The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad from the perspective of Patroclus, focusing upon the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles as they grow from young boys to men. The novel is set in Ancient Greece during the Trojan war, and Madeline Miller manages to stay true to the Iliad while incorporating unique elements that make it a separate entity entirely.
First and foremost, I am compelled to discuss the writing in this book. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is gorgeous and absolutely breathtaking. I paused multiple times while reading to stare at the way certain sentences were composed, and was not at all shocked when I learned the first manuscript took the author ten years to write.
Secondly, I’d like to discuss the plot. Brace yourself as you open the first page of this novel, even if you have read the Iliad and are aware of it’s events. The emotions that this retelling will well up inside you have no parallel. The plot developments start off slowly, introducing you to the world and ensuring you are helplessly attached to the characters. Then the severity and importance of events escalates and the novel reaches a climax.
Lastly, this review would not be complete if it glossed over the relationship between the two main characters. Their sexuality has been the subject of debate for centuries, and I personally think the way Madeline Miller portrays the story as a romance is refreshing in a world where LGBTQ+ representation is not considered a priority. The love story is a thousand times more poignant than I could ever have imagined.
When it comes to aspects of the book I didn’t like, my only critique is that female characters are not given positive roles. They either stay overshadowed, mistreated, or are depicted as greedy and selfish. But this is not really a critique, as anyone who has studied history will tell you Ancient Greece was harsh and unforgiving for women. Overall, I adored this novel and it has quickly become one of my favourites. I highly recommend you pick it up even if you are new to Greek Mythology and have not read the Iliad.
Rascal Rating: 5 stars
Almas Khan is a fifteen-year-old artist, aspiring author, and avid consumer of dark chocolates. She lives in a small Canadian city where she spends most of her time with her nose in a book, battles the patriarchy, longs for a kitten, and does schoolwork. Find her on Tumblr and @itsalmaskhan.