By Cheryl Macasaet
Photo Credits: Barnes & Noble, The Uproar
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a twist on one of the most prominent epic poems in history, the Iliad by Homer. Centered around the love story between two childhood friends, the novel reveals to readers that sometimes the worst things that happen in our lives are the result of our own actions.
The story is told from the eyes of Patroclus, a Greek prince who is the son of King Menoetius. After Patroclus accidentally commits a fatal crime, Menoetius exiles his son to the kingdom of Phthia to be fostered by King Peleus. Although Patroclus is ostracized and shut out by the other foster boys in the palace, he quickly befriends the son of King Peleus, Achilles. With superhuman speed and extraordinary fighting skills, it comes as no surprise that Achilles is a demigod; his divine blood comes from his mother, the goddess Thetis.
As the two boys spend more and more time together, they fall in love, with an inseparable bond forming between them. Achilles’ mother immediately expresses her disapproval of the relationship, as she believes that Patroclus will interfere with the prophecy proclaiming Achilles to be the greatest Greek warrior to ever live. Despite her wishes, the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus blossoms, but their fantasy comes crashing down when they are both called to fight in the Trojan War.
During the war, Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship is put to the test. The novel quickly becomes a whirlwind of tension, rage, and emotion, with Achilles being blinded by pride and the need to protect his reputation. Though there is some chaos within the final chapters of the novel, the story ultimately refocuses on the central point of the plot, leaving readers certain about one thing: the love between Achilles and Patroclus.
The Song of Achilles is definitely one of the most emotional books I have ever read, mainly due to how well the author tells Achilles and Patroclus’ story. Her words are descriptive and extremely poetic, as shown by one of my favorite quotes in the novel: “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. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.” All of Miller’s sentences carry this lyrical and expressive tone that allows readers to feel the emotions that the characters are feeling themselves.
Aside from Madeline Miller’s use of tone and voice throughout the story, I really enjoy how the novel is told from Patroclus’ perspective rather than a third-person point of view. Through Patroclus’ eyes, the author is able to humanize Achilles, who is often depicted as an untouchable warrior in other stories. Readers are able to see how Achilles is no better than mortals: he feels human emotions like love and pain, he makes mistakes, he has regrets, and, unlike gods, he is forced to deal with the consequences of his actions. This gives readers and fans of mythology an entirely new view of Achilles, and it is the reason why the novel is titled The Song of Achilles. Patroclus is telling Achilles’ “song” or story, as he is the person who knows him the best since he sees beneath all of Achilles’ glory and fame.
With so much depth and emotion, The Song of Achilles is a captivating but painful read. However, it is this pain that makes this book so moving, and it allows readers to truly immerse themselves in the story.