The Song of Achilles: Book Review by Asha Seth

Author: Madeline Circe| Genre: Mythology | Pages: 378

The Blurb:

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.


The Review:

I haven’t read Iliad nor have I explored Greek mythology so much to know the histories and chemistries of the famous characters; whether Gods or mortals. So when I picked up ‘The Song of Achilles’, I didn’t know what to expect and guess what, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I started with a fresh plate and was served something I didn’t know I’d love so much that I’d be left craving for more. But more than the characters, more than the plot itself, I give credit to Miller’s writing that will stir the coldest, the darkest, the meanest of hearts. That’s the beauty of her writing.

The Gods are relentless, merciless, and forever plotting to make their means possible. And Achilles, the greatest of Greeks is not spared, either. But more than him, it is Patroclus who is affected and ends up losing everything he owns with naught for a gain; unlike Achilles who chose fame in bargain for his life.

The Song of Achilles is a coming-of-age romantic tale of  Achilles and Patroclus, the princes whom fate had bound together. After Patroclus gets exiled and is sent to Phthia to be raised as a foster son of King Peleus, he meets Achilles, and soon they are inseparable. They even take their lessons with Chiron the centaur, and go to the battle of Troy together. 

This book is a subtle peek into the growing eternal bond of love between Achilles and Patroclus that would challenge even the nymph Thetis, daughter of sea-god Nereus and Achilles’ mother. The growing unrest from the war sets Achilles’ on a different trail that gets Patroclus in the middle of war, and soon, the prophecy about Achilles comes true. 

 First things first, let’s talk about the writing. Miller has put decent amount of research and also her love for Greek Mythology is quite evident. Her style is fresh and engaging. Her poetic diction makes the work stand out. It was the first book I read from this author, and I know I am going back every time a new book comes out. Because she is simply brilliant when it comes to the translation of emotions into words. Other than the story, it is this aspect that really kept me hooked.

My mind is filled with cataclysm and apocalypse: I wish for earthquakes, eruptions, flood. Only that seems large enough to hold all of my rage and grief. I want the world overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at my feet.

The plot is essentially, a refreshed look on the relationship between the two main characters – Achilles and Patroclus. The storyline keeps moving at a subtle pace imparting a nice patient peek into the lives of these two people as they grow from kids into adults into lovers. I grew to like Patroclus better than Achilles for his honesty, his devotion, the presence of quick wit, and his tenderness.

He was watching me, his eyes as deep as earth. “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.”

Thetis was one I came to loathe for her coldheartedness, but eventually, she does win me over, with her efforts to make Achilles and Patroclus one.

“I have done it,” she says. At first I do not understand. But then I see the tomb, and the marks she has made on the stone. A C H I L L E S, it reads.
And beside it, P A T R O C L U S.
“Go,” she says. “He waits for you.”

Others too such as Peleus, Helen, Hector, Agamemnon, Odysseus, are strong enough characters and very memorable because of their unique tales and the legends that they are and they keep you glued to the edge of your seat hoping for the next big twist or adventure. 

This modern-day love tale is as tragic as it is riveting, as merry as it is moving, as shocking as it is spellbinding, as human as it is divine. Somewhere between the pages, you are pining for more of that innocent love as much as you are  dreading the impending tragedy, and when you are finally looking it over from the cliff, you pine for the mist that so covered your heart with the tender saccharine feeling, that only Miller and her words could create.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” 

You can buy your copy of The Song of Achilles here.

Have you read ‘The Song of Achilles’? How did you like it? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Happy reading till we meet next.

Until then, carpe diem! 🙂

© Asha Seth

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