Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is the daughter of the sun god Helios and sea nymph Perse. She’s the ugly daughter with a voice like a human and no special power, unlike her brothers and sister. When she takes revenge on another nymph, she discovers her strength almost by accident. As a result, her father and Zeus exile her to the island of Aiaia.

It’s always a nice feeling when your first book of the year will make it to your the end-of-year favorites list. Circe is Miller’s long-awaited second novel and undoubtedly her best yet. Where ‘A Song for Achilles’ opts for a young adult drama during the Trojan War, we dive into the Odyssey with a much more balanced story. Don’t get me wrong, I loved ‘A song for Achilles’ because of its heartbreak and rawness, but I’m glad Miller tries something else with this novel.

Circe is a goddess, a witch so to speak, who is exiled and welcomes on her island all kinds of other gods and people. Hermes, Pasiphae and the minotaur, Daedalus, Medea and Jason and, of course, Odysseus. Circe spans a period of thousands of years and covers several myths that I had not all linked to Circe beforehand. This makes for a well-paced story but from part two onwards, we really do work towards Circe’s own story and her relationship with Odysseus and his family.

In terms of style, this book is more mature than her previous one. But as Circe is exiled, she doesn’t know what’s happening in the world. So she’s only kept informed through others which puts her out of the action at times.

So while I really liked the plot and Circe’s character, the book may just be missing what Nathalie Haynes does have in her books: multiple mythical characters speaking so that you are always in the middle of the action. However, this is an example of the better storytelling that can make you fall in love with the genre of Greek myth retellings. By the way, I never really liked Odysseus and this book isn’t helping :).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Have you read Circe? Did you enjoy it? Do you prefer A song for Achilles?


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