Circe by Madeline Miller (Review)

‘You have always been the worst of my children,’ he said. ‘Be sure you do not dishonour me.’

‘I have a better idea. I will do as I please, and when you count your children, leave me out.’

I’ve had this book sitting around since April and never got around to reading it. I can’t believe it took me so long in the end, because this book is INCREDIBLE and gave me a hell of a book hangover.

I gave Circe 4 stars, and it was so good that I just had to pick up The Song of Achilles. Hearing that Achilles might even be better than Circe had me practically buzzing with excitement, and I think my TBR might be getting a hefty shuffle ready for October to bring it closer to the top.

Read me for the…

  • Greek mythology
  • Feminist retellings
  • Badass female characters
  • Character driven stories

The Plot:

Circe is the daughter of Helios, sun god and Titan, but her hair lacks his golden sheen and her voice is too soft and too weak. When her kin turn away from her, even her siblings ignoring her or mocking her in turn, Circe turns her gaze away from the gods to the mortal world. She finds more than just the companionship she was searching for when she discovers a power that gods dare not wield. Jealousy and misplaced love leads to her banishment after she admits casting a dark spell, and she finds herself on a remote abandoned island: Aiaia. Her punishment only makes her stronger, and her banishment doesn’t mean that she will be alone, no. The fates have woven her fate with others who pass through her exiled island. Hermes, Daedalus, Jason, a flurry of nymphs. And finally, Odysseus on his way home from war.

Circe is a solitary and independent woman – and there’s nothing that men or gods hate more than a witch that needs no husband, brother or father. Circe’s love, and her power, find her torn between the mortal and immortal worlds. No longer content to be a footnote in Odysseus’ story but a master of her own destiny, Circe must make choices and wield powers unimaginable to protect her world.

What did I love?

I’ve always been a sucker for a book with a strong character driven plot. I get invested in people before I get invested in stories (probably why I spend so much time reading fanfiction, honestly) and Circe is a beautiful tale spanning hundreds of years of Circe’s life.

Initially, I was drawn to this book because I knew of Circe as a wicked and wild enchantress as a side-character in Odysseus’ epic story. This is the kind of story that makes me sad for past me for thinking that. Miller’s Circe is a powerful, independent woman surrounded by overbearing men that think they Know Best. Her father’s a Titan, the sun god, and her mother has little interest in her because she won’t make much of a bride. Circe’s initial forays into magic are based out of a visceral desire to feel loved, and throughout the novel that thread of loneliness and a need for companionship thread under a lot of Circe’s actions. To me, Circe’s fatal flaw isn’t a lust for power, it’s a love for humanity, much like Prometheus. And when she reaches the crux of her powers, her thoughts still turn to protection before they turn to harm. Circe is a tale of an immortal learning what it is to be human, and what it means to be mortal, and Miller has managed to create a hauntingly beautiful retelling that makes your heart ache for her, but more than that this feels to me like the story of a downtrodden girl learning to be a woman, and finding strength in the realisation that she can be whole and strong all on her own, even in a male-dominant world.

Where can I buy?

Waterstones / Amazon (not-affiliated)

Add it on Goodreads

If you can, please support your local independent booksellers!

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