The Song of Achilles Book Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller Book Review

The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad with an emphasis on Achilles. Unlike the Brad Pitt movie Troy (with Achilles played by Pitt), The Song of Achilles stays much closer to the Iliad with its plethora of gods and goddesses, length of the war, and character placements. An issue long debated in the Iliad is the homosexual relationship between Achilles and his trusted friend Patroclus. Although Homer never paints them as outright homosexuals, there are many who theorize there was much more to their friendship. The Song of Achilles addresses this narrative and creates a spellbinding romance against the backdrop of an epic war. Ecco | August, 2012 | Paperback | 378 pp

Narrated by Patroclus, the story opens when he is a young boy with a dimwitted mother and an overbearing father and king. His father, King Menoetius, wants a strong son but Patroclus, only a child at the time, doesn’t fit his idea of a manly prince. Patroclus is a mortal, unlike other royals, and apparently too scrawny for his father’s liking. When Patroclus accidentally kills the son of a noble, he loses his family name and is exiled to the court of Peleus.

Patroclus is an outcast, a shamed prince. He keeps away from the other boys in the court and warily eyes the same-aged Achilles, son of Peleus and the Goddess Thetis. But eventually, they become friends.

“I stopped watching for the ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden  in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not. Some people might have mistaken this for simplicity. But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?”

Achilles is a demigod who is draped in prophecy – he will be unbeatable in battle, stronger than any other before him – the best of the Greeks. Achilles claims Patroclus as his right-hand man and they grow and learn together. Something more than friendship blossoms between them and when Thetis sees them kiss on the beach, she has Achilles sent away for more lessons under Chiron, a famed centaur in the mountains. Patroclus defies Thetis, and follows his friend.

For years the two learn medicine and hunting while their love grows into something deeper and more meaningful. They have an unbreakable bond that even the vengeful Goddess Thetis can’t break. But when Helen of Sparta is taken by the Trojans, marking the start of the great Trojan War, Achilles is called away to battle. And so is Patroclus who vowed an oath in his childhood to fight against any man or army who would defy Helen’s marriage.

Thetis tries to hide Achilles away again, disguising him as a girl. She knows of another prophecy that will lead to the death of her son. But Achilles’ death is tied to the victory of the Greeks and his fame; many know it. Achilles isn’t hidden for long when those in power demand his return to lead an army. Side by side, both knowing what is to come, Patroclus and Achilles set sail with an army to besiege Troy and fulfill their destinies.

The Song of Achilles is my favorite read of 2017 thus far. Myth and legend come alive with gods and goddesses, creature of lore, demigods, prophecy, fate, superhuman strength and agility, and amazing battle scenes. The romance is meaningful and deep without the heavy sex scenes. With the exception of the first sexual encounter, described quite minimally, the rest of the scenes between the sheets are all ‘fade to black’. The author instead uses her time to focus on their friendship, loyalty, and unbreakable bond.

Most retellings focus on Helen – the face that launched a thousand ships. We meet her once, briefly, when Helen first chooses her husband and her suitors (a nine-year-old Patroclus included) vow to uphold that choice and subsequent marriage. This story is all about Achilles and Patroclus, and their part in the ten-year Trojan War. The actions they take directly affect the other and the outcome of the war depends on Achilles. Gods can be angered and appeased, but fates cannot be avoided.

Achilles has a temper but Patroclus always manages to soften him. When Achilles can act with haste or with too much pride, there is one thing he will never yield on – and that is his relationship with Patroclus. He doesn’t care about the rumors or what others think. When Patroclus suggest that perhaps they shouldn’t share a tent, Achilles responds:

His eyes, green as spring leaves, met mine. “Patroclus, I have given enough to them. I will not give them this.”

The Trojan War is a ten-year battle with Achilles at the helm. People are slain, Achilles is a monster on the battlefield, prizes and women are viciously taken, Gods intervene, and honor is upheld. This story isn’t all about the romance, but it is this relationship that leads Achilles to his fate and eternal glory. Get the tissues.

The Song of Achilles is highly recommend to everyone.


The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles




Rebecca Skane

Rebecca Skane is the editor-in-chief for the Portsmouth Review. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and resides in Portsmouth, NH with her husband and two children. She is the founder of The Portsmouth Book Club which boasts over 1,000 members. She also doubles as a professional escapist.Her genres are scifi and fantasy, both adult and young adult - but she often reads outside of her preferred genres. You can follow her on GoodReads.Aside from her love of good books, she is a professional website developer, content editor, and SEO expert. You can visit her web design and development site at RebeccaSkane.com.


  • I’m not a fan of fade-to-black but the rest sounds incredible!

  • I’ve heard a lot of debate about this book, but I still really want to read it. That’s great that it’s your favorite read, the world sounds AMAZING.

    • I haven’t seen any debate going on about this book but now I’m curious. It is an amazing read. Just astounding.

  • I’ve made a rookie mistake of reading the last few pages when I was checking it out at the bookstore. I picked up a copy but I never did read it. So dumb, I swear. LOL. I mean, it’s not like I’m spoiling myself or anything. 😀

    • Well, if you’re familiar with the Iliad, you already know what’s going to happen. But you don’t know about this relationship so no harm done.

  • Lauren

    Excellent review! I’ve been thinking about picking this up for a while and I’ll have to bump it up my tbr for sure. 🙂

  • this has been on my wishlist because of the praises I’ve read from it. Unfortunately I haven’t exactly finished the Iliad though (but I do know its story). Based on your review, I feel that it’s fine to read this without having finished the Iliad. But what do you think? Should I completely read the Iliad first before jumping into this? Thanks 🙂

    • You definitely don’t have to read the Iliad at all, or even know the basics. This story is complete and you’ll love it!

      • ah, that’s great to know. Thanks! 😀

  • Great review! I’m glad you enjoyed this one as well. Happy reading!

  • Nicole Has Read

    This sounds like something I need to add to my reading list! Great review, and thanks for stopping by Nicole Has Read.

  • I have seen SUCH good things about this book and every review I’ve read makes me want to read it more and more!

    I’m quite scared though – I don’t like sad endings and we all know where this one goes… I will have to save it for when I need a really good cry!!!

    Wonderful review.

  • Oh I like mythology and this one sounds good! I could see how this one could be emotional. I didn’t love the Iliad when I read the original, but I would love to dive into a retelling. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

    • Rebecca Skane Carter

      I can’t even put into words just how good this one is. If you like mythology, you will LOVE this one.

  • I bought this last year and still haven’t read it!! What’s wrong with me! It sounds AMAZING and exactly the sort of story I need in my life…although I know it’s going to be heartbreaking so I have to psych myself up for that haha.

  • I’m reading this one currently and bawling my eyes out! So scared to get to the ending!1 The writing is lyrical yet simple!! GAAAHHH!! I’m in love with this book!! Great review <3

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