Rick Riordan's Reviews > The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
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it was amazing

A new take on the Iliad, written by a high school classics teacher -- how could I not read this? The Song of Achilles retells the story of Greece's greatest hero from the point of view of his best friend Patroclus. The big twist: Madeline Miller casts the story as a romance between Achilles and Patroclus. While staying true to Greek legends and the works of Homer, Miller creatively and convincingly fills in the blanks, giving Patroclus a back story that makes perfect sense, and tracing the friendship, and eventual romance, between the two young men in a way that casts a new light on the human side of the Trojan War.

I always found Achilles to be an unsympathetic character -- a brat, a bully, a big-headed jerk who knows he's the star player on the team and throws a tantrum if he gets put on the bench. Miller shows his unattractive qualities, but she also shows that Achilles is human. He's capable of love. He's deeply conflicted. He has a sense of humor and a gentle side. We see him through Patroclus's eyes, growing from a privileged child to a sensitive teen to a young man struggling to balance his personal feelings with the expectations of an entire country. If you've read the Iliad, you know that the story will have a tragic end, but it's also strangely uplifting and hopeful. I'll never be able to read about these characters the same way again, and that's a good thing. Reading The Song of Achilles put a new light on this ancient story. It was like watching a really good interpretation of a Shakespeare play. You think you know the story, but you're surprised to find how many layers of new meaning can be brought out by a smart production.

The book is certainly appropriate for YA and up. The prose is elegant in its simplicity. Miller gives Patroclus a Hemmingway-like directness. I read a New York Times review of this book which I thought patently unfair, complaining that the style made the book seem like a fast-food version of the Iliad. I think this misses the whole point of the story. Patroclus's mission in The Song of Achilles is to cut through the legend of the hero and show us the mortal side of demigod. He doesn't want the pompous metaphors and flowery hyperbole of a war epic to bury Achilles's other qualities -- his tenderness, his insecurity, his honesty and lack of guile. The Song of Achilles can serve as an excellent introduction or counterpoint to the study of the Iliad. It certainly made the story new and vibrant for me, despite how many times I've read Homer.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 8, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-47 of 47 (47 new)

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Stephanie Exactly! Her take on this classic is a breath of fresh air! In his Symposium, Plato theorized the two were lovers, so Miller took the idea and ran with it, with wonderful results!!


Brendan Mullan Inclined to agree. An excellent story that explores the complexity of their relationship helping it resonate with a modern audience.


message 4: by SakuraPlum (new)

SakuraPlum This and this and this!


message 5: by L (new) - rated it 5 stars

L the Nerd i'm crying over your review right here right now, rick -that was beautiful man


Beth Lee Excellent review! Achilles just got bumped to the top of my list!


Chris Zimmitti Great review Rick! I've always been a fan of your books whether I was reading them in highschool or out of college and to read this book it gave me a whole new perspective on the Hero Achilles and his human emotions growing up with Patroclus and eventually falling in love with him.


message 8: by Red (new) - rated it 5 stars

Red Raven I love to read it can't wait


message 9: by Samantha (new) - added it

Samantha Who else here just put The Song of Achilles on the top of their list just because of Uncle Rick?


Yamile Méndez I just love your reviews.


Neylane Naually Amazing review! I just finished the book and that's exactly what I felt while reading it.


Nobonita - The Bengali Nomad MY HEART CAN'T EVEN! I read this back in 2012 but I didn't notice until recently that you've reviewed this on Goodreads. This book really is an all-time favourite for me! <3


message 14: by Veronica (new) - added it

Veronica Bejarano Oh my God! This is the book! Thank you! Have a great day :)


message 15: by Isabella (new)

Isabella Tuce I just love your review and it sorta made me restless to read the book! hence I'm going to pick it up right away!


