I have always been a fan of mythology, especially in fiction. Whether it’s incorporated into epic sci-fi or a great historical novel, I am here for it. Naturally, I fell completely in love with Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles when I read it a few years ago (after several readers recommended it). Her writing and stories are incredible, and I knew I needed to read her newest novel, Circe, the second it came out. Fortunately, I managed to get my hands on it even earlier, and loved it just as much as I thought I would.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From 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.
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.
Circe is an absolutely beautiful book. If you’ve read The Song of Achilles, you know how gorgeous Madeline Miller’s writing is. It’s completely immersive and enthralling, and just a pleasure to read. Circe was one of those rare books I fell completely in love with and then read very slowly. I tend to fly through books when I’m enjoying them, but in this case, I felt like I couldn’t do anything but slow down and savor the story. Which is definitely the way to approach this book; there are so many elements and stories and I’m glad I took the time to appreciate all of them.
I haven’t read The Iliad or The Odyssey (shame, I know), so I wasn’t all that familiar with these characters going into the book. (I am even more motivated to read them now, so hopefully I’ll get to them soon.) I was familiar with the basic story lines, but loved getting a different perspective. Circe seems to be on the periphery of mythology, but this book puts her at the center, and shows just how much she impacted many of the other gods and heroes. I would definitely recommend familiarizing yourself with the basics of Greek mythology before reading this, because you will get so much more out of it if you know who Prometheus is, for example. Circe ties a lot of the myths together in a way that I really enjoyed.
That said, this book doesn’t exactly have a plot in the traditional sense. There is the barest sense of the “hero” story structure, but, really, we just observe Circe’s life. To be honest, that’s not something I thought I would like, but Miller makes it work (Circe’s life was pretty interesting – she is a goddess after all). It does make for a slower pace, and I think it’s something to be aware of going in so you’re not expecting an exciting epic. That’s not what this is. It IS a beautifully woven story about an often overlooked mythical figure that completely captured my attention. It’s been months since I read this (I couldn’t resist starting it immediately), and I still haven’t stopped thinking about it.
★★★★★ – I loved Circe! I honestly don’t know how Madeline Miller does it, but her writing is absolutely magical and this book is no exception. If you’re a fan of mythology or fantasy, this is a must-read.
Circe will be available in bookstores starting April 10. You can preorder it on Amazon now!
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Circe as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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