Synopsis: 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.
I loved The Song for Achilles and when I heard the author was coming out with a new book that had a Greek mythology retelling to it, I was so excited! I'm a big fan of mythology and was interested to see Miller's take on one of the more intriguing characters in The Odyssey. And this book was just as fantastic and engaging.
One of the things that Madeline Miller does so well is develop complex and engaging characters. In this book she does a great job in making Circe sympathetic. We get to see her from her birth to the ending of her exile on the island where you meet her in The Odyssey and everything in between.I wasn't really familiar with Circe's background and I really liked learning more about her and how she became to be the character I know. She definitely doesn't have an easy life. Her family treats her terribly, and the first person she ever loved didn't really love her back. So when she ends up being exiled living a secluded life where she is distrustful of others. Despite the fact that she often makes very bad, sometimes selfish, decisions you still end up rooting for her and that to is the mark of good characterization.
Much of the book is about Circe and her development so liking her as a character was really important. This is not as gut0wrenching or emotional as The Song for Achilles and I think that's because the way it ends is very different. It kind of feels uplifting in a weird way. The narrative of this book was much more character-driven than plot-driven. I wouldn't call this a coming-of-age story or a villain origin story because oddly it is both and neither. It's more a "the life and times" of a character who you probably don't know that well. And getting to know her was part of the books charm. I usually prefer plot-driven but Miller does a great job in weaving an interesting story. Her writing is beautiful and lyrical and draws the reader into the story and captures your imagination.
But I think my favorite thing about this book is how much mythology it weaves into the story. I loved the retelling angle of The Song of Achilles but with that book it had kind of a narrow focus. We really only tackled on Classic story. With this book there were multiple stories that were delved into and explored from different angles and perspectives. I didn't realize how connected Circe and her family was to stories I am very familiar with like Theseus and the Minotaur and The Quest for the Golden Fleece. I knew how she played into The Odyssey but I didn't know her role in the life of Odysseus after The Odyssey. All of this was explored in this book and I loved learning about it. If you are like me and you enjoy Greek Mythology, this is an amazing book to see those stories from different angles.
The amount of mythology that this book delved into also led to a vast array of secondary characters and all them were just as interesting and engaging as Circe. Her family was incredibly fascinating and their relationship, while awful, was one of the things I liked about the book. Her siblings were just awful but I really liked every time they were mentioned. Particularly her sister Pasiphae who was just the worst in the best possible way. But I think that was the case for a lot of the characters. I think a lot of them were really complex in that they were against Circe and you rooted for her and against them. And even the nice characters weren't all completely good which made them all the more interesting.
On the whole this was a great read. It drew you in with beautiful writing and an engaging character-driven story with characters that you were rooting for. I listened to the audiobook and it was amazing. I grabbed it for a road trip but even when I got home from the trip I still wanted to listen.
I give Circe by Madeline Miller 9 out of 10 stars
Have you read Circe? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!