Readers who love an incredible historical fiction novel infused with mythology have likely devoured The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The beautiful retelling of Homer’s The Iliad focuses on the relationship of Patroclus and Achilles, and offers a passionate spin on their adolescence and their journey to the Trojan War.
When Patroclus, a disappointment to his family, is exiled from his homeland at a young age to Phthia, he befriends charismatic and confident Achilles. As the two form a friendship, they eventually become inseparable, gradually transforming from friends to lovers whose lives are intertwined. When Helen of Troy is captured, the two dutifully attend to the war at hand, as Achilles’ destiny of becoming the greatest warrior echoes in the background, and their tragic fates loom on the shores of Troy.
Readers who enjoy Miller’s rendering of the tale, at once imaginative and exploratory of the various characters created by Homer, while also indulging in the love story between Patroclus and Achilles, will most likely yearn for similar stories. Luckily for readers, the themes of ancient civilizations, war, mythology, and passionate love resound throughout several historical fiction novels.
If The Song of Achilles has sparked your lust for similar historical fiction books, rich with beautifully-crafted settings and woven with mythology, and you’re searching for the best books like it to add to your TBR list, look no further. Below, we’ve rounded up the top 30 titles that will satiate your need to travel back into time. These titles offer readers a chance to immerse themselves in ancient Greece and Rome, and revisit characters from beloved myths, blending history with fantasy.
Circe by Madeline Miller
A great place to start for a read-alike of The Song of Achilles is with Madeline Miller’s other works. She’s educated in Ancient Greek and Latin, and studied at Yale, specializing in adapting classics into modernized versions; as far as an expert in this topic, you can’t really top her credentials. Her title Circe focuses on the daughter of Helios and Perse, who is banished by Zeus once her powers of witchcraft are discovered. When she is forced to decide between being a mortal and a god, she must summon all her courage and strength to fight for what really matters. Readers will love diving back into Ancient Greece, and exploring the stories of ancient myths in this novel.
Galatea by Madeline Miller
This short story, published as its own volume, is a reimagining by Miller of the myth Pygamela and Galatea, and has serious staying power as far as today’s themes go for modern-day feminists. When a sculptor in Ancient Greece chisels a beautiful woman out of marble, who then comes to life as his wife, he has high expectations of how she should behave. Told through the perspective of Galatea, the sculpture, she challenges and fights back against the abuse and misogynistic attitude of the sculptor.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
For a completely different version of Achilles and Patroclus than the one presented by Miller, pick up Barker’s work. Set in Ancient Greece, this story focuses on Queen Briesies in the days leading up to the Trojan War, when Achilles has stormed her city. When she is given as a concubine to Achilles, her life completely changes, and she becomes a pivotal, inciting force in the rest of the war. When Agammemon sets his sights on her and attempts to take her from Achilles, he reacts by refusing to fight, causing Patroclus to lose his life, and a spiraling series of events afterwards. For a gritty, enthralling story of lust, war, and Ancient Greece told through the eyes of the females who were involved, The Silence of the Girls is the perfect read.
The Women of Troy by Pat Barker
If you loved The Song of Achilles, devoured The Silence of the Girls, and are ready for another similar book by Barker, The Women of Troy is where it’s at for you. Picking up where The Silence of the Girls left off, this is the rest of the tale, after Troy has fallen, and after Achilles has been killed, leaving behind a pregnant Briesies. When she’s married to Alcimus, she attempts to forge alliances and rise about the gruesome aftermath of the war. Another strong female protagonist leads this story, which is rooted in ancient Greek mythology.
The Wolf Den Trilogy by Elodie Harper
Books set in Pompeii have a certain looming tragedy over them, since readers know what tragedy will befall the city. Yet Amara’s hopefulness about creating a better life for herself in this trilogy will keep readers coming back for the whole trilogy. When Amara’s father dies suddenly, she is sold by her own mother to a brothel in Pompeii. Despite being owned by a man she hates, and forced to be a slave, Amara’s spirit is unbroken, and she dreams of forging her own destiny. The first in a trilogy, The Wolf Den introduces readers to the cunning and courageous women who ran the streets of the ancient city of Pompeii.
