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Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
Achilles, “best of all the Greeks,” is everything Patroclus is not—strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess—and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative connection gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper—despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men 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. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.
I can’t believe I finally read this book and that I’m finally going to articulate my thoughts and feelings on this one. Which are very, very mixed. I feel like reading and reviewing books as hyped as this one is always going to be difficult, and I couldn’t help but be very apprehensive going into this one. I’ve read Circe by Madeline Miller and sadly it wasn’t for me, but I had a lot of hope going into this one because it does read very differently.
The Song of Achilles is definitely a lot less dense and a lot more accessible than Circe, and I immediately found myself connecting much more with the characters. The first part of this book was much easier to follow and I enjoyed it more, and it contained a lot of intimate scenes between Patroclus and Achilles. I really liked these scenes, which I think is why I couldn’t connect to the end of the story.
I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth.
Although this does follow the lead up to the Trojan War, and the latter part of the book does focus on the Trojan War itself. This is where I really started to lose interest, and missed the lack of focus on the relationship side of the story and the intimacy between the couple. Another problem I had was with the way women were portrayed, and sometimes it almost felt like there was a ‘token’ woman who was treated better – in this case Briseis – that excused the way other women were treated. Despite this, Briseis is still treated very much as an object and a status symbol. Although this reflects the myth accurately, this is a retelling so in my opinion could have been changed or even left out. It does feel a little softened, but still came across badly to me.
I really liked the writing, however, and at times it reminded me of the writing in Call Me By Your Name, with the same beautiful tones and level of vulnerability and honesty. The two felt so human, and the way their love comes across is gorgeously written and portrayed.
I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
Although there were many aspects I enjoyed about this book, I think a lot of it still wasn’t quite for me. I’ll definitely keep this one on my shelves though, as I’d like to come back to it in future.
3.5 out of 5 stars
May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