Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is the story of the Greek hero of the Trojan War told from the point of view of his lover Patroclus.
It was an unlikely friendship. Patroclus, whose name means Honor the Father, was the son of a king of a small Greek kingdom, and a great disappointment to his father. He is exiled to the even smaller country of Phthia at the age of ten after accidently killing a bully. The King of Phthia was Peleus, and his son, Achilles, slightly older than Patroclus, was sired on a sea nymph, named Thetis. Achilles was the complete opposite of Patroclus, cheerful, urbane, skilled at weaponry, fleet-footed and physically beautiful-everything a prince should be. For some reason that no one could fathom, Achilles takes a liking to the homely, lonely, ungainly and sullen Patroclus and chooses him to be his companion.
King Peleus is puzzled and Thetis displeased by his choice.
The two boys spend several years under the tutelage of Chiron, a centaur, where they study martial arts, nature and healing. Achilles is predicted to be Aristos Achaion, the best of the Greeks when it comes to military skill. Patroclus, on the other hand shows little promise at a soldier. It is during their time with Chiron that the boys reach puberty and the relationship between them takes on an erotic tone.
When the boys are about sixteen they are summoned back to Phthia by King Peleus. It seems that Queen Helen of Sparta has been abducted by Prince Paris of Troy and taken to Troy. Her husband Menelaus, and his brother Agamemnon have summoned all of the Greeks to their aid in recovering Helen. Patroclus, having once been a suitor of Helen is obligated to go, and Achilles, who already has a reputation as a powerful soldier is sought after by the Greeks to lead the Myrmidons of Phthia. Thetis does not wish her son to go and spirits him off to the island of Scyros, where he disguises himself as a woman. Patroclus, beside himself with loneliness pleads with Peleus to tell him where Achilles has gone and follows him to the island. Two Greek Princes, Odysseus and Diomedes show up and trick Achilles into dropping his disguise, and then persuade Achilles and Patroclus to join the expedition to Troy.
There is a prophesy that Achilles has one of two choices. He can remain in Greece, live to old age and die in obscurity, or he can go to Troy, die a hero and achieve fame everlasting. Part of the prophesy says that Achilles will outlive Hector, the champion of the Trojans, and that he will outlive an unnamed Aristos Achaion-best of the Greeks. Achilles and Patroclus are both aware that the prophesy dooms Achilles but they are caught up in a tide of events that they cannot resist.
The song of Achilles is poignant and beautifully written. Anyone interested in the ancient Greeks and the Trojan War will enjoy this book.

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