Genre: Fantasy/Retelling Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 5/5 stars Series: Standalone
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
CIRCE is another gorgeously written book from Madeline Miller. When I attended Miller’s London event, I heard her read from CIRCE, which really brought the story alive. The writing is so lush and descriptive, taking after the oral tradition. It is so lyrical and really does deserve to be heard – which feels strange considering audiobooks and I don’t mix well.
I enjoyed CIRCE more than THE SONG OF ACHILLES, probably because I didn’t know Circe’s story as well as Achilles. It meant I was eager to see what happened next, to guess and be delighted when the foreshadowing was delivered upon expertly.
I have read very few books where the foreshadowing is so clear and yet doesn’t spoil the story. It pushes it along, lending a slightly tragic air to some scenes as you know what’s to come and can’t stop it. The book has a slow pacing, but in this case it only meant I could savour the words more.
Circe grows over the course of her centuries, but never losing her hard-working, dependable heart. I loved watching her mature, and the way these often scorned traits are elevated.
It was so fun to see Circe woven through all the famous myths, epics considered secondary to the herblore and husbandry of life. Of course, myths have focused on her relationships with men, with them as the dominant figures. Miller deconstructs these relationships, reframing them with Circe at the centre.
We see Deadalus, and the sweet relationship they have – two bright, clever minds in horrible situations. I think I liked him of all the men the best. Hermes is capricious and narcissistic, but they have some great banter. Odysseus is in love with his own cleverness and I loved how many sides of his story were presented by the other characters who knew him. Telemachus is probably the sweetest of her lovers, quiet and understanding.
Circe doesn’t grow because of the men, but takes from them what she wants – companionship, comfort or simply distraction – without draining them. I really liked seeing these non-destructive relationships not pushed as character development. When Circe does grow, it’s because she’s seeing a truth in the world – sometimes prompted by their flaws – and seeking to take its lesson and apply it to her life.
I loved the interactions she had with the women more. There is variety from her tired and spiteful sister, to the vindictive, cruel Athena and the calm, clever Penelope. The hopeful, but naive Medea and the gaggle of nymphs with their snobbish, headless ways hiding many hurts. I loved seeing such a wide range of female characters.
A gorgeous book that has me waiting eagerly for whatever Miller’s next project is.
Read my reviews of other books by Madeline Miller