Circe by Madeline Miller – Book Review

Title: Circe
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.

21 thoughts on “Circe by Madeline Miller – Book Review

  1. Fantastic review. I really enjoyed Circe, and like you I don’t dabble in this genre often as I find they’re not written in an accessible way to the modern reader but this was! I completely agree with your thoughts on it feeling longer than 300 pages too

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  2. Thanks Yesha! I’m not always a fan of mythology in books but this one was the exception. I loved it! I hope you enjoy this too when Amazon finally starts delivering again. I’m impatiently waiting on a few as well 😛

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  3. I love this book so much. Prefer it to TSOA. The pacing was spot on for me as I liked the epic saga feeling it portrayed. And I adored the journey Circe went on as a character especially considering how successfully Miller weaved so many disparate threads of myth into a cohesive narrative. 😊😊😊😊❤️💜💛💚

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    • I haven’t tried TSOA but it’s on my TBR. Circe popped up as a book club choice and I was very surprised by how well Miller weaved the myths together to create a seamless and intimate portrayal of the characters. Considering how many years Miller condensed in to the story the pacing was brilliant! It was long but every part seemed necessary and needed. I’m glad you enjoyed this too Emer! 😀

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  4. I listened to the audiobook a couple years ago, and I enjoyed it and the story but I wasn’t WOWED by it as many others were. This book was so hyped when it came out. It was one EVERY bookstagram account and I think the hype didn’t really match the book.

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    • I agree with you about the hype being a bit out of proportion to the book’s quality. I think bookstagram mainly went crazy over Circe because the cover’s so pretty, haha. I enjoyed the story and think I rated it higher (4 star as opposed to 3) because I was so surprised by liking it and the ending was more than I’d hoped for. I’ll be honest though, the first 100 pages were less than stellar. I find audiobooks a hit and miss for me depending on the narrators but I think this story might have done well by narration as myths were traditionally told orally. Thanks for the comment Corina 🙂

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  5. Glad you enjoyed this one! I know it takes a lot of liberties but that was part of the fun for me with this one. This was my favorite book the year it released, I just loved what Miller did with the story and the character of Circe.

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