Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - 5 Stars!

Hi all!

Here is a review of a huntingly emotional and beautiful retelling of an epic tale.





Release date: 12th of April 2012
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Historical, Romance
Pages: 368 in Paperback
Source: Bought from The Book Depository

Summary:

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, 'best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men 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, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Review:

I am a big fan of Greek mythology and all the multitude of hero stories, legends, myths, etc. Despite this I’m forced to admit with shame that I have not fully read the Iliad but, fortunately, this fact didn’t hinder my absolute fascination with The Song of Achilles. All the back knowledge from the epic of Homer is beneficial but, regardless, this book is an emotional rollercoaster ride with an impressive reenaction of the Iliad focusing on the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus. It feels out of place calling the undying love between two warriors as sweet as sugar and incredibly sigh worthy but this is exactly what it came across as.

Even though you basically know what fate has in stall for all the characters and especially the protagonists, I couldn’t help but devour this book and cry like the first time I ever watched AI-Artificial Intelligence (that movie was the saddest ever!) and, honestly, for some reason I never cry while reading books. It just tugs on your heartstrings and leaves you satisfied but so anguished at the same time. The story is a tragedy with love, hate, blood, pain, desperation, sacrifices, etc – still, through all obstacles Achilles and Patroclus are solid as ever and pure joy in each others lives. Wherever fate leads them they always take the same path and always together.

While a breathtaking read, the main focus is on the journey of Achilles and Patroclus and it doesn’t always consist of nonstop action and, thus, the story can move quite slowly at times. Also, male/male romance isn’t everyone’s’ cup of tea, but, hopefully, this isn’t a reason to miss out on this retelling of a famous angle of an epic epos.

Characters:

Patroclus, while not depicted as the warrior he actually was, came across incredibly likeable and proved to be a great narrator, even after his death in the novel. He remained honest with himself thought his life; he understood what he was to Achilles, his worth to others and his limitations. He was grounded and realistic in everything except his all consuming love for his childhood companion. He was kind, considerate and entirely devoted to Achilles and his wellbeing. Nevertheless, his life wasn’t completely defined by his lover, he made a name for himself by doing what he was best at, and he could never be viewed as deadweight to the glorious deeds of Achilles. Patroclus’ slight uncertainty in himself and his position made him human and loveable so that there was no other choice but to root for him constantly. Brave and loyal, willing to sacrifice anything for Achilles, but still relatable and easy to understand.

Achilles in comparison to Patroclus remained more of a mystery on what made him tick other than his powerful love for Patroclus. I found it interesting that he appeared quite innocent and boyish even after years on a battlefield. He too was kind and generous and not familiar with the politics and cruelty he was thrust into when he was recruited to join the Trojan War. He had to bend to the whims of so many around him but he managed to hold his own and always stand by what he believed to be right and wrong, his pride being an important factor. Despite this I felt that he acted as he did because he was meant to not because he himself entirely wished it. His relationship with Patroculs and many occurrences in relation to him being the only times he rebelled and refused to bend to anyone’s will and be what was expected of him on several occasions. Patroclus was his single solace from everything unpleasant in their past, present and future.

From the other characters I have to mention Odysseus, who was as wise and cryptic as always, but when it mattered, remained a respectable and considerate man. Agamemnon was a wealth and power-hungry tyrant, no redeeming qualities visible in this retelling. Briseis was a sympathetic and kindhearted girl whose friendship with Patroclus I enjoyed immensely. Thetis was written brilliantly, scary, and she actually came across as a goddess, different and unearhtly.

Overall:

This book is powerful, emotional and beautifully written. A real page-turner despite everyone knowing how it ends. I recommend fully!


5 stars!

LIIS

5 comments:

  1. I'm so checking this out.....great review.....

    Le' Grande Codex

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  2. Thanks for review, Liis! I want to read it! .)

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  3. Thanks for the feedback! This really deserves a read :)

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  4. I cried whilst reading this book too, and I NEVER usually do that. Great review, it reminded me of why I loved this book too.

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  5. I'm so glad u had such a positive experience reading this. My library is still stinking late about getting great books so I'm devouring up all the good reviews.

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