The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

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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 differences, 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 deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s 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 fulfill 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.

Anyone who knows me knows I love a good retelling. And that I love anything to do with myths and legends. So of course, in that respect, I love this book already.

The thing about retellings is…you already know the story. Yet each retelling is different. And what I love about this book is that, despite the fact I knew what was happening, and what was going to happen, it still managed to surprise me, still managed to have me up in the early hours in the morning wondering what had happened to my life to make me cry over the story and wondering if I would ever get over it (the answer is no. I first read it over a year ago when I was given it for my birthday. Since then I have wanted to reread it on countless occasions, but didn’t, and also since then, I have found myself thinking about the characters a lot. I finally reread it this week, so I’m sure the same will be happening in the future year)

I love every aspect of this book.

Patroclus’ narration is wonderful- it’s simple but powerful, and he is a character we can relate to. He is, in essence, the ‘least interesting’ character in the story- he is not favoured by gods, he is not half-god, like Achilles, is is not a good fighter, in fact, he’s pretty much useless on the battlefield. He’s an outcast, exiled and seemingly unwanted by everyone apart from Achilles. In a cast of kings and princes, Patroclus stands out, because he is so human and by being human, he brings out the ordinary in everyone else. I don’t think the story would have worked from any other PoV, or from third person, because… this is not a story about war and Troy. It’s a love story,  a boy and a half-god in love while they try to survive war and gods and the anger both brings.

But it’s not just Patroclus- all the characters are wonderful. And through Patroclus, you cannot help but fall a bit for Achilles. From the musical prince to the warrior, he changes so much, but you still cant help but love him. He is different to how we have read and seen him before- through Patroclus he is not full of wrath. Through Patroclus we see Achilles care for more than his fame and glory- most of the time. Of course, Achilles is still arrogant, still prideful (and oh god, dont you want to shake him when he is) but Patroclus makes him seem….more mortal.

And then…there is the end. I adore the last 50 pages, despite how much they destroy me. Its so beautifully written, every emotion so strong, as if you are not reading off a page but stood next to them all, watching and seeing it all play out.

Miller is an extraordinary writer, the words so lyrical and beautiful they draw you in completely.

five stars

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