Ashlyn Chapman

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


My Thoughts

The Song of Achilles is a nice little twist on the typical Greek tragedy. It's refreshing.

Most of my background for Greek tales come from Percy Jackson. The Song of Achilles is not a YA story. It's a love story during the Trojan War, and it is brutal.

The novel starts a bit lovey-dovey. By the end, its massacre.

At first the novel is difficult to read -- there's tons of long Greek names. You get used to it. Miller's writing style is succinct and elegant. At times, she misses some descriptive world building elements, but you will survive.

The characters who I loved and hated slowly swapped throughout the story. The narrator, Patroclus, started as an unbearable loser--an exile. He was timid and weak. By the end, Patroclus became the real hero who saved the day (except its a Greek tragedy, so the day is not actually saved). He become bold, cunning, and compassionate.

Achilles, by contrast, started out likeable, admirable, and physically strong. It is said he was the greatest of the Greeks. He ends up cruel and arrogant. The two characters transformation in my mind mirrors their relationship. As Patroclus gains more self-assurance and independence, the rose colored glasses come off. Together we see Achilles for who he truly is.

Or, we see Achilles for who he become. How prophecy and power corrupts one's ego. How he was bred to be a war machine--by his goddess mother, by his fellow Greeks, by everyone except his lover.

My Highlights

She would take him to the caves of the sea and teach him contempt for mortals. She would feed him with the food of the gods and burn his human blood from his veins. She would shape him into a figure meant to be painted on vases, to be sung of in songs, to fight against Troy. pg122

Goddess mother is raising a human destined to be a hero.

It turned out that she did know a little Greek. A few words that her father had picked up and taught her when he heard the army was coming. Mercy was one. Yes and please and what do you want? A father, teaching his daughter how to be a slave. pg230

I began to surprise Achilles, calling out to these men as we walked through the camp. ...

After they wre gone, Achilles would shake his head. "I don't know how you remember them all. I swear they look the same to me."


"There are too many of them," he said. "It's simpler if they just remember me." pg261

Achilles is a bit arrogant. Knowing someone's name is the easiest way to befriend them. Someone's name is their favorite sound.

My mind is filled with cataclysm and apocalypse: I wish for earthquakes, eruptions, flood. Only that seems large enough to hold all of my rage and grief. I want the world overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at my feet. pg286-287

Patroclus compares these huge natural disasters with a small thing--cracked eggs. He is the one causing the disaster. Eggs are nothing to him, just like the gods sending natural disasters to Earth.

Yet I am climbing. I will crack their uncrackable city, and capture Helen, the precious gold yolk within. pg332

Again with the egg metaphor.

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