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The legend begins... Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles'' mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never

Amazon.com Review

: Betrayal, ardor, war, and prophecies--in The Song of Achilles, author Madeline Miller brings together everything I love about The Iliad without the labor of epic poetry. In this new twist on the Trojan War story, Patroclus and Achilles are the quintessential mismatched pair--a mortal underdog exiled in shame and a glorious demigod revered by all--but what would a novel of ancient Greece be without star-crossed love? Miller includes other good tragic bits--foreknowledge of death, ruthless choices that pit pride and reputation against the lives of innocents, the folly of men and gods--and through her beautiful writing my spine chilled in the presence of Achilles’ mother, the sea goddess Thetis, and I became a bystander in the battlefield of Troy awash with blood, exaltation, and despair. The Song of Achilles infuses the essence of Homer with modern storytelling in a combination that is utterly absorbing and gratifying--I can’t wait to see what Miller tackles next. --Seira Wilson

Gregory Maguire Interviews Madeline Miller

Gregory Maguire is the best-selling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and most recently, Out of Oz.

Gregory Maguire: Ms. Miller, you write with the confidence of the zealously inspired, taking as your material one of the great foundation texts of world literature. In three millennia, The Iliad has garnered somewhat wider attention than The Wizard of Oz, with which I have played, so I have to ask: where do you get the noive? How did you come to dare to take on such a daunting task, and for your first book?

Madeline Miller: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and in my case it was just dangerous enough to get me started. If I had stopped to ponder, I think I might have been too intimidated. But it helped that Patroclus is such an underdog—giving him voice felt like standing up for him. I had been intensely frustrated by a number of articles that kept side-stepping the love between him and Achilles, which to me felt so obviously at the story’s heart. So I wanted to set the record straight, as I saw it.

Maguire: The novel tells the story of the rise, fall and immortalization of the golden Achilles. You approach his famous story from a sideline, that of Patroclus, his bosom companion and lover. Was it hard to keep the mighty arc of legend from overwhelming shadowy Patroclus, and did you write more of him than you ended up using, just to be sure you had him firmly grounded in your mind?

Miller: Definitely yes to the second. I actually spent five years writing a first draft of the novel, took a good long look at it, then threw it out and started from scratch. Even though not a word survived, that draft was an essential first step. It helped me understand the story and characters, especially Patroclus, from the inside out.

As for the overwhelming legends, I actually think they worked in my favor—because Patroclus is overwhelmed by them himself. He is this ordinary person who is pulled into a terrifying world of angry deities and destiny because of his love for Achilles.

Maguire: Having glancingly heard of this legend before, I knew more or less how it would end. I had no idea how you might handle the loss of perspective and point of view when tragedy would inevitably strike. You managed to narrate an almost impossible transition from life into myth in part, I think, by your instinctual use of a combination of present and past tense, to say nothing of a masterly combining of authorial and first person observations. How many slaughtered bulls did you sacrifice, and on whose altar, to deserve the talent to risk such dangerous technique?

Miller: It was a lot of bulls. And whatever ended up working, I give all the credit to my background in theater. When I first started writing, I had this idea that I should be in control of the story, forcing it forward. It never worked. What I needed to do was learn how to get in character, and write from there.

It took me a long time to find just the right tone for the ending—I kept writing and throwing away, writing and throwing away. Then, in the middle of apartment-hunting, inspiration struck. All the other ideas had started out well, but would gum up before they got anywhere near the finish line. But this one kept humming right along. And it was the simplest, so there you go.

Maguire: Oscar Wilde said something like, “The Odyssey was written by Homer, or another Greek of the same name.” But Oscar Wilde had clearly not met you. This is not a question. It is a salute.