Phaedra by Laura Shepperson
In another example of a modern author empowering the women in ancient mythologies, Phaedra is a beautiful work that mixes historical fiction with mythology. A powerful story that readers of The Song of Achilles will delight in, this novel tells the story of Phaedra, the young bride of Theseus. When she is sexually assaulted by Theseus’s son Hippolytus, she defies expectations and speaks out, placing accusations for the people of Ancient Greece to mull over and eventually decide her fate.
The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
Fans of Mary Renault are loyal, claiming that any title she writes is gold as far as historical fiction goes. This expertly written novel follows the life of Alexias, son of an Athenian patrician family who lives in Ancient Greece. During his adolescence and early adulthood, Alexias fights in wars, studies under Socrates, and falls in love with Lysis, with whom he has a life-long relationship. Perfect for readers who enjoyed The Song of Achilles, Renault’s writing will not disappoint.
The Songs of Kings by Barry Unsworth
This powerful tale, set in Ancient Greece, explores the relationship between a powerful father and his daughter. Greek soldiers preparing to leave for Troy to reclaim King Agammemon’s sister-in-law Helen, are stalled by the stubborn lack of winds. When advisors suggest to the King that the gods will be pleased by a sacrifice, he considers. But the sacrifice would need to be his daughter, Iphigenia, which is an ask that the courageous young lady herself may not allow happen.
House of Names by Colm Toibin
After you devour The Songs of Kings, you’ll want to make sure you have this novel on hand. Set against the backdrop of Ancient Greece, and written by a different author, House of Names reimagines the consequences King Agammemon faces after he’s brutally sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. Livid by his actions, his wife kills him, only to be killed in turn by one of her sons. The devastating aftermath of Agammemnon’s ruthless decision makes for a seriously twisted family tale of revenge and shifting loyalties.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Naynes
This collection of short stories is perfect for fans of The Song of Achilles, particularly for readers who are curious about the women affected by the Trojan War. Enter the minds of Penelope, who awaits Oydsseus’s return from his journey, Hecabe, who is now the fallen queen of Troy, and others’ whose lives have been disrupted by the gruesome 10-year war that ravaged Troy.
Helen of Troy by Margaret George
For a beautiful retelling of the legend of Helen, whose passionate affair with the Trojan prince Paris launched the Trojan War, Margaret George is your author. Told through the eyes of the princess herself, readers will be swept into her story as she discovers she is the daughter of a god, is married to a man double her age, and is swept into a lustful affair with Paris, that ultimately launches a drawn-out war.
Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood
The tale of Helen and Klytemnestra, two sisters who are born to the King of Sparta, and who are eventually married off to two different kings has garnered high recommendations from Heywood’s fans. Despite expectations of simply producing an heir to the throne, the two are capable of so much more, and when the Trojan War occurs, the two are forced to reckon with their position in life and redefine themselves.
Elektra by Jennifer Saint
Jennifer Saint’s incredible storytelling skills illuminate the pages of Elektra, which tells of the curse that has befallen the House of Atreus. Following the storylines of Clytemnestra, Cassandra, and Elektra, the three women are destined to intertwine, as their futures lie in the hands of the men of Greece and the gods in whom they believe.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
The author of The Handmaid’s Tale has a talent for crafting immersive and compelling historical fictions, with The Penelopiad being among the most incredible of her works. Did you ever wonder what Odysseus left behind when he embarked on his epic journey? Penelope, his wife, was left back to rule over Ithaca; when he returned, he killed her suitors and twelve of her handmaids, leaving others to wonder, what exactly went on while Odysseus was gone?
