Circe, by Madeline Miller, is absolutely one of my most-anticipated reads of 2018. While it's not a direct sequel to The Song of Achilles, Circe takes place in the same world of Greek mythology and heroes. Full of mesmerizing description, beautiful prose, and a fresh take on the legend of Circe the sorceress, this is a must-read for any mythology lover.
Note: I received an advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. All quotes mentioned are from an unfinished proof.
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.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.
I cannot overstate the beauty of Miller's writing. There's a quality in her prose that entrances me. Each line is purposeful, each line is poetry. I admit, sometimes I skim books. When there are incredibly long passages, I glance over the lines to get the general gist and move on. With Circe, I find myself actually reading every line or else I miss out on an important detail or some beautifully constructed metaphor. Because of this, you absolutely have to be in a certain mood to read Circe because it's not the action that keeps your attention- I mean, the goddess is trapped on an island for most of the book.
Circe's character is an interesting one. Her tale is not as well know as Achilles' and much of what I remember is only her witchcraft and penchant for turning sailors into pigs. To weave realism and humanism into this goddess, daughter of the Titan Helios, was truly magical to read. She is someone who has been underestimated and stepped on her entire life. But her shortcoming? It's that she has empathy. It's that she feels and takes interest in mortals, even grows to love them. In the hall of gods, this is weakness. In the end, it is what makes Circe strong.
Miller embellishes the myth of Circe a bit, through the lens of a modern classicist. For example, I'm certain that the feminist tilt in Circe was not in the original Odyssey and would have been quite the hot take among Homer's peers. "Brides, nymphs were called, but that is not really how the world saw us. We were an endless feast laid out upon a table, beautiful and renewing. And so very bad at getting away," Circe reflects in sarcasm after an unwanted encounter with a group of sailors. This theme of sexuality and ownership of one's body and desires is explored throughout the book, and done in a clever, multi-faceted way that a contemporary reader can more easily relate to.
I sympathized with Circe, but entirely out of my own accord. Her actions are somewhat morally grey, and Miller does not encourage readers to take her side or not. That's what I found so lovely about The Song of Achilles as well. Besides the heroes in the legends, how did those that orbited them live? How did they love? Breathing life into these secondary characters was something I never thought I needed, but now I need Miller to write so many more of these.
I rate Circe 5/5 stars!
Circe releases on April 10th, but you can pre-order Circe now!