Review

“I loved it.” -- J.K. Rowling

“Fast, true and incredibly rewarding…A remarkable achievement.” -- USA Today

“Wildly romantic [and] surprisingly suspenseful....[B]ringing those dark figures back to life, making them men again, and while she’s at it, us[ing] her passionate companion piece to The Iliad as a subtle swipe at today’s ongoing debate over gay marriage. Talk about updating the classics.” -- Time magazine

“One of the best novelistic adaptations of Homer in recent memory, and it offers strikingly well-rounded and compassionate portrait of Achilles....[Miller] injects a newfound sense of suspense into a story with an ending that has already been determined.” -- Wall Street Journal

“Powerful, inventive, passionate, and beautifully written. ” -- Boston Globe

“Beautifully done. . ..In prose as clean and spare as the driving poetry of Homer, Miller captures the intensity and devotion of adolescent friendship and lets us believe in these long-dead boys...deepening and enriching a tale that has been told for 3,000 years.” -- Washington Post

“One of 2012’s most exciting debuts...seductive, hugely entertaining....[I]magining the intimate friendship between Achilles and the devoted Patroclus...Miller conjures...soulmates. The resulting novel is cinematic―one might say epic―in scope, but refreshingly, compellingly human in detail.” -- Vogue

“You don’t need to be familiar with Homer’s The Iliad (or Brad Pitt’s Troy, for that matter) to find Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles spellbinding....her explorations of ego, grief, and love’s many permutations are both familiar and new....[A] timeless love story.” -- O magazine

“Madeline Miller’s brilliant first novel...is a story of great, passionate love between Achilles and Patroclus....[R]ewriting the Western world’s first and greatest war novel is an awesome task to undertake. That she did it with such grace, style and suspense is astonishing.” -- Dallas Morning News

“The Song of Achilles...should be read and enjoyed for itself, but if Madeline Miller’s novel sends the reader back to Homer and his successors, she is to be thanked for that as well.” -- Washington Independent Review of Books

“A psychologically astute Iliad prelude featuring the heady, star-crossed adolescence of future heroes Patroclus and Achilles.” -- Vogue

“[Miller] makes a persuasive argument for the timeliness of her subject. …Miller’s winning debut focuses on Patroclus, a young prince living in Achilles’ golden shadow. Miller also gives voice to many of the women who were also consigned to the shadows.” -- Publishers Weekly, Spring 2012 Preview, Top 10 Literary Fiction

“Masterfully brings to life an imaginative yet informed vision of ancient Greece featuring divinely human gods and larger-than-life mortals. She breaks new ground retelling one of the world’s oldest stories about men in love and war [and] extraordinary women.” -- Publishers Weekly (starred review), Pick of the Week

“A masterly vision of the drama, valor, and tragedy of the Trojan War. Readers who loved Mary Renault’s epic novels will be thrilled with Miller’s portrayal of ancient Greece. This reviewer can’t wait to see what she writes next.” -- Library Journal (starred review)

“A captivating retelling of THE ILIAD and events leading up to it through the point of view of Patroclus: it’s a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity.” -- Donna Tartt, THE TIMES

“A modern take on The Iliad, full of love and feats of glory and told in an open, lyric, loose-limbed fashion that should appeal to many readers.... Next up from Miller―the story of Circe...historical fiction fans, get in on the ground floor.” -- Library Journal

“I loved this book. The language was timeless, the historical details were slipped in perfectly. I hope SONG OF ACHILLES becomes part of the high school summer reading lists alongside PENELOPIAD.” -- Helen Simonson, bestselling author of MAJOR PETTIGREW''S LAST STAND

“Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories.” -- Emma Donoghue, New York Times bestselling author of ROOM

“At once a scholar’s homage to THE ILIAD and a startlingly original work of art by an incredibly talented new novelist. Madeline Miller has given us her own fresh take on the Trojan war and its heroes. The result is a book I could not put down.” -- Ann Patchett, bestselling author of BEL CANTO and STATE OF WONDER

“Although the details of the story are Miller’s own, the world is one that all who love the Iliad and its epigones will recognize. Reading this book recalled me to the breathless sense of the ancient-yet-present that I felt when I first fell in love with the classics.” -- Catherine Conybeare, Professor of Classics, Bryn Mawr College

“THE ILIAD turns on Achilles’ pride and his relationship with Patroclus, but Homer is sparing with the personal―so much so that, though we believe in their friendship, we do not understand it. THE SONG OF ACHILLES brings light to their love. This is a beautiful book.” -- Zachary Mason, author of THE LOST BOOKS OF THE ODYSSEY

“Miller somehow (and breathtakingly so) mixes high-action commercial plotting with writing of such beautiful delicacy you sometimes have to stop and stare.” -- The Independent

“Miller’s prose is more poetic than almost any translation of Homer… This is a deeply affecting version of the Achilles story: a fully three-dimension man - a son, a father, husband and lover - now exists where a superhero previously stood and fought.” -- The Guardian

“In the tradition of Mary Renault... Miller draws on her knowledge of classical sources wisely… Well-paced, engaging and tasteful.” -- London Times Literary Supplement

“Extraordinary… Beautifully descriptive and heartachingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find.” -- Daily Mail

From the Back Cover

The legend begins...

