I first learned about Song of Achilles after reading a string of Greek mythology-inspired chronicles like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians and a slew of other fantasy books. But Song of Achilles not only stood-out from those novels — it’s different from almost any book I’ve ever read.
Something that immediately caught my eye is the author, Madeline Miller’s, apparent unique writing style. She writes with a strange, beautiful charm. Each line of the novel is simply flawless prose, so detailed that it all but transports you to the famous world of Ancient Greece. Her novel explores themes of morality, love, and the bitter aftertaste of pride.
The plotline is a retelling of Homer’s epic poem, Iliad. It follows the famous Trojan War, and a conflict between the warrior Achilles and his fellow men. But this tale is told from the eyes of Achilles’ close companion, Patroclus, rather than Achilles himself.
It begins with protagonist Patroclus, a prince, facing his exile in a neighboring kingdom; it’s there he meets the demigod Achilles. The two of them quickly form a close bond, and Patroclus even joins Achilles with Chiron as he begins his training. Achilles and Patroclus grow closer, despite the interjections of Achilles’ immortal mother, a cold sea goddess. From there, Miller engages in tackling the Trojan War, and continuously, the fault of men.
As the book progresses, it’s told in a poetic first person format. Miller writes the affairs of the warriors and strategists of Ancient Greece with such expertise that several times I wondered if she’d somehow been there as the war raged. It captures Achilles’ pride and the gruesome reality of war with relentless precision. It’s simply a must-read.
As far as Greek-inspired novels go, this one is well-written to the point where it’s almost entirely factual. The author, Miller, wrote the Song of Achilles over the course of ten years, while simultaneously teaching Latin and Greek. She worked tirelessly to perfect it. Seven years later, continuing on the themes of Greek mythology, Miller also published the novel Circe in 2018 — an almost equally satisfying read that I highly recommend.
The book has something for everyone: romance, action, drama, tragedy. I especially recommend it to those interested in history, ancient Greece, or Homer’s works in general. That being said, go and read it!