Circeby Published 10 Apr 2018
|Publisher||Lee Boudreaux Books|
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.
This is a beautiful book; it is flawless and intelligent. I do not have a single criticism for this fantastic piece of writing. I loved it!
Circe chronicles the life of a lesser god. She is the daughter of the mighty God Helios, the living embodiment of the sun. She is born without any particular talents or powers. She exists in the shadows of her more developed brothers and sisters. She does not shine in such spectacular company.
However, gifts come in many different forms and those with hidden talents are overlooked and devalued. More often than not quiet people are forgotten about and there worth ill-considered in all walks of existence. Circe’s family never saw what she could become. Power is important, though sometimes having none teaches one a greater lesson: nothing is worth having unless it has been earned. As such Circe wills herself into power as she discovers her affinity for witchcraft, especially the art of transformation.
Her family banish her from their company for her use of such a lowly art, and in doing so they set her free. She finds herself in her exile. On her island home she finds a paradise not a prison. She becomes one with nature and finds company with lions and wolves. Centuries pass, ages pass, and eventually some rather important characters come her way. She meets Hermes and Athena, Icarus and his farther Daedalus, and Odysseus, a man who changes her life and causes her to make a very powerful decision that leads this book into such an excellent conclusion.
“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.”
Circe offers a huge story, a story that spans generations and includes many Greek heroes and gods. Such is the nature of godhood, of immortality. When life goes on forever many notable people cross one’s path. And despite the huge number of famous characters here, none of it felt forced: it all slotted perfectly into Circe’s life. There are so many myths that intertwine with Circe, like the story of the Minotaur and the fall of Icarus, though despite the famous nature of many of them they don’t for a second overshadow her.
She met Prometheus when she was young and decided that her life would not be the same as the other gods: she was going to be her own woman. And this is a book about her finding the most ultimate form of freedom. I could not recommend it more highly. I really liked The Song of Achilles though this surpassed it in every way. I really hope to see more from this author in the future.
Five fantastic stars
“Witches are not so delicate,” I said.
I absolutely loved this. If you enjoy Greek mythology, complex heroines, and a generous serving of adventure, bloodshed, betrayal, magic, and monsters - both literal and figurative - then hell, READ THIS BOOK.
To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Miller's The Song of Achilles when I read it a few years back. I'm not sure if that's because my tastes were different back then, or if it was just because the plot had more of a romantic focus than Circe. But, whatever the reason, I had no such problem with this book. I was absolutely captivated from start to finish.
Circe is part beautifully-written literary fantasy and part divine Greek soap opera. This strange combination makes for a book that is extremely quotable, rich in description and detail, and also a pageturner. It moves seamlessly between the broader scope of the world and its many gods and monsters, to the more narrow focus of the nymph-turned-witch, Circe, and her daily life before and after she is exiled to the island Aeaea.
Circe becomes a powerful witch, but the strength of her story is in all her relatable flaws and weaknesses. We follow her as a naive lesser nymph, longing to be accepted and loved. We stay with her as she believes the lies of others and, later, becomes hardened against such deceivers. Her compassion constantly battles with her rage. Understandably.
There is some grim satisfaction to be gained as this woman who has been bullied, belittled and trod on her entire life slowly claws out some vengeance for herself. The pain she endures along the way means that her successes are bittersweet. In the end, Circe might be full of fantasy, backstabbing and murder, but it is first and foremost the story of one woman's life - through pain, love, desire, heartache and motherhood.
I did not go easy to motherhood. I faced it as soldiers face their enemies, girded and braced, sword up against the coming blows. Yet all my preparations were not enough.
Other Greek myths play out in the background - that of the Minotaur, and of Icarus, as well as many others - but it is Circe's personal tale that hits the hardest. I just hope we don't have to wait another seven years for Miller to write another novel like this.
TW: Rape; graphic violence.
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When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
Where do I even begin? This was one of the most amazing, beautiful, intricate, captivating books I have had the pleasure of reading in my entire life. I have been a bookworm since I was barely walking, and yet this book, this gorgeous retelling, has impacted me so profoundly that I genuinely do not know if I will ever be entirely the same.