The Sertorious Scrolls by Vincent B. Davis
If you’re searching for a fascinating historical fiction series that’s set in Ancient Rome, like The Song of Achilles, try The Sertorius Scrolls. Follow Quintus Sertorious as he tries to defend his small town against invaders, fights in a war, and becomes a legate in Greece. A compulsively readable series that thrusts readers into the ancient world, Davis might just become your new favorite historical fiction writer.
Ithaca by Claire North
The first in the series The Songs of Penelope, this is another incredible tale based on Penelope, the wife Odysseus left behind when he sailed towards battle in the Trojan Wars with all of the young men from the land. As a young woman, Penelope is left to run the land in the absence of the men of the kingdom, and reality begins to dawn upon her when her husband has not returned in over a decade. She has a choice to make: who to marry to replace Odysseus, understanding that whoever she chooses can tip the balance of the kingdom.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
This powerful and incredibly gorgeous novel reimagines the life of Jesus, as seen through the eyes of the woman he loved, Ana. As a young lady, she meets the mysterious young man, and is drawn to his gentle spirit; as they fall for each other, spiritually and romantically, their marriage and life unfolds together. When Jesus departs on various quests to preach his ideas, Ana is left behind to deal with loss, her life with Jesus’s family, and eventually departs Nazareth for Alexandria. Told through the female perspective, this creative reimagining of Biblical stories focuses on the strength of Ana, and her love for a man that gave himself to others.
Glory and the Lightning by Taylor Caldwell
To truly revel in an ancient world, pick up Glory and Lightning by Taylor Caldwell; this saga follows the love of powerful couple Aspasia and Pericles, the ruling couple of Athens at the start of the Peloponnesian War. Readers will be intrigued by Aspasia, who was secretly educated, rather than being killed for being born female, and later opened a school for girls, and has become a symbol of Greek feminism. Although she had it all: brains, beauty, her life with Pericles was rippled with tragedy.
Soldier by Jay Penner
For historical fiction fans who are searching for a new series to sink their literary teeth into, Jay Penner’s The Spartacus Rebellion series is a must-read. When Spartacus, the son of a Maedi chief, dishonors himself and his family, he is forced to become a Roman soldier. As he seeks redemption, he learns the skills it takes to become a leader and a soldier.
Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
The world knows about Antony and Cleopatra, but what about their twins? What happened to them after the death of their parents? Moran invites readers into her beautiful world, following Selene and Alexander, as they are held as prisoners by Caesar’s family, until their future is threatened. A fascinating look at Ancient Rome, historical fiction fans will fly through these pages, rich with characters, love, and political turmoil.
Ithaca by Patrick Dillon
Dillon offers a unique perspective on Homer’s Odysseus, tapping into the perspective of his son, Telemachus. Left behind when his father left to fight in the Trojan Wars for 20 years, Telemachus struggles with abandonment and anger, and vows to find his father. As he sets out for a journey across Ancient Greece, he witnesses the aftermath of the Trojan War, and hopes to find himself and his father. For fans who enjoyed the character development in The Song of Achilles, they’ll appreciate the psychological exploration Dillon does into the mind of Telemachus.
Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King
Told from the perspective of Thrasius, a cook who has been purchased by Apicius, with his own dreams of becoming the culinary advisor to Caesar. As Thrasius joins Apicius’s family, falling in love with a handmaiden in the house, Apicius’s determination to gain power and position in Caesar’s favor threatens those around him.
The Fort by Adrian Goldsworthy
If you enjoyed the war scenes in The Song of Achilles and are drawn to action-packed books with plenty of gore, The Fort may be your next read. Flavius Fox has been put in charge of a fort on the edges of the Roman Empire, near the Danube. He knows that the nation is on the brink of war with Dacia and is forced to grapple with the soldiers under his command, and the oncoming war.
