The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles


Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Series: N/A

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Release Date: September 20th 2011

Rating:

Five Stars

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. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeperβ€”despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“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.”

I finished this book last week and I still don’t think I’m completely over it. Going into The Song of Achilles I knew how the story would end, despite not having read The Iliad or The Odyssey I knew a little background on the story of Troy and the war that occurred there. I knew how things would end for Patroclus and Achilles but I still hoped for a different ending for them both. By the time I was two third of the way through this book it had already ripped out my heart and crushed it beneath its feet.

Patroclus has been a disappointment to his father since his birth, and when he kills the son of a nobleman Menoitius seizes the opportunity to exile his son and send him to the court of King Peleus. This is where Patroclus meets Achilles and where his story begins.

The two boys become fast friends, they spend all their time with one another and despite all the other boys King Peleus fosters it’s Patroclus Achilles makes his companion. When Achilles goes to Chiron to train Patroclus follows, despite being left behind and despite the warning from Achilles’ mother. The two boys spend years in the mountains learning from Chiron, but when Helen is stolen from her bed and from her husband a war is started, and everyone who was a suitor for her hand is being called to fight. Patroclus was one of Helen’s suitors, and as a great hero Achilles is called on to lead the delegation of men from Phthia.

“Will you come with me?” he asked.
The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death. “Yes,” I whispered. “Yes.”

Despite his mother’s desire to keep him from the war when Odysseus and Diomedes find him on Scyros where his mother hid him Achilles agrees to fight. Before long both Achilles and Patroclus find themselves outside the walls of Troy laying way for a siege. Years pass and Troy still holds. Patroclus makes a name for himself as a talented healer while Achilles makes his name on the battlefield but he still refuses to go after Hector; after all, what has Hector done to him.

The story follows both Achilles and Patroclus through their childhoods; we see them grow up in the home of King Peleus and later in the mountains with Chiron. We see the two go from friends to brothers-in-arms to something more. We see them shaped by the war, see Achilles change as his hubris gets the better of him, and see Patroclus stand by Achilles no matter what until he can’t anymore. We see all the actions which shape their fate even when we wish we didn’t.

…The Characters

“A surety rose in me, lodged in my throat. I will never leave him. It will be this, always, for as long as he will let me.”

Patroclus is our narrator for this whole story and it’s through his eyes we see both Achilles and the siege of Troy. Patroclus has never been strong and never been a warrior. When he lived with his father he was seen as weak, and when he kills that boy it’s by accident not intentional. Even living with Chiron and fighting at the siege Patroclus is still not a warrior. He leaves that to Achilles and the other heroes instead focusing his energy on the camp itself. He heals the warriors when they’re injured and takes care of the people who are seen as nothing more than war prizes.

Above all else Patroclus is kind. He cares about people in a way Achilles and the other heroes just can’t; in the end it’s the kindness that’s his downfall.

“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

Achilles is Greece’s greatest hero. He is fast and strong, noble and somehow apart from normal humans. We see him solely through Patroclus’s eyes, and as such we see him as more of a God than anything else, but we aren’t blinded to his flaws either. As Achilles is changed by the war his hubris and his desire for honour above all else changes him. He seems uncaring of the suffering his people experience when his honour is insulted.

The way Madeline Miller portrays the heroes in her story seems to highlight their flaws as well as their strengths. Everyone from Odysseus to Achilles to Pyrrhus aren’t seen only as Gods on earth but also as humans with flaws that present them in a negative light.

“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.”

The relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is heartbreaking as well as beautiful. The two are drawn to one another from the start, and when Achilles makes Patroclus his brother-in-arms the two become so much closer. The feelings that build from their initial friendship are strong and unending. The two are always honest with each other and always drawn back to one another. Achilles makes Patroclus strong, he makes Patroclus feel like he is worth something and has something to offer. Patroclus makes Achilles human, he gives him something to fight for other than glory. The two practically have one soul, which makes what happens to them all the more heartbreaking.

…The Setting

“The ship’s boards were still sticky with new resin. We leaned over the railing to wave our last farewell, the sun-warm wood pressed against our bellies. The sailors heaved up the anchor, square and chalky with barnacles, and loosened the sails. Then they took their seats at the oars that fringed the boat like eyelashes, waiting for the count. The drums began to beat, and the oars lifted and fell, taking us to Troy.”

The same way Madeline Miller made the Greek heroes flawed is the same as what she does to the country and the times. She doesn’t shy away from showing the harsh realities of the war that’s raged; the plague that spreads through the camp, the war prizes bartered and won, the death both on the Greek’s and the Trojan’s sides. It’s all shown, not in graphic detail but enough so you get the sense that honour is a hard thing to fight for when men are dying from plagues and women are being taken from their homes after their fathers and brothers are killed and given to the victors. However in contrast to the war fought the mountains where Achilles and Patroclus live with Chiron and the court of King Peleus seem shrouded in sunshine in Patroclus’s memories. In spite of all the hardships and horror at the battle camps where the Greeks lay siege against Troy there is still some beauty to be found in ancient Greece.


