Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy / Mythology
Publication Date: April 2018
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. (Goodreads).
Mythology is not usually a genre I tend to read but Circe came up as a book club read and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I had been expecting to hate it, honestly. Generally, mythology tends to be very intense and this one was intense but in a way that was strangely relatable for a book of this genre.
Too often the protagonists in mythological retellings have morals and motives that aren’t necessarily relatable or understandable to modern readers (or maybe it’s just me??) and this generally makes me avoid the genre. In Circe’s case, she started off as a typical god-like character with little to relate to. What was different in Circe however, was her character development throughout the course of the book. It was captivating to read about. Despite being over 10, 000 years old it felt like the 300 year time span within this book was the true culmination of her life’s journey and experiences.
Miller’s ability to incorporate a wealth of mythological stories and characters in a way that not only seemed seamless but also provided an intimate insight in to the personalities of the Gods was enthralling to read about. Written in a tone that seemed fantastical but also modern, Miller managed to gain my interest and keep me hooked.
Despite the beautifully lush writing and great character development, this story had some down sides that leaved me rating it 4-Stars instead of 5. The beginning of the story was very hard to get hooked on. It dragged and I honestly wasn’t all that connected to the characters. After Circe was exiled to the Island however, things started to pick up and the story of her growth as a person began to form. Before this point it had just seemed like a host of short stories, about one character, had been lumped together.
Additionally, this book felt long. Really long. It’s only 300 pages but the pace and sheer volume of plot condensed in to the novel made it seem like a 500-pager. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that this is a story best appreciated in small bites. This is particularly important for readers that take on the emotions from the books they’re reading (me!) as this story isn’t one I’d consider light-hearted by any means. There’s depth and Circe’s poor plight that never seemed to end. Being continuously abandoned added a heavy weight to her character (spurring on some pretty great development) but also took a toll on the reader.
This was a brilliantly written story that will stay with me for a long time. That said, its emotional impact means I won’t be rereading this again anytime soon! For those of you that enjoy books with intense emotional impact – you’ll love this!
4 out of 5 stars.