The Night Villa by Carol Goodman
For a suspenseful twist of historical fiction and mystery, reach for The Night Villa. After professor Dr. Sophie Chase is involved in a tragic shooting, she agrees to take part in The Papyrus Project. This entails staying in the Night Villa, which is a replica of a villa that was destroyed in Mount Vesuvius. As she stays there, a discovery tied to a Pythagorean Cult from ancient Rome is made, catapulting Sophie into a stunning revelation. Alternating between present-day and Ancient Rome, an ancient slave named Petronia, gives voice to the past.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This brilliant reimagining of Dinah, a Biblical character whose life events are consequences of the violent and irrational men in her life, is given center stage. When the prince she loves is murdered by her brothers, she flees to Egypt to begin life anew, giving birth to a son and remarrying. When she returns to her homeland upon the death of one of her brothers, she learns that she has been forgotten from her family’s history, except within the circles of women who uplift and empower each other.
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
Daughter of the king of Sparta and sister to Helen, Clytemnestra is a force to be reckoned with in a world that expects women to be quiet and docile. When she’s married to a king that she does not love, she plots a way to take her power back, no matter what it takes. A riveting tale, set in Ancient Greece, readers will be tantalized by the character of Clytemnestra.
Jezebel by Megan Barnard
If you’re searching for a powerful female protagonist, you’ll want to dive into Jezebel. When she learns that she’s unable to become a king, Jezebel plots her future. Married to Prince Ahab of Israel, she sets to work transforming her new kingdom into a resemblance of where she grew up, building temples to her gods, and ushering in prosperity to the land. Then, accused by her former lover of being a witch, the people of her kingdom turn on her. A lush historical fiction filled with passion, betrayal, and the lengths a woman must go to fulfill her own destiny, Jezebel is an incredible historical fiction novel.
Lavinia by Ursula K. LeGuin
Ursula K. LeGuin can do no wrong as far as writing goes, and Lavinia is a beautiful tale spun from The Aenied. Lavinia lives in ancient Italy, and is the daughter to a king; once she is of marrying age, suitors arrive and her peaceful world is shattered. Despite her mother urging her to marry one suitor, she stays true to her heart and follows her own intuition, ending up marrying Aeneas. In a story focused on a character who played a trivial role in the Aeneid, LeGuin’s extraordinary novel examines love, destiny, and reclaiming one’s power amidst a beautiful ancient world.
The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
For readers who revel in ancient settings, and mythical reimaginings similar to The Song of Achilles, Haynes’s The Child of Jocasta is a thrilling and beautiful tale. Retelling the well-known stories of Oedipus and Antigone, the story is told through the eyes of Antigone’s sister, Ismene, and Antingone’s and Oedipus’s mother, Jocasta. Set against a lush Ancient Thebes, readers will be engulfed in the setting, hurtling through the fascinating psyches of the characters.
Ransom by David Malouf
For a continuation of the story of Achilles, pick up Ransom, by David Malouf, which was published 2 years before Miller’s novel. The novel explores the intense emotions of Achilles after the death of Patroclus, particularly when he killed Hector as revenge, and dragged his body around the city. Then, the reader hears from Hector’s father, the King of Troy as he plots a way to reclaim his son’s body for his proper honor. An intense look at characters from Miller’s book, readers will tear through this continuation of The Song of Achilles.
Can I read Circe without reading The Song of Achilles?
As far as historical timelines are concerned, The Song of Achilles comes before Circe, but since the stories are standalone novels, you don’t need to read them in a specific order.
Should I read The Iliad before reading The Song of Achilles?
Despite The Song of Achilles is a retelling of Achilles and Patroclus’s stories from The Iliad, it’s not required reading to understand and enjoy Miller’s work. However, being familiar with Homer’s epic story may help you become more immersed in the retelling.
What genre should I read if I liked The Song of Achilles?
Since The Song of Achilles is a historical fiction book that is based on mythology, you’ll likely enjoy other historical fiction books. You may also want to explore the genre of historical fantasy, since the myth The Song of Achilles is based on could be considered fantasy.
Madeline Miller is not only an award-winning writer but also studied at Brown University, focusing on earning her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Latin and Ancient Greek.
If you love Madeline Miller’s writing style, you’ll also love Margaret Atwood and Pat Barker’s works.