While still a boy, Patroclus is brought by his father, a king, to compete for the marriage of Helen, considered the most beautiful woman in all of Greece. They bring gifts, and the bashful boy is expected to demonstrate his wit and intelligence measured against the famous princes and demigods around him. While his father speaks up for him, his unabashed disdain for the boy is apparent. It is no surprise when Helen chooses another. Upon their return home, when disaster strikes, Patroclus is not surprised when he is sent away from his home, forced to live in exile, with a king known to take in other exiles like himself. While he does what he can to avoid attention, he inadvertently catches the eye of the son of the king, none other than Achilles, a demigod himself. Their friendship grows and leads to adventures that Patroclus can not even imagine.
Not being so well-versed in Greek mythology myself (having read the Odyssey in high school and little beyond that- not generally a huge fan) I can’t comment with much authority on how this compares to the original . What I can say is that while some of the themes of vanity and hubris are well-preserved, this was certainly a modernized version of the events told in those ancient texts.
What is done so subtly and beautifully, I believe, is while Patroclus tries to uplift the Achilles heroic narrative, he (or the author), in fact, reveals himself as the true hero: the one who maintains humility, kindness, and true loyalty even in the midst of what becomes chaos. While he always folds himself into the background, always shining the light toward Achilles – who accepts this with no hesitation, as his position and stature would dictate – Patroclus meanwhile bolsters, soothes, even guides Achilles toward the proper direction. Few see him for who he really is. Some even hate him – and none more than Achilles’ mother. (Could it be that she hates him because she sees him for who he really is?)
So while I did read The Odyssey quite a long time ago, I did enjoy this adventure much more than that one! I’m curious if you out there in cyberspace did as well! I’d love to hear your opinions!