Mary Ann Excellent and comprehensive review! I referenced your name in my own brief review; I hope you don't mind.


message 17: by Kate (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kate Ayala Love your reviews!


message 18: by Diego (new) - added it

Diego Rafael Legends supporting legends


message 19: by So (new) - rated it 5 stars

So Yeah I'm late to this, but Rick knows what he's talking about. This book give a fresh version for the new generation to enjoy. We love the classic but boy, Homer is a master and his writing is difficult, we don't have the luxury and time and patience and even the concentration to read his work, but Miller's just saves the day!


Lucas Stewart Great review, and thanks for lampooning the lampooner! Totally disagreed with the NYT review as well.


Madeline There is nothing left to add to your brilliant review. I couldn't agree more with everything you had to say.


Mary Ann Rick, have you read Miller's new book, Circe?


Brandie Lea Slicer I love your review. I haven't read Homer since HS. However, this book really brought a different sense of Achilles, the Trojan War, and as you seemed to note, it just seemed to make sense. Even though I knew how it had to end, I hated for it to end. I have a new favorite Author.


message 24: by alina (new)

alina excellent review


Cindy I fell in love with the story in a way I couldn’t in High School.


Jasmine I just finished this and your review sums it up perfectly 😍


Nancy I love smart stories that breathe new life into Greek mythologies, so it makes me so happy to see Rick Riordan supporting Madeline Miller! Both are literary geniuses :)


Anupama C K(b0rn_2_read) Great Review :-). I agree with everything you said


Marco G this review is so on point. Love the book love the simplistic prose. he said it perfectly when he wrote I'll never look at the Iliad the same way again.


Louise Pronovost Well said!


Andrea Spot on review! On to Circe!


HollyLovesBooks Terrific review. I recently read a 6th grade version of these events with my daughter and surprised myself by enjoying it. This was 100 times better! And I remembered even in that watered down version there was a hint of the true relationship between Achilles and Patroclus so it was interesting to see Miller bring that further in this. Extremely well written book and I’m ready for Circe.


Linda Read about “Circe” and it sounded interesting so, of course, I had to read Achilles first. Your review is excellent and expresses my feelings as well.


message 34: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Thanks for the great review, which summarizes my opinion exactly. Now I don’t need to struggle to create a review that will fall short of yours anyway.


Glhea Talle Ahhhh my thoughts exactly!!


message 36: by Vj (new) - rated it 1 star

Vj Too homophobic for me. Not into that.


Delcene Jones Ricks review nails it.
Jolly fine book indeed.


Sisilia Pauu It’s like you took the words right out of my mouth. Perfectly said. Side note: This book has ruined me for any other version of the tale and I’m not mad about it. Lol


Linda Great review and a wonderful book.


Annie ⚜️ Great review though I disagree that this is YA appropriate. I thought the sex was too graphic for YA.


Despina Legakis Rick, do you have a recommended translation of The Iliad?


message 42: by Thea (new) - added it

Thea Ramsay As a reader, I'd like to check this one out for sure. I've never read anything by Homer, though I'm no stranger to Greek mythology.
As a writer, I'd like to craft this kind of tapestry.


message 43: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Brilliant review. How could NYT call this masterpiece a fast food version of the Iliad? More like a bold new vintage from an established winery.


Benjamin Hoffman I rated this book five stars because it was very well-written, but I think some criticism is due. The Illiad is quite clear that Achilles and Patroclus slept with women captured in raids and battle. There is also no reason why the Greeks would leave put a romancr between Patroclus and Achilles since homosexuality was not a big deal to them. Madeline Miller is just jumping on the politically correct, social justice warrior train. Albeit, very elegantly.


message 45: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Leonard Currently reading and absolutely LOVING it. I would agree with others though that the sexual content is too much for YA.
I haven’t read a book with two male lovers as protagonists before and I have to say I am finding it beautifully written!


message 46: by Debby Mate (new)

Debby Mate I hate it I hate it I hate it I hate it


message 47: by Mwahahahaha (new) - added it

Mwahahahaha I love your books Rick! You and your reviews as well, highly informational


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