. I can imagine how different the language and narration is compared to the original translated The Iliad, and this novel was written in a way that felt medieval rather than clunky and thrown into a modern sense. Everything made sense, world-building wise, and Miller does have a great way with writing. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. It felt slow and uninteresting. The characters I did like, I didn’t see enough of and it was almost a metaphor in itself as the relationship and love of Patroclus and Achilles, internally fighting for glory and ego, overtook what could have been a beautiful plot and happy ending.
Overall, I’m kind of disappointed. I’ll definitely read future books by Madeline Miller but I’m mostly sad that this wasn’t a hit for me.
What did you think of the Song of Achilles? Let me know your thoughts!
Until next time,