This is literally a song of Achilles, all from the point of view of a doting, soft Patroclus - Achilles' childhood friend then lover. He waxes poetic about Achilles throughout the book and it gets a little grating, especially because it's all in his narration and he never actually says these things to Achilles himself.
Patroclus life is hard from the jump with a hateful father and a distant, insane mother (described constantly as simple or stupid). After he accidentally kills a nobleman's son over some dice he was given, he is sent into exile to Achilles' father's palace. The reason he ends up here is a little confusing if you don't already know the details of the legend, but it saves him in many ways. Achilles is quick to make a friend of Patroclus, probably out of curiosity as Patroclus is a very quite, broken child, reeling still from the accidental murder. Only after a few years and they're best friends does Patroclus risk a kiss on Achilles, but Achilles has gay panic and runs off - and, while they remain friends, they never speak of it. It's not until they're 16 and off training in the mountains with the ancient centaur Chiron that they finally come together as lovers. Achilles' demi-god/sea nymph mother Thetis is constantly meddling in their lives, thinking she's saving Achilles from his fate. She's described as something like the mermaids in Harry Potter and Patroclus is understandably afraid of her. It's her fault that Achilles' ends up in another kingdom, disguised as a dancing girl. There's a time jump here between them on the mountain and then Patroclus finding Achilles in this situation and I missed the why's and how's, but it's mostly Thetis' meddling. They're still found by the Greek generals and forced into service after Helen is "kidnapped." The middle of the book is mostly spent on ships or camping trying to get to Troy to fight and is honestly Boring. I don't think I would have kept going if I was reading this myself and not half-listening to the audiobook while working.Now, if you're like me and most of your knowledge of this comes from the 2004 Hollywood film "Troy" then this is where you'll start to recognize things - only it's from Patroclus' (Garret Hedlund's) POV so you see more of what Agamemnon and Achilles and the Spartans, etc. were up to outside the walls of Troy instead of the Trojans' side of things. The story of Troy with Paris, Hector, and Helen is actually pretty boring to me, because it's just a bunch of stupid adults acting like children and the gods putting their hand in things they shouldn't give two shits about, but seeing the other side kept me a little more engaged. The only issue is that since it's from Patroclus' POV who doesn't really fight until they breach Troy so you have to get through him being a camp wife for way too many chapters. He makes friends with the stolen Trojan women and doesn't do much else. At this point, I wish the book switches between Achilles' and Patroclus' POVs so we could get a little more action and see what's going on during the battle but alas. In the first battle of Troy, Patroclus has enough time to stare at the glistening, straining muscles of his boyfriend killing Trojans with a spear instead of doing any actual fighting himself. This is where the title of the book really lives up to itself and it gets a little nauseating. After this, instead of fighting, Patroclus is sent to the medical tent and it's interesting to hear how battle wounds may have been treated in these times. He was taught by Chiron in herbal medicine as well as fighting during his time in the mountains so this serves him here. This becomes his role in the camp as the years go on. Besides this brief stint in a single chapter, there's a whole lot of sitting around though. I guess that's why the war goes on for 10 years.It's at this point that you realise there's still a whole quarter of the book left and you despair.Almost everything after that point is politics and Achilles being a big baby guided by revenge until he's finally dead himself. The last quarter of the book is still from the now-dead Patroclus' POV but he's this floating spirit waiting for Achilles and then who's left to bury him, watching everything happen around him, only able to talk to demi-humans like Thetis. This is "canon" from the original Iliad but after over 7 hours of the book, I was ready to give up the ghost (pun intended).
Overall, I definitely wouldn't have finished this book if I had been reading it on my own. It's like a really dense high fantasy novel. The best parts are the small moments of interaction between our two main characters but those are only sprinkled in-between long bouts of battle and politics. This is a book that doesn't really fit into one genre - it's a romance, a military epic, high fantasy, and a coming-of-age tale at different moments. It's also ridiculously long and since I already knew the basic plot and how it ends, I was pretty bored through whole chapters. I'm not big on Greek mythos and that's kind of required. But it's definitely well written and Miller obviously knows her stuff (she has a MA in classics so yeah) so it will surely please people interested in all of that, as attested by the high rating and awards.
I listened to the Audible version narrated by Frazer Douglas. I'm pretty picky with voices which is why I don't really get through audiobooks easily but Douglas' voice was very nice and engaging. Note that there are graphic and sexually explicit scenes, both M/M and F/M, so not one you'd really want to listen to while in the office.