Paperback (Bloomsbury, 352 pages)
First published 2011; this edition published 2012
Rating on Goodreads: 4 stars
“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.”
Oh, my boys. My darling Greek heroes.
This book very nearly made me cry. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking interpretation of Greek myth, and Ms Miller’s prose style is simply stunning. It’s a wonderful novel, to be sure. Characterisation is brilliant (nice twist on Thetis there) and the setting and description…I loved it. Loved every moment of it.
The novel takes place through several years and several settings, from caves to palace rooms, medicine tents and war zones. You’re involved enough – with Patroclus as the narrator – to see the characters grow from boys to men, and it’s masterfully done. I never got the sense that Miller’s writing didn’t fit a boy of the period. I could believe that they were boys, and I could believe that they were adolescents.
If you know your Greek mythology, as I do, then you’ll know what’s going to happen in the novel – but that doesn’t detract from the suspense. In fact, I was anxiously awaiting the most significant scenes, and I was kept on my toes constantly throughout the book. The ending was truly saddening, and it’s still in my mind, days after finishing it.
The Song of Achilles has made me want to delve back into my research on Greek mythology, and that surely is the mark of a great book. How many of us can say that a book has made such an impact that it causes us want to research and gain knowledge?
Wonderful. Truly wonderful.