Circe

Circe


Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Series: N/A

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing UK

Release Date: April 19th 2018

Rating:

Five 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.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”

When Circe is born she’s a disappointment; not beautiful enough to marry a son of Zeus according to her father’s prophecy, and not powerful enough to be anything more than the daughter of a nymph. She spends most of her life sitting at her Helios’s knees, watching her brothers and sister grow up and leave their father’s halls to make their own marks on the world, surrounded by nymphs who care for nothing more than their petty squabbles. It’s only when Circe falls in love with a mortal that she discovers the gift she has, a gift which terrifies Zeus and sees Circe exiled to Aiaia.

Circe isn’t a fast-paced story, a lot of the plot revolves around Circe’s individual character development and it takes her generations to finally uncover her power and move beyond her father’s halls. This book is told in a mixture of first person and omnipresent POV, like Circe herself is looking back and telling us her story, seeing the mistakes she made early on when she was driven by love to turn a mortal into a god and driven by jealously to turn a nymph into a fearsome monster.

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

On Aiaia Circe tests the limits of her witchcraft, and though she is exiled she isn’t always alone. Over the hundreds of years she resides there her path crosses with the messenger God Hermes, Daedalus and Icarus as she plays a hand in the birth of the Minotaur, and Jason and Medea with the Golden Fleece in their possession. It’s only when Circe meets Odysseus on his long voyage home from the Trojan war that her path changes, and she finds herself with a choice to make.

Circe is a figure who appears in a lot of Greek myths, playing a role in so many key events, but this was her telling her own story from start to finish. Taking us from her birth all the way to end; through her years under Helios and Perse, disregarded by her family and the other nymphs, to her exile on Aiaia and her journey to harness her magic.

…The Characters

“You are wise,” he said.
“If it is so,” I said, “it is only because I have been fool enough for a hundred lifetimes.”

Circe is very subdued in the beginning of this book, beaten down by everything she’s heard whispered behind her back and by the disregard her parents show her. Circe is not beautiful like her mother and not powerful like her father so she’s of no interest to them, and without anyone to love or pay attention to her she’s lonely. When her brother is born he becomes everything to Circe , but AeΓ«tes has bigger dreams and before long he leaves Circe alone and lonely again.

“Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands.”

It’s Circe’s development throughout this book that really makes the story. Her exile to Aiaia doesn’t break her, instead she sees the island and it’s solitude as an opportunity to hone her gifts. The more time she spends practising, experimenting with different herbs and potions, the more she learns about her gift, and the more she learns the more powerful she becomes.

Despite her banishment Circe is still somewhat tethered by her family, her father especially. The island of Aiaia where she is exiled is the scene of Helios’s great battle with Zeus, and although she is trapped there Circe is still aware of how far her father’s reach extends over Aiaia and over herself. However it’s the thought of that reach that offers her the illusion of protection, because no one would dare hurt the daughter of Helios when he is aware of all that happens on Aiaia.

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

Circe is not like the other Gods and not like her family either; her father is cold, and her brothers and sister are selfish, cruel and brutal. While Circe isn’t perfect, she does some terrible things because of the hurt she feels or the wrongs committed against her, she has a good heart. She still has those darker emotions brewing beneath the surface, and when she strikes out with her witchcraft there are dire consequences, but she’s trying to do the best for the people she loves even if it leaves her worse off.

…The Setting

“Let me say what sorcery is not: it is not divine power, which comes with a thought and a blink. It must be made and worked, planned and searched out, dug up, dried, chopped and ground, cooked, spoken over, and sung. Even after all that, it can fail, as gods do not.”

Although Circe was a largely character driven story the world building didn’t suffer. One thing Madeline Miller did really well was developing the Greek myths that influenced this book and which Circe played a role in shaping. Throughout this book we meet a lot of legends and heroes, and although this was Circe’s story rather than Daedalus’s or Odysseus’s there was still a weight to their parts in her life fitting in with their own journeys. The majority of this book is set on the island of Aiaia, which I thought the it was incredibly well developed without feeling too small for the tone of the story and Circe’s character growth, but the world building wasn’t just restricted to that one area. We see a lot of Helios’s home in the years before Circe is exiled, and we hear tales of other lands and battles from the people who pass by Circe’s island.


