by Madeline Miller
E-ARC, 327 pages
Published April 10th 2017 by Little, Brown, and Company
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.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.
I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book.
When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
Remember when I told you about me getting an e-arc for my most anticipated release? This is the book guys, I still can’t believe I read it already! 🙈
For those of you who has been following me for a while, you know how much I love The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller’s debut book. I love greek mythology but TSOA really took it on another level! The writing was beautiful, rich with imagery and the story is heartbreaking af. Circe definitely has a lot to follow and I’m happy to report that it follows up really well!
For me, there was nothing I would go on through the countless millenia, while everyone I met ran through my fingers and I was left with only those who were like me. The Olympians and Titans. My sister and brothers. My father.
Ever since she was born, Circe was different from the rest of her families. She was the daughter of Helios, Titan of the Sun. Yet as the rest of her family were basking in their power and divinity, Circe was not powerful and vindictive. She was naive and curious about humans. As the result, she was alienated from her family. When she discover her power, she was exiled and isolated from the rest of the world- ours and hers.
As with TSOA, the writing is one of the best I’ve ever read in a book. It is incredibly vivid and beautiful, it gives you a lot of feels and it really feels like you are reading an ancient story instead of reading history books. The metaphors used are spot on and you can feel Circe’s loneliness and bitterness towards life early in the story.
I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.
As with greek mythology, it wouldn’t be right to tell a story lacking in love and tragedy. Circe is most famous as a sorcerer who lures men to her island and turned them into pigs. Yet for a woman who apparently hated all men, she fell for several of them. Of course, this being a greek mythology nothing is ever easy. Her life is a story full of loss and being used. Even without the tragedy, her love story is bound to be doomed- she’s a goddess after all, falling for mortals. What failure she had with her family, she tried to mend it with her own son.
This endless stream of tragedy should make anyone despaired, but she persevered, and those she lost made her stronger than before. Circe is the type of character you will root for, she may be not that powerful, but she’s perceptive and observant to the world around her. Her age and loss have made her wise and endurance have always been her strength. After all, how could you stand an eternity living with a family who hated you, to be free in exile and isolation, only to find out you are being a pawn in some divine entertaiment filled with loss and tragedy? She blooms from this naive and underestimated girl, to an angry young woman, to someone filled with wisdom. Instead of letting life trials crushed her, she move forward and became her best self.
Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.
At its heart, Circe is a story of a woman in the midst of man’s world. Early on, we learned that no matter how strong you are, even if you are a goddess, being a woman means you are to submit to man. As our main character noticed, all the great stories involves princesses and goddess falling for the hero, helping them throughout their quest or wait in loyalty for them, only to be discarded on the hero’s whim. In her island, she herself was often overlooked and harmed as she lived alone. No matter how many chances she give, those sailors who came begging for her help always ended up trying her and she ended up have to resort to her powers. No women were free, even those who are married serve as some sort of baby maker. Such is the lot of women, and Circe understood that all too well. As I mentioned before, Circe is perceptive. She tried to help other women she crossed path with, but most of the times it didn’t go well.
So why only 4 stars, you asked? As much as I loved and enjoyed this book, the pacing drags a lot in the middle and the plot has no climax. This book is filled with Circe’s reflection and stories, yet the build up seems to lead to nowhere and it felt anticlimatic. I love the open-ending, but the immense build up, the sense of victory she will have, seems to go nowhere.
Circe is a beautifully written book about the journey of a woman finding herself and her place in the middle of a cruel world. Despite some lagging, I was captivated from the start to the finish. It was not an easy tale to read, despite having minimum bloodshed and war. It lives up to my expectations, even fulfilled more than what I hoped for. If you are looking for an action-packed tale or tale of wickedness, this book is not for you. But if you are looking for a book with amazing character development and reflection, about incredible woman finding her power and her fate, this book is for you.