The Song of Achilles. Such a familiar name. Such a familiar story. I knew the destiny of every character, I knew exactly what would happen, and yet Madeline Miller’s retelling had me entranced, from the first word to the very last.
That told me that she was a natural storyteller, in complete command of her material.
The story of Achilles is told by Patroclus.
They met as young men, when Patroclus was exiled from his homeland to the court of King Peleus, father of Achilles. At first the friendship between the two, very different, young men was tentative, but it soon grew. Into the closest, unbreakable bond. A complete understanding.
The perspective was perfect, allowing the flawed hero to be closely observed and understood while still allowing he to withdraw into himself.
There were so many rich colours, so many wonderful details, and I knew that there was much, much more to come.
Helen, Queen of Sparta, was abducted by Paris, Prince of Troy. And promises made in the past compelled both Achilles and Patroclus to join the forces laying siege to the city of Troy.
Many stories have been spun around the long years of the Trojan Wars, and Madeline Miller weaves them all together beautifully until, eventually, both Patroclus and Achilles meet their destinies.
I knew what had to happen, and yet so many times I caught my breath. Because the story had so much drama, so much emotion. Because I cared so much, and because I wanted things to be different…
So many things had to be right to pull me in like that.
There was a great deal to be carefully balanced: a huge cast of characters, gods intervening in the mortal world, so many legends, so many details. They all balanced beautifully. And they didn’t just balance. Men and Gods came to life, and I completely believed in them. I was intrigued and I cared – a rare combination.
The author so clearly knew and loved her material. Questions came into my head as I read, and every one was answered. And I felt that I was in safe hands, that she would have the answers to the questions I hadn’t thought to ask too.
That security allowed me to get completely lost the story. An old story brought to life once more, with such wonderful clarity.
I have been to Troy, and I am still reeling.