…on The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Posted September 18, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 25 Comments

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by HarperCollins/Ecco
Publish Date: August 28, 2012
(first published March 6, 2011)
416 Pages
Source:  Publisher for Review

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful– irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes 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, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice. –(summary from Goodreads)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My Thoughts
:  I absolutely adore anything mythological or mythology-based so it seemed like a good idea to dive right into The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I’d seen great things about it on other blogs plus it is an award-winning book so that was basically all the reason I needed when the pitch was given. I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with this story and how much it would move me. Yes, move me

The first thing you need to know is this:
Hello, Mythology! 
Like you’ve heard me say a bazillion times, I love mythology. All things mythology! I took a lot of mythology classes in high school and college, and I read a lot of mythology-based books of my choosing now.

The Song of Achilles is a nice story of the Trojan War and the life of Achilles, but it is told from the perspective of a man named Patroclus. Tons of us have heard of the Trojan War before, and certainly of Achilles, but are you familar with the man Patroclus? 

Patroclus was a young prince that was exiled from his father’s home after he killed another boy. Patroclus was sent to live with King Peleus, father of Achilles, to be fostered there. While there, he lived among other foster boys and learned things such as how to fight as a warrior, how to be a musician, etc. It wasn’t long before Achilles and Patroclus form a close friendship and Patroclus is named Achilles’ Therapon, or brother-in-arms – sworn to the prince by blood oaths. Patroclus would act as Achilles honor guard in war and his close advisor in times of peace. This was an esteemed title and it was surprising for Patroclus to be chosen for such a position

But why? While Achilles was known as “the best of all of the Greeks” – son of a sea goddess and a mortal human – Patroclus was a regular, unimportant human. He was not impressive to look at, not an impressive warrior, and not impressive at anything else. He was plain. Achilles was stunning in all ways and complete opposite of Patroclus. Still, he saw something in Patroclus that others did not and their friendship grew; the two became inseparable. It is because of this close and intimate relationship that we are able to get such a remarkable and up-close glimpse into Achilles’ life.

The second thing you need to know is this:
How about a different perspective on Achilles? 
I have always loved reading about the warrior Achilles and his amazing feats in battle. Madeline Miller has given us something to think about, something to consider, something to enjoy with a different side of Achilles in this story. Achilles the warrior was indeed fearsome and made grown men weep and run away as cowards. But in The Song of Achilles, he didn’t necessarily always want to fight and kill – sometimes he just wanted to chill out at home with his friend and the love of his life. He wasn’t always looking out for cold blood. Achilles had actual vulnerabilities and weaknesses like everyone else. I loved reading this about him because it is so different than anything than I have ever read before.

The third thing you need to know is this:
This story is for the action-drive plot-lover 
AND the character-driven plot-lover.    
What I mean is that there is something for everyone in this book. There is plenty of wartime and action and battle-scenes for the action-driven lovers out there. There are spears and shields and arrows, and there is some blood shed on the battlefield. But the time spend on each character – meaning primary and secondary – is perfect. 

There is a large cast in this story – lots of kings and some deities and some humans and even a centaur. Every single character was three-dimensional and fleshed-out and perfectly proportioned to the story, even to the point that they all almost seemed central to the story even when they were not. There were quite a few well-known names within the realm of classical mythology, but even if you are not very familiar to the classics it is quite okay because not only is it made clear within the story but Ms. Miller has included the information you need at the end of the book to help should you need it. 

I love action-driven plots. I love good battle scenes and holding my breath and turning the pages fast. Believe me when I tell you that there was plenty of that in the appropriate war-parts of this book. But I am a sucker for well-developed characters, the characters that make me feel like I know them personally. I want to feel their feelings and grieve for them, cry with them, laugh with them, and rejoice in their successes – and I did in this book. I cannot stress to my character-driven-loving friends how fantastic these parts of the book are. You’ll just have to trust me. This author has made the classical mythology come to life without turning it into a contemporary fictional story and I stand and applaud her. 


I completely understand why Madeline Miller won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction with The Song of Achilles. This book takes a beloved classical mythology tale and re-tells it in an excellent way. I began the book by devouring it, but quickly realized that it would be one that I wanted to read slowly so I could savor all of its parts. I loved it; I loved it so much. There were times I smiled and times that I was so overcome with what I was reading that I had to put the book down for a few minutes and just think on it. This, to me, is when I know I have found a book that I will read and love again and again.

Told from the point of view of Patroclus, beginning when he is a very young boy in his own father’s care, the story tells of his own exile and how he came to live in the courts of King Peleus and Prince Achilles. From there, the story details the close friendship between the two boys, which only grew to more over the years. Patroclus tells of their education by the centaur Chiron and their eventual call to fight in the Trojan War for Helen’s honor after she was abducted. It is at this point that the story becomes particularly interesting and emotional and action-filled. It was at this point that I began to read slower and slower, to savor every second.

If you are a fan of classical mythology or mythology re-tellings or award-winning books, you must add The Song of Achilles to your to-read list. It is undoubtedly one of my favorites and one that I will read again. I am amazed at the craft of this writer, at her immense knowledge of mythology, and the fact that The Song of Achilles is her debut novel. This book is absolutely incredible. 

The Song of Achilles will appeal to fans of:

Classical Mythology/Mythological Re-Tellings
War Stories: the Trojan War
*Absolutely incredible, stunning character development*
Action & Character Driven Plots
Romance: slowly-developing, no triangle
Award-Winning Books: 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
is currently available for purchase.


Have you read this book yet?
Do you love reading about mythology?

Is it on your wishlist or to-read pile?


