Circeby Madeline Miller Published 10 Apr 2018
|Publisher||Little, Brown and Company|
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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.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
✨ Signed and personalized copies are available through Main Point Books! (They can ship anywhere in the US, anywhere in the UK, and also to some other international locations)
“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”
This is the pièce de résistance I’ve been searching for my entire life. Not only did I fall in love with this story, I predict that this will be the best book I’ll read all year. This book is about healing and doing what it takes to come into your own. This book is about love; the love between lovers, the love of a mother, and the love you must find in yourself. This book proves why family of choice will always be greater than family of origin. This book is about magic, and how we can find it in ourselves if we look hard enough. This is a book about becoming the witch you’ve always buried deep inside you.
“They do not care if you are good. They barely care if you are wicked. The only thing that makes them listen is power.”
Okay, maybe I should start this review off with a somewhat personal story. I was very privileged to go a very good high school where I was able to study The Iliad and The Odyssey for a class my freshman year. And fourteen-year-old Melanie fell in love. To say I was obsessed was an understatement, and more and more my heart was filled with love for Odysseus, Athena, and a certain love affair with the witch-goddess Circe.
(Beautiful art by Kevin Nichols)
Even upon finishing that class, I still couldn’t get enough of Homer’s words. And to this day, The Iliad and The Odyssey are the only books that I collect many editions of. All my loved ones and family correlate these epic poems with me, and always bring me new editions from their travels, and give me gifts for special events and holidays the same way they do with Harry Potter. One of the most prized possession I own is an edition of The Odyssey that was given to me by someone who meant a lot to me, at a very important time in my life. And these two tomes will always be a big part of my identity, and I will always recognize that they not only shaped me as a reader, but they shaped me as a human being, too.
So, when I found out that that Greek mythology retelling queen, Madeline Miller, was writing a book centered around Circe, I knew it was going to end up being one of my favorite books of all time. And it ended up being everything I wanted and more. I hate to throw around the word masterpiece, but if I had to pick a book to give that title to, I’d pick Circe.
“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”
And even though Odysseus plays a huge role in this story, this book is Circe’s and Circe’s alone. We get to see her growing up in Oceanus, with her Titan sun god father Helios, and loveless nymph mother Perse, and her three more ambitious siblings, Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, and Perses. We get to see her living her life of solitude, exiled on the island of Aiaia. We also get to see her make a few very important trips, that are very monumental in Greek mythos. But we get to see all of Circe, the broken parts, the healing parts, and the complete parts. We get to see her love, her loss, her discovery, her resolve, and her determination. We get to see her question what it means to be immortal, what it means to be a nymph in a world ruled by gods, and what it means to just live. Her journey is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and probably unlike anything I will ever read again. I have no combination of words to express how much her life and her story means to me. But I promise, I’m not the same person I was before reading this book.
“…All my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”
This is ultimately a story about how different the tales will always be told for a man. And how the ballads will always be sung for heroes, not heroines, even if a woman was truly behind all the success the man greedily reaped. How the light will always fall to vilify the woman and showcase her as a witch that needs to be tamed, a sorceress that needs to be subdued, or an enchantress that needs to be defeated. Women, no matter how much agency they carve out in any male dominated world, will always be a means to an end to further the achievements of man. Always. And Circe displays that at the forefront of this story.
Circe is most well known for turning Odysseus’s men into pigs when they come to her island in The Odyssey, but Madeline Miller does such a wonderful job weaving all this Greek mythology into a fully fleshed out, brand-new tale. She has created something so unique, yet so breathtakingly good, I think so many readers will find it impossible to put this new-spin of a story down. I was completely captivated and enthralled from the very first line to the very last line. This book just feels so authentic, I felt like I was in the ocean, on the island, and traveling right beside Circe throughout. And I never wanted to leave her side.
“It was their favorite bitter joke: those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.”
Overall, I understand that this is a book that is very targeted to me and my likes. Not only is this a character driven story, with a main protagonist being a character I’ve been in love with for over a decade, but the writing was lyrical perfection. I’m such a quote reader, and I swear I would have highlighted this entire book. This book is also so beautifully feminist that it makes me weep just thinking about the things Circe had to endure. And it showcases the unconditional love of found families, yet also between a mother and her child, while simultaneously abolishing the notion that blood is worth more than anything else in any world. This book heavily emphasizes that you will never be the mistakes that your parents have committed. The entire story is a love letter to love itself and reveals all the things we are willing to do in the name of it. And most importantly, this is a book about how we are truly only ever in charge of our own stories, even though our actions may change the fate for others around us. Please, pick this masterpiece up, and I hope it changes your life, too.
Thank you, Madeline Miller, I will carry your Circe in my heart for the rest of my life.
“That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”
Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, gore, murder, torture, physical abuse, child abuse, thoughts of suicide, brief scene with cutting, graphic childbirth scenes, mention of bestiality, mention of incest, animal sacrifice, death of a sibling, death of a child, death of a loved one, death of an animal, rape, adultery, and war themes.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with Elise (My French Spider Queen)! ❤
“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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Hello, my name is Ana and I am a Greek mythology addict.