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must 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 Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

About the Author

Madeline Miller grew up in Philadelphia, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek from Brown University, and has been teaching both languages for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specializing in adapting classical tales for a modern audience. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Eric Danklefsen
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The love story (gay or not) is the point of this book.
Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2018
I have never read the Iliad, and I thought it might be fun to delve into a modern treatment of the story. This book had so many great reviews that it seemed worth buying. However, I stopped reading the novel when I was about 30% of the way through. By this time it became... See more
I have never read the Iliad, and I thought it might be fun to delve into a modern treatment of the story. This book had so many great reviews that it seemed worth buying. However, I stopped reading the novel when I was about 30% of the way through. By this time it became clear that the author was going to make the romance between Patroclus and Achilles the centerpiece of the book. For instance as teens, Achilles and Patroclus spend two or three years in the wilderness with a centaur who is supposed to be instructing Achilles in the art of war... except he doesn''t. Patroclus is not supposed to be in the wilderness with them, but he tags along anyway. This means that Patroclus himself has the opportunity to learn the art of war from this great centaur who taught Heracles how to fight, but Patroclus doesn''t either. It appears that the only reason these two were with centaur in the wilderness for a couple years was to allow the author to crate a bucolic love nest for the boys. And for unexplained reasons, Achilles'' mother, Thetis, seems to have always hated Patroclus. Again from a Romance-novel point-of-view, her intense animosity seems to exist only to create a "forbidden love" situation between Patroclus and Achilles. It all seemed so contrived.
661 people found this helpful
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PeterB
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Homoeroticism in a neomytholocical landscape
Reviewed in the United States on January 16, 2019
Thought i was buying a new conception of a Homeric myth. Instead I found myself muddling through a homoerotic romance novel about a weakling, a "jock" and an overbearing mother. Yeah some mythological reference is tossed in the salad but I quit this self indulgence... See more
Thought i was buying a new conception of a Homeric myth. Instead I found myself muddling through a homoerotic romance novel about a weakling, a "jock" and an overbearing mother. Yeah some mythological reference is tossed in the salad but I quit this self indulgence about a third of the way through. Don''t be fooled by the title. Positive reviews are a mystery to me. I got nothing against love stores whoever the lovers are but I don''t enjoy romance novels, historic, contemporary or pseudo-mythological, especially where the partners are unequal. This is not a retelling of myth. Speculation into the private lives, loves and bedrooms of classical gods, demigods and heroes does little if anything to enhance understanding of the ground upon which classicism was built. At best it grants insight into the authors''s fantasies in which I am frankly not interested.
504 people found this helpful
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Kindle Customer
1.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A little misleading
Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2019
I thought the writing and wording was very fanciful and evocative. The story seem very interesting and there was a lot of build-up. Yet, I think I was misled because the story is really about gay love. Which is fine, but I wish this was made more obvious in the reviews. I... See more
I thought the writing and wording was very fanciful and evocative. The story seem very interesting and there was a lot of build-up. Yet, I think I was misled because the story is really about gay love. Which is fine, but I wish this was made more obvious in the reviews. I guess I was expecting something else but after reading through the first seven chapters, I knew I didn''t want to continue anymore because I thought the subject matter should have been made more clear. Most of the reviews make it about a story that retails the illiad. However, it''s really about the manlove between achilles and his partner. There''s also a war and battles that surrounds their romance, but that''s all background material.
299 people found this helpful
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Sarahocha
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I don''t cry over books but, I sobbed with this one.
Reviewed in the United States on July 11, 2017
Starting this book I was at a strong 3.5 stars, then it bumped up to 4, and then the end had me in such a mess that it suddenly became 5. A miracle this is. The story and plot revolves around the Trojan war and the moments before and after where Patroclus meets... See more
Starting this book I was at a strong 3.5 stars, then it bumped up to 4, and then the end had me in such a mess that it suddenly became 5. A miracle this is.

