Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

CirceCirce by Madeline Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Warnings: on-page sexual assault (rape), body horror, childbirth (with complications) scenes

Note: Not a YA novel

This memoir-style fantasy novel reimagines a notable Greek figure’s story. Circe, a minor goddess, a nymph, is treated with disdain and cruelty in her father Helios’ house, and when she grows to show a new power that threatens Titans and Olympians alike, she is exiled to the island Aiaia, where she spends her days honing her craft. Many other popular Greek characters intersect her path, and it recounts her story from her first crush on Glaucus, the Scylla story, to her part in the Minotaur’s story, and that in Daedalus’, her involvement with Medea’s story, and brings us to the story she is most known for – Odysseus landing on her island.

The story’s tone is feminist in nature, recounting her story in a different light, taking away the image of temptress while keeping her majesty as an enchantress. It also shows disdain for the classic ‘hero’ stories, who Circe sees as pompous men who don’t thank or even see the women supporting them. Circe herself cares for and raises her brother, and later her first love, to godhood and isn’t even thanked in return; later her need to nurture leads to her helping out mortals, though not always to her safety. Nevertheless, she chafes at the confines of immortality, the fact that she will be under the thumb of the greater Gods for an eternity, and the story speaks of her longing for a connection to sustain her loneliness.

The style is very much like a memoir, with a mostly linear timeline, but she also often branches off to tell us about a particular character’s fate into the future. The story spans centuries, and tells of a goddess who learns from her mistakes, who seeks to be better than the greater gods, who loves mortality and who ultimately finds a peace in her life.

Also by this author

The Song of Achilles Galatea

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

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