A brief introduction to the deities of Greek mythology.
Zeus (Thunder God, king of the Gods)
Hera (Queen of Olympus, Goddess of marriage)
Demeter (Goddess of the harvest, agriculture and fertility)
Poseidon (God of the Sea)
Hestia (Virgin goddess of the hearth)
Hades (God of the Underworld, riches, king of the dead)
Persephone/Kora (Goddess of Spring, Queen of the Underworld)
Athena (Virgin Goddess of wisdom, craft, and war; companion of heroes)
Hermes (Messenger of the gods, God of thieves, trade, travelers)
Apollo (God of prophecy, healing, poetry, music, sun)
Artemis (Virgin goddess of the hunt)
Hephaestus (God of fire and blacksmiths)
Aphrodite (Goddess of beauty and love)
Ares (God of war)
Dionysus (God of wine and the grape harvest, God of theatre)
Helios (Titan god of the sun)
Selene (Titan goddess of the moon)
Eos/Aurora (Titan Goddess of the dawn)
Gaia (Goddess of the earth)
Cronus (King of the Titans)
Rhea (wife of Cronus)
Nyx (powerful Goddess of the night)
Hypnos (God of sleep)
Morpheus (God of dreams)
Hecate (Goddess of magic and witchcraft)
Thanatos (God of death)
Nemesis (Goddess of divine retribution and revenge)
Prometheus (Creator of mankind)
Eros/Cupid (God of love)
Hebe (Goddess of youth)
Muses (Goddesses of inspiration)
The Fates/Moirai (Three sisters, weavers of a tapestry dictating the destinies of men)
Shut up I don't have a problem.
I've been waiting for this ever since The Song of Achilles came out. I have this thing about long-dead heroes from Greek mythology.
Shut up I'm not weird.
Thank you for this book, Madeline Miller. You are a goddess among women.
A book about Circe. FINALLY. FINALMENTE. POR FIN. ENDLICH. NAPOKON.
Circe was a sorceress, daughter of the sun god Helios, and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. You may remember her from Odyssey. Odysseus made Circe promise not to forcibly take his manhood. Trolling at its finest.
Miller's Circe is much more humanized. She is a character you can root for. Here you will meet all the iconic characters from mythology. The Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, the infamous Medea, and the clever Odysseus. As usual, there is no shortage of fabulous characters.
Awesome, brave and resourceful. Circe definitely is all three, with a dash of sass.
I wished that they would come. I wanted to see those goggle eyes of theirs as I walked among the dens of wolves, swam in the sea where the sharks fed. I could change a fish to a bird, I could wrestle with my lion, then lie across her belly, my hair loose around me. I wanted to hear them squeal and gasp, breath-struck.
It's Greek mythology y'all. You know you love it. You know you need it. You gotta have it.
*Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.* It was about time.
The perfect playlist to set the mood.
You threw me to the crows, but it turns out I prefer them to you.
My words are not as good as the ones in this book. Circe is a book about... finding yourself. But god, it stands out so far from just that.
Okay, to get started, I’m just going to say it: Madeline Miller is one of the best writers of our time. She has such a way with words that it is absolutely impossible not to be engaged in her storytelling.
The thing that brings this whole novel together is Circe’s character. She is a woman who has done awful, evil things, and yet remains unfailingly human. She is lonely, and harsh, and hiding herself in sarcasm much of the time. And there is not a moment in this novel in which I didn’t adore her. Madeline Miller does such an amazing job developing this character, weaving her thoughts into the narrative without manipulating you into feeling a certain way, keeping the narrative wide yet keeping it focused around Circe. Throughout this novel I developed such a deep level of admiration for both this author and this character, this character I’m sure will stay with me forever.
This novel is so interesting because at its core, it is an exploration of the voice of women in Greek mythology. Circe is a character we see nothing of in the narrative of Greek mythology, a character with seemingly evil intentions and little motivation – and all this despite showing up in several different stories. There’s something supremely excellent about seeing a character like this who is essentially a plot device be given a story. I know I have a tendency to repeat the term “narrative agency” but it beats repeating— I absolutely love giving characters who have been given no agency the agency they deserve.
I mean, everything about this book was just brilliant. I loved the myth interpretation: Penelope and Odysseus are both written perfectly, and seeing Jason basically get called an asshole while Medea stood on being young and morally grey and in love was so fantastic. And the exploration of gods vs. mortals is just brilliant:
You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.
I loved the relationships — just as a special note, the relationship between Circe and Telegonus made me want to cry. I basically loved everything.
I mean, I think you guys have gotten pretty easily why I liked this so much — a morally-grey-character-driven retelling revolving around agency is basically my entire what-I-like bio. This did all the things I like and I want to reread it daily and hourly. I very well might.
[I also want you all to know this book gave rise to my favorite update meme I have ever posted so thanks for that!!]
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buddyread with my favorite Melanie 💜