Author: Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Page Count: 393
Publication Date: 2018
Category/Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Retellings, Mythology, Historical Fiction
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.3)
My Rating: ★★★★★(4.5)
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.
Bursting with a cast of Greek mythology ranging from the complex heroine to the daring mortals this beautifully written Greek soap opera is filled with magic, monsters, betrayal, adventure, exile, and fate.
Typically in mythology, Circe is portrayed as one of the many villains in the Odyssey who stood in the way of Odysseus’ voyage home to Ithaca. However, Miller provides an alternative perspective and creates an empathetic bond between reader and Circe as she weaves an incredible tale of Circe’s life – developing her character in such a way that we are pulled to her, witnessing the process of change as she shares her experiences, thoughts and struggles.
Introduced to a young Circe, readers immediately find a nymph that seems to be living in the shadows of her family and cast aside. As a young child, her curiosity. compassion and naivety would shape her fate to become a powerful witch feared by even the gods themselves.
When Circe meets Prometheus as a young girl, he is receiving the first of his punishment for defying Zeus. In her own, small way, she too defies the rules through her compassion for her uncle, marking the first moment she has taken upon herself to be an independent thinker and entity. As Circe’s unjust treatment and experiences begin to gather and accumulate through her lifetime, she reflects often and is inspired by her uncle and his willingness to stand apart from the others.
When the pain and betrayal all becomes too much, Circe lashes out using newly learned witchcraft to transform one of her kind into a destructive monster. After casting the dark spell, she admits to her power and evokes the wrath of her father, Helios as well as Zeus.
“The worst of my cowardice had been sweated out. In its place was a giddy spark. I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open”
Exiled to the island of Aeaea, Circe is sent away to live out a meaningless, lonely eternal life. But that is where the story really just begins.
It is then, that Circe begins to find herself and the most ultimate form of freedom. Piece by piece, day by day, she learns to hone her skill in witchcraft. And as a result, an entirely new road unfolds before her, where nymphs, humans, and gods visit and cross her path. With each encounter, her thoughts, her struggles, losses, and her triumphs bring about a new facet in this complex heroine’s tale. Circe is a powerful individual, a strong woman, and character, who gains her wisdom through the passage of time.
””You are wise”, he said. ”If it is so”, I said, ”it is only because I have been a fool enough for a hundred lifetimes””.
The real strength of her story is in all her relatable flaws and weaknesses and her very humanizing acts. Her compassion battling her rage, her exquisite transformation, her trials that strengthen her character and the fragile yet daring heart that yearns for love inspires hope and makes her very accessible and appealing to readers.
Spellbinding, it is impossible to not become completely engrossed in Circe’s imperfections, her plight, and her journey, right down to the very magical and perfect ending.
For those that love Greek mythology, this is a real treat with so many of our favorite villains and heroes making appearances- often with a twist or more depth! Don’t overlook this book or be intimidated if you don’t remember the stories well. This is a must-read for anyone who is captivated by mythological tales and outcast heroes whose internal strifes. morals and fierce independence give birth to their strength and legacy.