I have been told time and time again that I need to read The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller. That it was a story to rival stories, and it was based strongly in the mythology of the time. That the characterization and details were so beautiful I might just cry. I had added it to my Kindle some time ago, but finally had the chance to actually read it.
And… let me tell you…
It. Blew. My. Mind.
First of all, the writing in this book is incredibly clear and easy to read. The language is concise and simple, and it doesn’t involve a lot of thinking in order to get through the chapters. Which is amazing when you’re trying to let your brain take a break from heavier, more difficult reading such as Shakespeare.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the story is simple, or that the writing is boring or drab. It’s incredible in its simplicity. The wording is clear, and very easy to understand, which just lends to a heavier and more effective emotional effect while you read it.
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled inthe arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped,Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny.Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Everyone knows about Achilles, the demigod, the hero. Madeleine Miller takes his story, and tells it from the perspective of his closest friend (and lover) Patroclus. A story of growth, becoming a man, learning to fight, and finding your own feet in a world that doesn’t think you belong. Patroclus is the exiled son of a Greek king, punished for accidentally killing another boy. He is not a fighter, he is not a warrior, but he is a passionate and deeply feeling young boy. Achilles is the son of the king of Phthia and a sea nymph, beautiful and powerful, ethereal beyond belief. When Patroclus escapes his fighting training, Achilles finds him and befriends him. The two become inseparable, both of them out of sorts and not quite fitting in with the rest of the boys at the castle in Phthia.
But it’s not just our main two heroes that are beautiful within this story (though admittedly they are both amazing characters), each character is spelled out and described in a way that makes you think you’re really meeting them. King Peleus is a kind old man who takes in strays and orphans, and relies on his good spirit to move forward in a world that is run by violence and conquest. Thetis is cold and harsh, but she has feelings that run as deep as the Mariana’s Trench. She is not relatable, but she is a god and should not be considered so. Her entire image is described in such a way that you feel cold just reading about her.
It goes on, and on, and on. Each and every character is unique, and described, and detailed. But not in a repetitive “holy crap this is extraneously descriptive” kind of way. The dialogue is natural and believable. The relationships are realistic and believable. Every word is specifically chosen and placed where it can make the strongest impact.
And I loved every word of it.
And I’m sure you will too.
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