The story and plot revolves around the Trojan war and the moments before and after where Patroclus meets Achilles and laters waits for him. The flow is actually quite gentle, even during the war fighting. I had expected more action and heart racing moments, and that is maybe why I did not rush into a higher rating.

However, even though I had a feeling of who and the knowledge of death, I was still struck hard. It did not come on suddenly, no. It crept slowly, clung to my heart and then watered in my eyes. It was the reaction to death that got me.

The end is beautiful and sweet. It brings together the readers and the characters who are in pain and comforts us and makes us allies.

The writing is also wonderful. It''s poetic and lovely at times. Of course if you do not like things being compared to unrelated things, such as the plumpness of lips to that of a bee, then you will disagree with me here. Regardless, this is the writing style I most adore in moderation and thus have loved this book.
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Gabby M
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An Inspired Retelling Of The Iliad
Reviewed in the United States on June 13, 2017
For better or for worse, the Homeric epics are a bedrock part of the Western literary canon. Madeline Miller''s The Song of Achilles looks at The Iliad from a fresh perspective: that of Patroclus, Achilles'' closest companion. Since this is a retelling of a classic story (a... See more
For better or for worse, the Homeric epics are a bedrock part of the Western literary canon. Madeline Miller''s The Song of Achilles looks at The Iliad from a fresh perspective: that of Patroclus, Achilles'' closest companion. Since this is a retelling of a classic story (a genre to which I am predisposed), we already know how it''s going to play out: Agamemnon will steal a slave girl claimed by Achilles, leading to the hero refusing to fight for the Greeks, leading to Patroclus donning his armor and being slain by Hector of Troy, leading to Achilles killing Hector and dragging him around the walls of his city, only to be killed himself by an arrow from Hector''s brother Paris. What''s different is what comes before and between.

As most of us know, it was not uncommon in Ancient Greek life for older men to have sexual relationships with younger men. Homosexual relationships between men of the same age, however, were rarer. When I was taught The Iliad, even in college, the bond between Patroclus and Achilles was usually described as just a deep friendship (lip service was paid to the idea they could have been lovers but it was never taught as being the more persuasive interpretation). Miller''s novel, however, roots itself in the alternate interpretation: she presents us with Achilles, the most gifted warrior in Greece, as a man in a loving and stable lifelong relationship with Patroclus.

It would actually be more accurate to say she presents us with Patroclus as the romantic partner of Achilles: the story belongs to Patroclus, it is told through his eyes. Patroclus as created by Miller is a gentle soul, a disappointment to his aggressive father, who is banished when he kills another child purely by accident. He is sent to Peleus, father of Achilles, to be fostered, and is chosen by Achilles of all the young men at court to be his companion. Their relationship only gradually becomes romantic, much to the disgust of Achilles'' river goddess mother, Thetis. She conspires more than once to break the couple apart, but their love is too strong and they remain together until the end. Miller explains Achilles'' rage over the theft of his slave girl as being not about being deprived of a lover, but as being disrespected as the greatest soldier in the army by having his rightfully-claimed prize taken away.

I found it a much more enjoyable take on the story than the original. Miller really gets the time to develop Patroclus and Achilles as characters in depicting them from boyhood all the way through adulthood. She paints a very devoted relationship between them: though both briefly experiment with sex with women, they never stray from each other and Achilles refuses to leave Patroclus despite strong maternal pressure to do so. Since Miller''s Patroclus isn''t a skilled or enthusiastic warrior and instead serves the Greek contingent at Troy as a healer, most of the battlefield scenes that I find so boring to read are left out entirely. This is a solid read for fans of historical fiction and/or classical retellings.
335 people found this helpful
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Tom E
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Tragic but Great Retelling of a Classic Story
Reviewed in the United States on March 25, 2018
First, understand that this is a tale of "What if Achilles and Patroclus were more than just close comrades?" If you can''t get on board with that already, this is not the book for you. At its core, it is a romance story between two men in a familiar setting most of... See more
First, understand that this is a tale of "What if Achilles and Patroclus were more than just close comrades?" If you can''t get on board with that already, this is not the book for you. At its core, it is a romance story between two men in a familiar setting most of us are well acquainted with.