I went into this book expecting a story, albeit a sad one, about the like of Achilles, but what I got was so much more than that. The Song of Achilles had me in tears, and even now I still don’t think I’m fully over what happened. There are no words to properly describe how much I loved this book so instead I’m going to recommend it to everyone. It will tear your heart out but you will love it in spite of the pain.

What did you think of The Song of Achilles? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

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45 thoughts on “The Song of Achilles

  1. I remember reading The Iliad and The Odyssey freshmen year of High School. I don’t think we ever read the full thing more like part of it. But I loved it! They are the reason for my Greek Mythology obsession πŸ˜‚. This sounds interesting and I think I’ll have to give it a read at some point, when I’m in the mood for something sad. Great review! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I would have enjoyed required reading at school if I’d had to read either The Iliad or The Odyssey. I’m not sure what started my obsession with Greek mythology, it’s just seemed to come from nowhere!
      I would highly recommend this book, it’s amazing but it will tear your heart to pieces! πŸ™‚
      Thanks! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was probably the best required reading and they even let us watch the movie! Best month in English class that year. 😊

        I feel like all great books tear your heart to pieces at some point! They always end up being my favorites.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My required reading at school was Lord of the Flies and Julius Caesar, not really books I enjoyed at all, or the movies either when we saw them!
        Then this one will definitely succeed on that point, and it’ll probably end up being a favourite because of it as well! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fabulous review! I really love your style and the way you have set it out, very inspiring! Looking forward to exploring more of your posts. Just found your blog and loving what I’ve seen so far!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow.. That first quote you had really hit hard. β€œI know. They never let you be famous and happy.” This seems to be so true, and is the reason as to why I often wonder why people want to put themselves in the spotlight and share their entire lives with us. I have to admit, though I’ve never had any desire to be famous, being happy is my number one goal.

    I already pity Patroclus. To be exiled, and by your own father, must have left a huge scar in his life. The bromance between Patroclus and Achilles is amazing, and I’m already excited to read about their relationship. Although I have to admit that I am not looking forward to watching this be one of the main reasons that make this story so tragic.

    I love this review, and I feel like I already love the book. I can’t wait to read! Thanks for the amazing review Beth πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh the whole book is full of gorgeous quotes like that, honestly it was a struggle narrowing it down to just the odd few I featured in my review. But I know what you mean, it seems like the more people who know your name the less likely you are to ever find peace.
      Patroclus’s whole story is tragic, but I think the whole time reading it I knew there was more tragedy to come for him and it just made his character arc so much more heartbreaking. Their relationship was beautiful but god it was what destroyed me in the end. Even writing about it now in this comment is bringing it all back.
      Thanks so much. I’m glad you liked my review and I hope you love the book as well! πŸ˜€

      Like

  4. and here I was, minding my own business, thinking I was over this book.. it’s been almost a year. then along came your review and now my heart is ripped open once again πŸ˜₯ this book… it’s just so beautiful. I love it so much! Great review, by the way, well done with the details.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s how I feel about this book. I thought I was over it but even reading the quotes deciding which to put in my review brought it all back again.
      I’ll be the same in a year when I read a review for it as well! πŸ™‚
      It’s one of my favourites now, definitely a beautiful book.
      And thanks, I’m glad you liked my review! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a lovely review, Beth! We all know how this one ends but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to read it. I haven’t read many (if any, actually) standalones based on Greek mythology, so I’m desperate to get my hands on this one. This review makes me even more anxious for it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Sammie! Oh I think even knowing the end it’s still well worth reading this book, although it will rip your heart out!
      I’m the same actually, I’ve read more series inspired by Greek myths but The Song of Achilles is honestly in a league of its own! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries! πŸ™‚ I do love a book that rips my heart out and stamps all over it so this sounds right up my street haha. I haven’t actually read any series inspired by Greek mythology I don’t think (not even Percy Jackson – shame on me!) so I’m definitely looking forward to getting my teeth into this one when I have some cash to buy it, haha! πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Normally I have to be in a certain mood to enjoy books which rip my heart out, but even so The Song of Achilles surprised me by how much I felt reading it.
        Oh my god not even Percy Jackson?! I’m the opposite I will pick up anything even remotely related to Greek mythology and The Song of Achilles is one of the best of the best and that’s saying something.
        I hope you enjoy it when you do buy it. I’ll be looking forwards to seeing your review! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      3. *Gasps*
        Well actually I was late jumping on the PJ bandwagon so it’s not too shocking πŸ™‚
        Still I’d highly recommend both The Song of Achilles and Percy Jackson if you enjoy books about Greek mythology, both are amazing reads! πŸ˜€

