Book Review | Circe by Madeline Miller *8/10 Stars*

5:24 AM

Published: April 10th 2018
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Page count: 433
Format: Kindle Edition, Audiobook
My Rating: 8/10 Stars


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.

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About the author

 Madeline Miller
was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students.

She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

The Verdict

For the longest time, I have had this much hyped book with the beautiful, insta-worthy cover(s) on my TBR list. Amidst all the hype and raving reviews and publicity, I too bought a paperback (and then the Kindle edition as I generally tend to do). Being crazy about anything-Greek-Mythology, why did I not read it all this while? I'll tell you why - all the hype! If previous experiences are anything to go by, it's always the much hyped titles that tend to balloon expectations so big and high, and then fall flat when I actually dive in. So I did what I did... I procrastinated. I had the pretty paperback sit on my shelf and adorn the reading nook, hoping to pick it up some day... maybe when the hype dies down? Maybe when I can muster enough courage to start the book without any expectations? The cover(s) design (both US and UK editions) is an absolute delight I have to say!

I did finally read and finish it last night. On a whim. Oh and I got the audiobook as well and alternated between versions lol. So did it fall flat? Or did I love it? Let's see... Just a heads up, I haven't read The Song of Achilles yet, so I'm not going to compare the two... I don't even know why some people are comparing, but okay (though that's one I'm starting tonight, so might post a review of that soon too).

Okay, so first things first. Circe was a very fast paced read. I wasn't expecting a book of this genre to be this fast paced. For me mostly, fast is good, and I totally get the why of the speedy pace, with the story spanning thousands of years in timeline and tales in just one average sized book. What was rather disappointing was, at many parts it was a lot of telling not showing going on. I guess I can say while I absolutely loved the whole story, the execution for the most part fell flat. I found myself zoning out or skimming ahead many times while Circe (or another character in conversation) simply recollected chunks of mythology or experiences in a seemingly flat, indifferent tone (unnecessarily long enough to potentially bore audience who already know these Greek mythology tales, yet not enough info or flair to make people-oblivious-to-Greek-mythology care for the stories or characters). Circe's story would be incomplete without touching on these tales and characters, so omitting them completely doesn't make sense. I believe however, this could have been a longer book or maybe a duology/trilogy! With well fleshed out characters, all those instances and flashbacks shown (not told) enough to make the readers care and feel and live through them? Epic!

This takes me to the characters. Other than Circe, and later Telemachus. I couldn't really connect to any other character to feel for them or care about what happens to their narrative (even though those are some of my favorite characters in any mythology or retelling). Left me wanting more... but better, if that makes sense?

The story itself was absolutely beautiful (as is evident by all the stars I've given). I loved Circe's journey of self-discovery and how she grows into this strong, "solitary, independent woman in this world, whose independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike." I would have loved it even more if the execution was better fleshed out (and this was a duology/triology/saga even?). 

All that said, I did overall enjoy Circe quite a lot and gobbled it all up in two sittings. Next up, The Song of Achilles! And I'll be keeping a lookout on more releases from the author. 


What about you? have you read Circe yet? What did you love/hate about it? More importantly, what other Greek Mythology themed books or retellings have you read and loved (I'm looking for recommendations)? 

Aparna Singh

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