” He knows the worst because he’s inflicted the worst “

What a book. So there’s no surprise that I loved this book. It’s based on an Ancient Greek legend from another perspective. It reminds me soo much of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (an amazing book btw, highly recommend). But this book isn’t a melancholic love story.

Here are some themes that resonated with me before I give a quick deep dive into my thoughts.

Grief, friendship, love, war, slavery, violence.

What is this book about?

Achilles. But it doesn’t start and end there. This book is about the Greek-Trojan war and its effect of this on everyday women. We follow our main protagonist Briseis as she is captured and basically is a treasure of war and is picked to be the bed and house slave to Achilles.

Through Briseis, we get to follow the war and the casualties as they pile up. Although we don’t get a look into the Trojan camp, we do see the sick, the dying and those suffering from lucid PTSD within the Greek ranks.

The leading characters from the War throughout Helen are still mentioned and introduced so Hector, Ajax, Agamemnon, Nestor and Odysseus.

What did I like?

  • The character of Briseis, pretty much most of the book is from her POV so you even get to see how her biases play out in her head and the realisation of how stupid this war is. All those lives lost for what?
  • In real-time, we get to see her grieving for Trojans and for her family who she saw die. This comes up continuously but she seems to have nobody to share this with.
  • Patroclus. The close bond he and Achilles share is great to see and for me is what struck the most. They seem inseparable and even when he’s dead you see how this tips Achilles’ world upside down. The irony is, notwithstanding, hasn’t Achilles inflicted this grief onto thousands of other people?

What I didn’t like

  • I wanted more on-paper interactions with Briseis and the other side characters that she’d spend most of the day with.
  • The start of the book is a little confusing for me, had to re-read the first few pages to receive my bearings.
  • More Thetis, always.

Reading this was easy, didn’t feel like a drag but maybe it’s because I needed a break absent from reading approximately the Tudors. This is probably the best book I’ve read in 2022, and my advice is to read The Song of Achilles before or after this one. Although they’re from different authors, they seem to go hand in hand (or heel).

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