5 stars out of 5
I’ve been interested in the Trojan War since middle school, when I read a book with Helen as the narrator. Years later, I read the Iliad and the Odyssey, Plato’s take on Homer, and other bits that fermented my interest in Greek epic-history. I considered myself well briefed in the Trojan War, until I picked up this book and read a name I have never seen before, the name Patroclus.
Achilles is a name the majority of people associate with the Trojan War, along side Ajax, Odysseus, Helen, Hector, Paris, and Agamemnon. Where is Patroclus, the man who loved and was loved by Achilles? He’s here, in Madeline Miller’s wonderful novel. The summary from Goodreads goes:
Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.
Seriously, how can you read that description and not start drooling? This novel is goooooood, like so good I cannot even fully describe the goodness it entails.
If you’re scared to read about two boys kissing, well, this is a good place to open your mind. A lot of the greatness in this novel is the fact that it exposes that one of the greatest warriors and manly men of the Earth’s collective consciousness was openly gay, that even years later PLATO was talking about his relationship with Patroclus as being more than a stupid bro-mance. It makes the reader ask why has this relationship been lost? Well, why do you think? I think it’s fairly obvious.
Any-who, go buy, borrow, or check-out this novel. It will teach you something about the Greek epics that you may not find elsewhere. Oh, and check out Rick Riordan’s review. If that doesn’t sell it, I don’t know what will.