The classic tale of the Iliad aside, I loved this story. I loved reading this as a "what if this happened with these two young men" type of story especially because it isn''t entirely unbelievable considering in those times, relations between men were common enough in their younger years that it wasn''t a huge offense. I was happy for the story to be told in the point of view of Patroclus instead of Achilles, as it made it more interesting for us to see through the eyes of the normal guy who is friends with the one who has the big destiny. It also doesn''t dwell too much on the "oh do I like him more than a friend?" "Is this normal to like another man?" cliches that plague homosexual romances in books. It lets us see the actual relationship for a majority of the book instead of just the build-up to it which makes the ending all the more harder.

Those who know the story of the Iliad know it will be a tragic story, but it''s still a phenomenal ride alongside the two lovers and when the ending strikes you it becomes heartbreaking. I was almost crying reading the final pages but also smiling and keeping hopeful that it would end at least on a somewhat lighter note.

This is one of my favorite reads now and I cannot wait to read more by this author and hope the others are just as intriguing as this one was.
137 people found this helpful
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Azia
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
SO. BEAUTIFUL.
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2018
***Review posted on The Uncharted Word blog*** I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology/history, particularly The Illiad, which focused on the Trojan War and the tale of Achilles. And so I was more than eager to get my hands on this book after hearing many a... See more
***Review posted on The Uncharted Word blog***

I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology/history, particularly The Illiad, which focused on the Trojan War and the tale of Achilles. And so I was more than eager to get my hands on this book after hearing many a rave review about it.

Was I disappointed? Absolutely not.

The Song of Achilles is a gem in more ways than one. Not only is it a brilliant reimagining of Homer’s most enduring classic work, The Illiad, it is also an epic love story.

Miller masterfully takes a well-known yet fantastical tale that is larger than life and enhances it tenfold by humanizing its characters (gods, demigods, men, and women), gifting them thoughts and emotions that we as readers can relate to on a deeper level. She injects her story with such poignancy that I couldn’t help but be moved by the characters and their connection to one another.

The writing is clear and crisp, lyrical in its simplicity and powerful in its golden imagery. Miller takes great care in transporting her readers to a time long gone by engaging all five our senses, offering us an array of dazzling visuals marked by sweet scents and potent tastes and sounds. And while the style of writing is notable in of itself, it is the author’s careful portrayal of character that is the most remarkable.

The entire story is one of reflection, a story that has already passed and is now being recalled by Patroclus, and so we are only privy to his thoughts and feelings, and his alone. Despite his weaker status and sweeter disposition, Patroclus proves to be a very observant narrator and courageous character. And through him and his experiences and observations of his surroundings and the people he interacts with, we become familiar with Achilles.

In Patroclus’s eyes, we see a caring and ambitious young Achilles, a demigod prophesied to be the victor over Hector and a hero of The Trojan War; though, Hector’s death has its consequences. I won’t spoil the story for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, but I will say that Miller does a wonderful job in staying faithful to the original storyline while adding a bit more dimensions to the characters. And her interpretation of Achilles proves to be complex as we aren’t certain whether to accept him for his confidence/pride or to dislike him for it. Either way, both Patroclus and Achilles are both painted as humans, entirely filled with fault and imperfections as well as love and kindness, and hate and sadness.

The connection between Patroclus and Achilles is pure and strong, a bond that stretches through the years. Their relationship is decidedly one of the most important and touching aspects of the entire book. In more ways than one, their bond is the foundation of the story as both characters fear for the other and love one another despite what others may say about them.

Miller excellently displays their love and how it builds up over time, from their youth to their adulthood. For those of us familiar with The Illiad, we know how their story ends. And while Miller had the opportunity to leave it as is, she shared a conclusion that was a bit more compassionate to its characters, bringing in an extra level of light where there could have been darkness. The story is a tragedy, but not in the traditional sense.

