Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

13537029Greece 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.

Rating: ★★★

So, this book. I was really, really excited about it. Everyone I know – and in whose opinion I trust – loved it, so The Song of Achilles was already a confirmed great read in my mind. Imagine my surprise then when… well, it wasn’t. It’s still a good book, just not the amazing story I was hoping it would be.

Here’s the thing: I think this book only works if the reader is invested in Achilles and Patroclus’s relationship. It’s what the story is really about, in the end, and the foundation upon which the book was built. If it doesn’t work for you… Well, then the whole thing crumbles. That’s what happened with me.

I’ve talked about it before, about how picky I am when it comes to romance (in the Truthwitch review, I think?), and honestly, I don’t know where my aroaceness’s influence in this ends and where my being a pseudo-logical person starts, or maybe it’s just impossible to separate these two things, but it’s simple in the end: I can’t and won’t care about a romance – or a friendship, but especially a romance – if I don’t understand how it came to be or why these characters even care about each other. I need to know why they would want to be in a relationship, what they saw in each other, things like that (that’s why slow burn is what I live for). And yes, you can’t rationalize the whole thing – I mean, it’s love – but still, no one will be the love of your life just by being gorgeous. There are always reasons.

So that was my problem with Achilles and Patroclus’s romance. I couldn’t see it happening. In a moment they were friends (kind of? Maybe?) and in the next, puff, they were in love. Intensely in love. I didn’t buy it.

To be honest, it took them years to go from maybe-friends to lovers, but it didn’t feel like that because years fly by really fast in this book. So, technically speaking, their relationship is plausible, yes, but I didn’t feel things changing so I didn’t care much about them in the end. Also, it didn’t help much that the only thing I felt about Achilles was mild annoyance. Not even Patroclus’s narration (or maybe because of it?) made me like him.

In conclusion, The Song of Achilles is still, like I said before, a good book. It’s really well written and easy to read – even if the pace is kind of slow in the first 2/3 – and it shows that the author did her research. But, well, it didn’t make a lasting impression on me, unfortunately. 3.0 stars.

(Also, was it a mistake to read it right after Kings Rising? Yes, it was. Well.)

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