        Like

  6. Your review just struck a chord with me. I felt the exact same way about this book. It has gotten a place on my all-time favorite shelf. I knew beforehand how the story would end, yet I was still crushed and sobbing when I actually got there. Such an amazing novel -and an amazing review you wrote!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed my review, and I know what you mean this book is now one of my favourite as well though I think it will be a while before I read it again, my heart can’t take it.
      Yeah in spite of knowing going into this book the ending it still destroyed me a little actually reading it!
      Definitely an amazing novel, and thanks again! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Thr writing is very good and the author’s knowledge of the Greek mythology shines through. Unfortunately, once they reached Troy for the war, I started to lose interest. I really liked Patroclus, but I could not connect to the characters or appreciate the beauty of it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I thought the writing was just beautiful, there were so many quotes I wanted to use in my review but I managed to narrow it down in the end! πŸ™‚
      Oh that’s a shame, I almost feel like the story was set in two parts; before Troy and during so I can understand how you lost interest a little. Did you finish the book or was it a DNF one for you?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A stand-alone fantasy with Greek mythology! I’m glad to see that you gave this one five full stars – I don’t know how but I’ve never heard of this book before, and just from the quotes you’ve included, I think I’ll really like it. Is there romance between Achilles and Patroclus? I can’t tell from your review/the blurb… and I had to wonder if that’s what had you in tears. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, it was amazing, I think if I could I’d give it more than five stars it was that good! πŸ™‚
      Honestly I didn’t hear about it until recently either and I will seek out any book that has Greek mythology themes in it. It’s full of amazing quotes as well, the whole book is just so beautifully written. Yeah there is a romance between Achilles and Patroclus, I think there’s something between them possibly hinted at in The Iliad but it’s given a lot more depth in this book! πŸ™‚

      Like

      1. Oh definitely, it’s going on my all-time favourites list!
        I didn’t know much about The Iliad before reading The Song of Achilles either, I don’t think it’s necessary to understand the story at all so you’ll still enjoy it I reckon! πŸ˜€

        Like

  9. Great review! I couldn’t agree with you more. Patroclus really humanizes Achilles. I love their story and I love that Miller included parts of history that are not told in the Iliad. We only see Patroclus’ death in The Iliad, so I really liked that the ending was a combination of different tales that tell the entire story of Achilles and Patroclus. It’s rumored that the two were buried together. That’s why I really love the ending and how Miller chose to tell it. I agree with you on how well she showed all of their flaws. I loved her portrayal of Odysseus. Other than Achilles, he’s my favorite. I’ve always liked Patroclus and Briseis, but Odysseus is a great character. I couldn’t function for days after reading this book. I was so in love. I’d recommend it to anyone who will read it. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jill. Yeah I felt it was so much easier to connect with Achilles character seeing him through Patroclus’s eyes. I don’t think I would have liked him nearly as much if Patroclus wasn’t in love with him you know.
      I haven’t read The Iliad yet, it’s definitely on my to-read list now though, but I’m guessing there are things in this book that is different from the original story but still similar enough to be the same one.
      I liked how she ended the book after Patroclus died, I thought that would be the end of it because Patroclus was the narrator but I loved the way the story continued. And I loved the ending as well! πŸ™‚
      Odysseus is my favourite as well, he seemed almost set apart from everything. Like he knew what would happen and could see past it.
      I’ll be recommending it to everyone as well, it’s just an amazing book! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely agree with you. Patroclus’ love for Achilles really makes this book wonderful. I loved Achilles, the demi-god, the warrior, and the friend, in The Iliad, but he’s even more humanized here. Yes, that was my first thought when I saw that Patroclus was the narrator. It worked so well because his ghost tells Achilles when to bury him and clean his wounds. Miller stayed true to mythology. That’s why it works so well. I was really happy with it. You have to read The Iliad. You will love it. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It showed us a different side to Achilles didn’t it. Everyone else saw the demi-god and the warrior but Patroclus just saw someone he loved and I think reading it we saw that side more than the warrior as well.
        I initially thought after he died the story would go to third-person, I knew it would end with his death, but I’m glad it didn’t because the ending was just so moving seeing everything through his eyes still but with him unable to interact with the people mourning his death. God I’m getting sad again just thinking about it!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, I also wasn’t sure how she was going to pull that off with Patroclus as the narrator. I was really impressed because it followed some of what I’ve read in mythology. I know we’re reminiscing over it and now I want to read it again. I wish they’d make a movie. ❀️

        Liked by 1 person

      4. It was a pleasant surprise (not sure that’s the right word considering but I’m guessing you know what I mean) how she continued writing the story after his death. I haven’t read the original mythology but I am definitely going to now.
        And oh god yes, I would love a movie. I’m actually going to watch Troy this weekend just because I need to after reading this book! πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I hope you like The Iliad. I love that story so much. This book gives you everything, which is nice. πŸ™‚ That movie would be amazing. Too bad Brad Pitt is too old to play him again. I love him as Achilles. All of the characters were perfectly cast in the movie. I own Troy. I’m obsessed with that movie. πŸ€—

        Liked by 1 person

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