And so, I all I can say is I loved this story. There were some characters that I felt could have been expanded on/utilized a bit more (specifically Briseis, Achilles and Patroclus’ “slave” and friend), and the war scenes could have been a bit more detailed, but other than that I don’t have much more to complain about.

Read this book. It’ll break your heart, but for all the right reasons.
109 people found this helpful
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Roman Blair
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I fell in love
Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2018
This book is without a doubt the greatest literary surprise of my life. I had it on my wish list for a long time but I thought it might be a cheesy love story and wasn''t in a rush to read it. I could not have been more wrong. Never has a book swept me up so much.... See more
This book is without a doubt the greatest literary surprise of my life. I had it on my wish list for a long time but I thought it might be a cheesy love story and wasn''t in a rush to read it. I could not have been more wrong.

Never has a book swept me up so much. When people say they couldn''t put a book down, it''s usually an expression. Not so with this one. Other people have left far better reviews and more eloquent summaries, so I will simply say that this book changed me while I read it. So few books have the power to do that, but those that do are the greatest books you will ever read.

I love ancient history, I have seen and read versions of this story countless times. This one puts all the rest to shame. I cannot praise it enough, and I know this will be a book I re-read regularly for the rest of my life.
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Top reviews from other countries

Theo
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Eh
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2019
I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with the Iliad because it’s been out a while, so, Spoilers, I guess? The Song of Achilles is a retelling, one which takes the myth and runs with it. Here Achilles really is the son of a sea nymph, he is trained by a centaur, and gods...See more
I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with the Iliad because it’s been out a while, so, Spoilers, I guess? The Song of Achilles is a retelling, one which takes the myth and runs with it. Here Achilles really is the son of a sea nymph, he is trained by a centaur, and gods play their part in the lives of man. I used to know my Classics a lot better that I do now - Roger Lancelyn Green’s books were a staple of my childhood library - so this was a book which unfolded for me. I remembered each plot point as we hit it, so I’m entirely the wrong person to ask if it makes any logical sense. It probably doesn’t. It certainly could have done a better job of selling ancient motivations to a modern audience. The story is told by Patroclus, a prince and, when he begins this story, unlikely candidate for Helen’s hand in marriage. I am super here for a room full of men deciding what will happen to a teenage girl, as you can imagine. This is a male story, though, and Miller doesn’t attempt to change that. However, when Patroclus inadvertently kills another boy, he is exiled to the court of Peleus where he falls swooningly in love with Mary Sue Achilles, who’s super perfect at everything (as one expects from a demi-god). Thetis, Achilles’ mother, really hates Patroclus. The boys go off to learn things on a mountain. They are swoonily swoony. They come back. Thetis hates Patroclus. Then she hides Achilles because she doesn’t want him to go to Troy as he will be killed. Once the war actually begins, a good half way through the book, things improve, in part because there’s actually things happening. There is air of inexorability to the whole thing which really gets into its stride in the last third as we make the drive towards what is fated to happen (and we’re no longer reading rambling scenes about how swoony teenage Achilles is). When Miller hits the predetermined narrative events, she’s good. When she’s making her own way between, she’s… less good. For a book which treats the gods as real, there’s an awful lot of “something’s happening because the gods are displeased” conversations, followed by “here’s the solution to that” conversations. Obviously there’s no one correct version of many of the myths, but sometimes Miller takes the path of most boredom, such as the demand for the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Apollo’s appearance on the walls of Troy especially charmed me, so the omission of the gods involvement in other ways, even as a background, felt disappointing. I am also critical of the characterisation. Odysseus is great, true, but everybody else? Eh. Achilles lives his whole life chained to the prophecies made about him, but whatever this does to him remains unexplored. He’s just some guy. Admittedly one who is super good at everything and jolly good looking. And when we’re reading the narrative of a boy, then man, who is in love with him, I’d really have preferred to grasp the appeal. Thetis is especially poorly done. Like her son she is chained to the pronouncements of the Fates, but here she is a pure JustNoMil. She’s such a central figure in the original myth - the Trojan war begins because of a prophecy made about her: the son of Thetis will be greater than his father, hence “marriage” to Peleus, hence somebody not doing the invitations right, hence golden apple etc etc etc I was also unreasonably annoyed that Miller chooses to not use the one thing everybody knows about our demi-god: that he really should have invested in some foot armour. Google assures me Homer doesn’t include the story of Thetis’s attempt to make her son invulnerable and immortal, but Homer doesn’t include Achilles’ death, either. Or the romantic relationship between him and Patroclus. It felt like a massive oversight rather than a deliberate decision. The beginning was interesting if not grippy. Then it got a bit dull. Then a bit duller. Then, by the end, it was very good indeed. I don’t rule out reading Circe, Miller’s second full length novel, but I could just as easily not. Overall? 3 stars