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


25 responses to “…on The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

  1. Your review took me back to the feelings I had while reading the book…*brief pause for a sigh*

    I'm so glad you loved it too! SUCH AN AWESOME STORY. Absolutely incredible is right.

  2. I also love mythology! And I know a lot about Achilles, but I don't know anything about Patroclus. Although extended battle scenes aren't my favorite, the way you describe this book makes me want to run out and get it right away. I can tell in every word you say, how much you loved this one. Thanks for sharing!

    • You get to know Patroclus quite well with Miller's storytelling and his perspective on Achilles is nice, although it is a re-telling so it does fall away from the classical myth some. But it reads so easily and so beautifully that I got caught up in it and had to make myself read it slowly. The last one-third, probably, it was a few pages at a time. You know how I get, how I have to drag the books out when I get really attached to the characters. PLUS what Miller did with her rendition of the Trojan War was really interesting. I loved it to pieces. It was a nice break from YA and I recommend it.

    • I realize that I sound like an idiot when I love mythology but have never heard of Patroclus. I think it's because SHOCKER: I've never actually read the Illiad. I've read the Odyssey, and know the story of the Trojan war, but not all the players. Clearly I need to fix that by reading this book. Also, I don't usually pay attention to covers but I find this one to be BEAUTIFUL. So much so, that I would consider taking a picture of it and carrying it around on my phone. Who's the crazy one now?

    • You are hilarious. You aren't crazy, it's impossible to keep up with everyone. Plus, Patroclus has a different voice and the way this is written, he is entirely new – and Achilles is almost new too. You DO need to read this book, it's marvelous. And I guarantee I have more pictures of covers on my phone than you. Perhaps between the two of us the number of pictures would be quite hilarious.

  3. This is definitely going on to my reading pile, STAT. I'm a big fan of mythology, Greek, Roman & Egyptian in particular, so this sounds AMAZING. I love that it revisits the story of Achilles, and because it's both driven by action and characters, I am so excited to read it for myself.

    • This one is UNBELIEVABLE. I had seen it on another blog or two but I hadn't paid much attention to it. I hate to think that I almost let this one slip through my fingers. It easily is one of my favorites now. It is amazing and I can't believe Madeline Miller did such a great job with her first book. It's very clear she knows does mythology for a career-choice. You'll love this one and the twist it has on the Trojan War and Achilles' life and demeanor.

  4. Dude how have I not read this.


    I like the Trojan War.

    I like retellings.

    I like award winning books.

    I like fully fleshed out characters.

    Methinks I need to petition a higher power for 28 hour days so I can have some time to read Song Of Achilles.

    • Well, you know American Gods which I would PUSH on you if you didn't know of it…Hmm.

      In YA, there is Everneath by Brodi Ashton (Hades/Persephone) and Destined (Cupid/Psyche) by Jessie Harrell, both of which I loved. There is Meg Cabot's Abandon, but I didn't like it as much as everyone else did (Hades/Persephone).

      Also, in adult urban fantasy, I have just started the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. The first book is Hounded. OH MY GOSH. The funnest book I have read this year, probably. It has all kinds of fun stuff in it. Mythology and paranormals, but it is so much fun. But it isn't a racy book like UF books typically are, it's just good ole battles and deities and paranormals mixed together. It's SO awesome. HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne. Seriously.

  5. I adore Greek mythology like nothing else, although I haven't read any in years. I love stories told from minor characters' perspectives (or at least those where the ostensible lead is not the narrator). I read this one story on Achilles and the Trojan War that was told from his concubine Briseis' POV, and that was pretty awesome. I'm curious – is Patroclus just his friend in this version or also possibly his lover? I'm definitely going to add this to my TBR list.

    • Okay, so we've talked a little on email about this. Thanks for your suggestion! I love mythology too, so so much. This is one of the better mythology books I've read. It was such a breath of fresh air to read something like this that remained classical even through its retelling. I hope you read it soon, especially since you love these mythological players as much as you do.

      Thanks for the emails back and forth!

  6. I was so excited when I saw that you'd reviewed this one, Asheley! I've heard fantastic things, and while I haven't read it yet, I know I will love it and think it probably deserves more attention than it's gotten. I love your description of a different look at Achilles, but where you really sold me was the fact that this book is both action and character driven. I can do either, and really love both, but it's those rare books that are able to capture each of these things that truly impress me. Yay!

    • Heidi this book is INCREDIBLE. It DOES deserve more attention. It was written so brilliantly. I love the POV. I love that it remained a classical tale through the retelling instead of being converted into a contemporary tale with YA characters. It is truly action and character driven, and it was so exciting to me to find a book like that as well because GOOD ones like that are really hard to find.

      This is a PERFECT book for when you're needing a break from YA – this seems like an Alex-Award-type book, though – one with appeal to a YA/YA-loving crowd. There are so many of us that love mythology, good mythology. READ IT.

  7. Definitely adding this to my to-read list. I actually don't recall ever hearing of this book before now, but I do like mythology retellings! It sounds really intriguing to read about Achilles from his friend's POV. And while I love both character- and action-driven plots, it's really great when an author manages to do both. Definitely adding this my Goodreads! Great review, Asheley. 🙂

    • I could talk on this one for days, but it would be rambling and repeating some of the stuff I've said in my blog post. I just though it was so well-written and such a great departure from the main-character POV (Achilles' POV). From Patroclus, we are able to see an Achilles that is vulnerable and sometimes tired and weak and much more human-like than the mighty warrior all-the-time that we always hear about. He is mighty in the book, of course, but he is BOTH and that is one thing I just loved. Plus Patroclus is SUCH a great character, and so are the others. This is one that I hugged when I was done.

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