Circe by Madeline Miller
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction (mythology)
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
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.
I put off even adding Circe to my tbr for a really long time because I figured it had to be over-hyped. I mean, Song of Achilles was fine, but it wasn’t that great, and people were talking about this book like it’s the book of the decade or something. I figured it was all just feminism-hype. But y’all. I am here to tell you, this book is everything is was made out to be.
With Madeline Miller’s books it’s all about the writing. Just gorgeous. It’s so lyrical, almost verse. Which, considering she is re-telling an epic poem, is appropriate. I can’t really say more about the gorgeousness of the writing, because I just don’t have the words to do it justice.
I loved what she did with the character of Circe. While she doesn’t get turned into a hero, Miller did allow you to get to know her and understand why she is the way she is. She does things that she later regrets, and other things she doesn’t. Circe seems so … human.
The feminist slant of this book has been talked to death, maybe over talked. But what I think was so amazing about Circe was what the novel has to say about immortality. There have been plenty of stories (books, movies, poems) that have tackled the issue of immortality. Why it’s not really so much a blessing. But I don’t think any of them really got it the way Miller did. It’s like that scene in the Return of the King movie with Arwen, but with the feels turned all the way up and it actually lasts. I’ve heard some bloggers complaining about the pace of this book, that it’s a little slow and dull. But I think that’s the entire point. Circe’s life is slow. It’s dull. And it’s going to be that way forever.
Miller was a little free with the myths, adding things in, taking things out. But I think most of the additions worked. I liked seeing some of my favorite heroes and villains in places I maybe shouldn’t have. It made for some nice surprises. I was also, as ever, impressed with Miller’s expert knowledge of the mythology. If you read The Odyssey in school, you only know a fraction of Circe’s story. I appreciated how Miller incorporated all of the other elements, bringing it together into a cohesive linear narrative.
And the ending. I love the ending.
I loved that it isn’t a cliff hanger, but it doesn’t tell you what happens either. It leaves room for some guesswork, which is perfect. And I love the idea of Circe getting some closure. I don’t want to say more.
While not quite the feminist anthem I was expecting, Circe was a gorgeous read about the curse of immortality. It’s leisurely and has a depth that you don’t often see in Greek re-tellings. I loved it, and if myths are something you enjoy you will probably love it to.