I’ve seen this book recommended numerous times, but have only just got around to reading it. Earlier this year I read Miller’s second book Circe, also based on Greek mythology, and really enjoyed it.
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of the story of Greek hero Achilles, culminating in his role within the siege of Troy. The story is told from the point of view of his companion and lover, Patroclus. Patroclus is a prince himself, who is exiled and sent to live with Achilles’ father. When Achilles is sent to the centaur Chiron to be educated, Patroclus follows him, refusing to be separated from Achilles. The perfect life they enjoy there is broken by the news of war with Troy. Agamemnon seeks out warriors to battle against the Trojans, who have taken the wife of Menelaus, Helen. Achilles is said to be the greatest soldier ever to exist, but is also prophesied to die at Troy, so his mother, the goddess Thetis, hides him. Ultimately, fate cannot be stopped, and Patroclus follows Achilles into the battle.
This was a well written and interesting story, covering a wide period of time (the siege of Troy lasting many years). Achilles’ story is tragic, like that of so many Greek heroes, and his character is complex. This is as much a love story as a story of war and adventure, and telling it from Patroclus’ viewpoint gives us a different perspective from the traditional retellings of Greek myths: there is no glorification of battle, but sorrow at the tragedy of loss. Telling it from this viewpoint allows the reader to see the consequences of a world in which becoming a legend is more valued than life itself. The love story between Patroclus and Achilles is powerful and heart-breaking at times.
A really fantastic book, and one which I didn’t want to put down, I highly recommend this book.