When it comes to Greek mythology I think Madeline Miller is the best author I’ve read so far. She takes the original tales, keeping the soul of the story but reimagining it into something new, something emotional and sometimes bittersweet but beautiful at the same time. Circe was an incredible read, I didn’t know much about Circe going into this book but after I’d finished I wanted to know more.

What did you think of Circe? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

37 thoughts on “Circe

  1. Glad that you enjoyed this book Beth πŸ™‚ Circe sounds like a likeable character. I like how she is not exceptionally powerful or beautiful, which makes for a more interesting and relatable character in my opinion πŸ™‚ Do you think a good knowledge of Greek mythology is necessary to enjoy this novel? I learned a bit about it back in high school but it’s been a while!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it was amazing Sophie. πŸ™‚ She is likeable but I think more than that she’s such a well developed character in this book that she feels like a real person you know? She has moments where she makes the wrong decisions, and moments when she isn’t so likeable but that’s part of being human right?
      I don’t think so. As much as I love Greek mythology I knew very little of Circe’s story, so I didn’t know much about her life and the things that happened on her island, but I still loved this book.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s great when a character is well-developed, right? I love characters that are flawed and make wrong decisions, because that makes them more human πŸ™‚ I haven’t read a book about mythology in a very long time, but maybe I’ll give this one a try and add it to my TBR haha. Thank you Beth ❀ πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic review, Beth! I really love greek and norse mythos and knowing that there’s this author I can always visit to get an awesome dosage of greek mythology is really reassuring. I’m absolutely curious about the character even more after this review too. I sort of feel sad that I didn’t get my hands on this ASAP. I totally should!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Lashaan. πŸ™‚ Oh when it comes to Greek mythology you really can’t go wrong with anything Madeline Miller’s has written. She’s an incredible writer that’s for sure. I’d say definitely read this ASAP, you’ll love it Lashaan. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely review, Beth! I’ve been hearing so many great things about Circe all around the blogosphere, I’m so happy so many people are enjoying it so much. I don’t know if I’ll give it a shot, given that I’m not a big greek mythology reader, fan or… well, I don’t know much about it overall to be honest,haha. I need to run and hide now hahaha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie. πŸ™‚ Yeah this seems to be a very well loved book and I can definitely see why after reading it myself (it was amazing!)
      Ha, no need to hide. I know this book won’t be for everyone but if you do decide to pick it up one say I hope you end up loving it! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s my favorite book so far this year! I truly loved the character development. She really was beaten down and weak at first, but grew into a strong woman. I honestly loved that she wasn’t a pushover when it came to men. It was so refreshing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I REALLY didn’t like Circe. Whilst i appreciate character development, I also appreciate being able to get to know more than one character. And there was too much going on with the plot for me to enjoy it.

    Though I love the way you’ve written about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s a shame, but I get what you mean because as much as there were other characters this was very much solely Circe’s story wasn’t it?
      Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed my review even though the book wasn’t for you. πŸ™‚

      Like

    1. Yeah it was the same for me, I knew I’d enjoy the book but didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. πŸ™‚
      Thanks, and oh if you loved this one you’ll enjoy The Song of Achilles too. Just be prepared for a heartbreaking ending going into it though! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Super review Beth!! Your capacity of depicting the details and the characters depth always amaze me ❀ I wanted to read this book so bad πŸ˜€ But I'm still hesitant if I should read her Song of Achilles first. I loved everything about GreekMythology so ofc I have to give this one a try πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Trang. πŸ™‚ ❀️ I had a hard time writing this review because I loved the book so much (that’s always the way isn’t it?) I don’t think it’s important to have read The Song of Achilles before this one, Circe does mention Achilles in passing unless your unaware of how the Trojan war ends for him there aren’t any spoilers or anything. πŸ™‚

      Like

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