“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”
The Song of Achilles was a unique, thoroughly enjoyable take on the story of Troy and in particular, that of Achilles. I have always loved Greek Mythology, the tales of Greece, of both fantasy and history. The Song of Achilles combines both, presenting a gritty realistic world, and then introduces a great dose of magic and mythology.
The story is told solely from the perspective of Patroclus, a noble who is raised by the father of Achilles. It is here he meets the legend we know today as a young teenager.
Madeline Miller, in a similar book to her other novel, Circe, masterfully crafts her world, slowly and carefully dripping information to the reader in a bearable manner that still pushes plot forward. There was not a single moment that I noticed was just exposition, and this was not in detriment to the story, as I found myself to have a complete visualisation of the world Patroclus was living in. The prose is not particularly incredible, and I would say not as fluid as in Circe, as Miller has obviously perfected her style, but it is simple and effective.
“Odysseus inclines his head. "True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another." He spread his broad hands. "We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?" He smiles. "Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.”
It would have been easy to rely too much on the dramatic irony that we as the reader know much of the story, or to spend less time on characterisation as many readers would be familiar with the heroic figures, But Madeline Miller took those great elements and the familiarity of the topic, and added her own spin to keep the story equally as interesting as if it was completely new.
“There are no bargains between lion and men”
Perhaps one of my only criticisms would be that what is preventing this being an all-out 5-star read for me was that the beginning third was just a bit too slow. I felt that there was a bit of space where characterisation and plot had been cemented enough to advance the pace, but it continued to plateau, until the second phase began. This is not to say it was not enjoyable. It is just that I thought the rest of the story was brilliant, and the beginning in comparison was a bit weaker.
I listened to Song of Achilles on Audiobook, narrated by David Thorpe. It was a good experience, and definitely a story you can listen to without being confused. I thought that the performance by David Thorpe was solid, and enjoyable, being above the norm, but not perhaps brilliant in my opinion. He is very good at slowly building tension and narrating moments of calm, whereas I felt at times a but more passion or urgency would have improved the experience during some of the action scenes.
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
Overall, The Song of Achilles was a great experience. It was about Greek Mythology, which I love, specifically about Troy, from the Iliad, arguably one of the greatest stories of all time, and was formed into a well-crafted story with fantastic characters by Madeline Miller. The story was given an interesting new spin that I thoroughly enjoyed.