The Song of Achilles by
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.
I am publishing a review of this book not just because it is a fantastic read. I devoured all 600 some odd pages in a day! It was that engrossing. I am also making the effort to publish a review, because it should be praised and noted that such a book was published and promoted by a major publishing house at all. At the heart of this re-imagining of Homer's Iliad is a homoerotic love story. If you really want to draw a fine point on it, The Song of Achilles is basically fanfiction and slash at that! This is in no way a slam from me. I wrote slash fiction for many years for fun and as writing exercises. I still write it when certain needs arise. Beyond that, there are dozens of writers and small presses publishing homoerotic fiction in every genre in a niche arena, because of lack of interest from the major publishers and hostility from much of the Romance community.
The Song of Achilles is beautifully written. Though the character lived in another time and is thought of as more myth than man, Miller makes Patroclus so empathetic that it is easy to slip into his shoes and see through his eyes. In many ways, Patroclus is more heroic than Achilles. He faces everything the legendary warrior faces without all of his physical strength and without the graces from the gods. Through him, the reader takes that epic journey of Achilles' rise to near godhood and his fall into legend. But this journey feels real as do all the emotion felt by these young men. Their love is portrayed as something that is not only natural it is also the most logical thing to happen. Achilles has the burden of his mother's and the god's expectations from his first breath. There are few could keep his closest counsel. Patroclus had once been a prince and heir to a throne of his own. Who better to be a companion to a future king and god? Friendship grows over time and depends naturally into an intense love that can withstand all that their world and the heavens above could visit upon it.
The love between Achilles and Patroclus is also very earthly in the fulfillment of their desires. This novel is sexually sophisticated. Sex fuels even the most lofty ambitions amongst this cast of kings and queens and demi-gods. The couplings are beautifully written to reflect each character and the nature of the relationship. Patroclus revels in his enjoyment of Achilles' beauty while the intensity of Achilles' regard makes Patroclus feel beautiful, wanted and loved. Even when they come together without time or preamble, these sex scenes are lyrical and moving.
Though I was familiar with the Illiad and have seen many versions of Achilles' story on big screens and small, I was surprised by how Miller told this version and deeply moved by the end. But I will not spoil things here. I cannot say that the book is perfect. There is an issue with the point of view that vexed me because it was easily corrected. But that small issue is not enough to keep me from highly recommending the book. I also urge those who already read this genre to read the book. Then, write to the publisher and let that company know that you'd like to see more like this. And make it clear that there are a lot of titles in this genre out there worthy of the national stage. Maybe this book can start a most welcome trend.