It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures—flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.
As a child, I loved Greek mythology, and though I lost some of that knowledge through recent years, when I heard that this story was releasing, I knew I just had to read it. I thought it was going to be the story from Circe’s point of view, but ultimately, I expected it to revolve around Odysseus; I had no idea that I was in for such a treat, though, as he is only a small portion of the immortal Circe’s life. This isn’t a retelling, it’s an origin story, a history, a tale of centuries’ worth of loves and losses, griefs and triumphs.
The thought was this: that all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.
From the very start, we see that Circe is so vastly set apart from her fellow gods and goddesses; as a nymph with the reedy voice of a mortal, she is told she is wholly useless, but it’s evident from the beginning that she is this brilliant, clever, strong woman: a force to be reckoned with in every way. I knew I would love her, but I couldn’t have predicted how fast or hard I would find myself rooting for her to succeed.
But of course I could not die. I would live on, through each scalding moment to the next. This is the grief that makes our kind choose to be stones and trees rather than flesh.
Of course, Circe’s exile on the isle of Aiaia is bound to be an unhappy story, and that’s a common thread throughout Circe: you always know something miserable or painful is on its way, but the moments in between those travesties, and the ways Circe handles the hand of cards life has dealt her, makes it so incredibly worth the ache. Perhaps the greatest thing about watching her struggle is how much relatability it lends to her character; despite being a goddess, an immortal, and a witch, Circe at her core is a spurned woman who has lived too long under the heels of spiteful, power-hungry men, and a wicked society that values beauty over strength.
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.
Of course, Circe’s tale is not entirely a desolate one, but her joys are often her curses, as she loves mortals and sees in them the same potential that cursed Prometheus to his rock. Throughout her life, we get to see relationships come and go, and I was enthralled by how incredibly sex-positive and sure of herself she remains. Rather than selling herself away to the highest bidder, Circe’s primary focus is to never let her pursuit of pleasures and companionship win out over her need to be her own person.
“It is not fair,” I said. “I cannot bear it.”
“Those are two different things,” my grandmother said.
It was so enjoyable to watch the different characters cycle in and out of her memories, whether it was Daedalus and his loom, or Hermes and his messages and antics, or—of course—Odysseus, who we saw in a much more realistic light, as Circe portrayed an image of him that was far less heroic or noble than many of the legends would have one believe. There are even mentions of Patroclus and Achilles, and what became of them, though I was pleased to find that prior knowledge of The Song of Achilles was not at all necessary to fully enjoy this book.
I would look at him and feel a love so sharp it seemed my flesh lay open. I made a list of all the things I would do for him. Scald off my skin. Tear out my eyes. Walk my feet to bones, if only he would be happy and well.
Of all the things Madeline’s writing had to offer me, though, the one that meant the most to me was wholly unexpected: the perfect, beautiful depiction of motherhood through Circe’s relationship with her son. As a mother to a wild little boy of my own, I related to so many of her thoughts and fears, but most of all, to the utter authenticity of the love she describes for him. It consumes her entirely—for better or for worse—and her need to protect him holds such ferocity that she worries it will destroy her at times. Many of the thoughts she held for him gave me chills or brought tears to my eye, and throughout it all, I just kept thinking that I had never felt like motherhood had been so perfectly described as it is in this book.
You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.
Truly, I could gush for days, but I’m going to cut myself off here and just ask you to please, please pick up a copy of this beautiful book. I sound like a broken record, but it meant so much to me, and has earned such a warm place in my heart that I know I will reread it over and over in the coming years. Whether you are a mother, or a lover of Greek mythology, or just a bookworm looking for a story that will capture you so wholly, you’ll never want to leave its embrace—this book is flawless, utter perfection, and I cannot possibly recommend it highly enough.
All quotes come from an unfinished ARC and may not match the finished release. Thank you to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Buddy read with Heather!
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Yes, I have no doubt I will be able to keep up with this book. I am an expert on Greek mythology. I have read a Percy Jackson book.