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H J Mac
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I can''t gush enough about this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 28, 2018
OMG, I held my breath for the second half of this book. My memory of the events was enough to know what had to happen, but that simply doesn''t spoil a thing. She''s managed to take everything we know of the story from the existing texts and build a world that is thoroughly...See more
OMG, I held my breath for the second half of this book. My memory of the events was enough to know what had to happen, but that simply doesn''t spoil a thing. She''s managed to take everything we know of the story from the existing texts and build a world that is thoroughly absorbing and beautiful. It''s a story of epic soul binding love, so beautifully rendered. I really enjoyed how there was no modern lens put onto the story. She just tells it. Ideas and concepts that mean something to us would have been meaningless to the ancients, and behaviours we find unacceptable were normal. So some bits are difficult, there''s human sacrifice, and slavery including sexual slavery, but nothing is gratuitous or too graphic. Just read it it''s beautiful.
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E
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
READ IT
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 25, 2016
A very short review, I''m afraid. Not worthy of this book. Does this count as historical, or mythological, or pure fantasy? Don''t care - brilliant, brilliant book. It was positively painful to read it if I''m honest but I couldn''t put it down. One of those books that I felt a...See more
A very short review, I''m afraid. Not worthy of this book. Does this count as historical, or mythological, or pure fantasy? Don''t care - brilliant, brilliant book. It was positively painful to read it if I''m honest but I couldn''t put it down. One of those books that I felt a true and consuming sense of loss for a few days after reading it. Recommended to EVERYONE.
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Trish Pea
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I wasn''t looking forward to reading this book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 11, 2018
I didn''t choose to read this book. It was chosen for me as a book-club read. I don''t like books about mythology (school in the 1960s put me off for life.) Or ancient history, or wars in any period of history, apart from maybe the two world wars. So, I bought this book with...See more
I didn''t choose to read this book. It was chosen for me as a book-club read. I don''t like books about mythology (school in the 1960s put me off for life.) Or ancient history, or wars in any period of history, apart from maybe the two world wars. So, I bought this book with trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I didn''t quite believe all the good reviews, and thought I would hate it. I actually loved it. This is a beautifully-written, very descriptive book. It was easy to read, and a real page turner. I felt that I learned a lot about ancient Greece and the Trojan war. I can''t fully remember the story of Achilles from school (it has been erased from my memory, along with Jason and the Argonauts, and the Minotaur) but I loved this re-telling and couldn''t put the book down. The simple, striking cover is beautiful too and I would thoroughly recommend this book. A wonderful read.
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Phyllis May
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Poignant, intelligent and readable. One of my top 5 books of all time
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2017
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I''ve actually got quite a few copies and just purchased the new classic cover release because it''s beautiful. This story is a re-telling and very readable version of a classic myth from the Illiad. Miller''s prose breathes life...See more
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I''ve actually got quite a few copies and just purchased the new classic cover release because it''s beautiful. This story is a re-telling and very readable version of a classic myth from the Illiad. Miller''s prose breathes life and very relatable romance into this myth in a way that will grip you. I''d highly recommend it to anyone who loves greek myths, to people studying classics and to people who ever wondered how long men have been loving men. Its a real work of art and one that''s so easy to read again and again. It''s also a great time to re-read miller because she''s about to release her second book (FINALLY). Also Miller knows what she''s talking about and her work is heavily researched and intelligent so for all those hoping it''s not a sloppy mistelling of a Greek myth- it''s absolutely not. I wish i could read it for the first time again.
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