Hey you all! It’s about time I posted a review, because it has been a while. Somehow I didn’t read any books in January that I wanted to write a review about. I read some good books and some books I did really like, but nothing I had a strong opinion about or really strong feelings for. Luckily, February brought me a book that was AMAZING!!! Some of you might know that I love mythology, and especially Greek mythology. I also love ancient Greek history (that’s why I ended up studying history and becoming a historian). So, when I came across the book Circe by Madeline Miller I just had to buy it (not gonna lie that cover totally pulled me in too 😉 ). As with most books I buy I first put it on my shelves until the right time to read it came along. I don’t know about you guys and girls but I always have to find the right frame of mind to read certain books otherwise I just can’t read them and really struggle to keep reading. I’m very much an emotional reader: I read what fits my moods. This month I have been craving books with a little bit more body, with fantastical elements and great worldbuilding. So, I decided to pull Circe from the shelves and, boy, what a great decision that was! This book had everything I longed for: an interesting and well written main character, fantastic worldbuilding, adventure and emotion, and gorgeous writing. Let me try to put into words what I thought of this book. But first the description:
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.
When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.
There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
One of the reasons why I loved this book was because of the main character. Circe appears in the Odyssey rather briefly. We know nothing more about her than the fact that she lives alone on a remote island, that she is a witch and that she helps Odysseus to overcome a number of perils at sea. However, as often with women in history, her story is but a footnote in the story of the actual hero. Miller takes this footnote and spins it into a marvellous story that’s both intensely emotional and heartwrenchingly human. Circe is one of the daughters of Helios. Her brothers and sisters are beautiful, brimming with their divinity and confident in their powers and gorgeous looks. Circe, however, doesn’t have godly good looks and her voice doesn’t brim with power. Instead she is plain and her voice is frail. Because of this she is ridiculed by her family and often forgotten and overlooked. Her loneliness fills the pages and really touched my heart. You simply cannot read this book without feeling what Circe feels. Her character is written so incredibly well ❤
Because Circe is often alone and has no friends she hasn’t become like her family. Her heart is tender and she feels, maybe more than she should. When she meets the human Glaucos and befriends him she has no shield against her feelings and can’t help but fall in love as he is the first person to truly see her. However as Glaucos is human Circe knows she has to let go of him far too soon. Once, she heard a story about an island with plants that can transform anyone into their true form and Circe decides to see if this is true. She picks the flowers and wishes with all her heart that Glaucos could be a god so they can stay together forever. Her wish comes true but not everything works out the way she wants it to, because Glaucos never felt for her what she felt for him and he is just like all the other gods: arrogant, selfish and cruel. Yet, Circe can’t stop loving him and will do anything to keep him, including turning her rival into a monster. And that’s where her life actually begins. With the discovery of her own godly powers and her banishment as a punishment for what she has done with these powers.
“Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two.”
We follow Circe on her journey of discovery. The discovery of her powers and of her own personality. She finds out how strong she really is, what hardships she can overcome, what she is willing to fight for and what lengths she will go to to protect the ones she loves. I absolutely loved Circe’s journey of self discovery and how she found love.
Another great thing about this book is the worldbuilding. Seemingly without effort Miller brings the world of ancient Greece to life. Familiar places, characters and events from mythology and history are woven into Circe’s story, making it seem more real and utterly believable. The descriptions are vivid and detailed and really made the scenes come to life before my eyes.
The dichotomy between divinity and humanity plays a pivotal role in this book and I really loved how Miller explored this theme and lets Circe balance between the two constantly. Eventually Circe has to choose in which world she belongs and the ending of her story is so beautiful and emotional ❤
“This was how mortals found fame, I thought. Through practise and diligence, tending their skills like gardens until they glowed beneath the sun. But gods are born of ichor and nectar, their excellences already bursting from their fingertips. So they find their fame by proving what they can mar: destroying cities, starting wars, breeding plagues and monsters. All that smoke and savour rising so delicately from our altars. It leaves only ash behind.”
Although this book has a slow and steady pace, really focussing on Circe’s emotions and development, the story nonetheless remains suspensefull and adventurous. There wasn’t a single page in this book that seemed unnecessary or redundant. If you like fast-paced books this might not be the one for you, but if you like a slower pace and a story that is written and plotted perfectly this is most definitely the one for you!
The only thing I liked a little less about this book was the romance. The character and story development were fenomenal and I was expecting the same attention and detail in the romance area as this is such a great part of Circe’s story, but the romances were written with much less attention. On more than one occasion the romance felt too insta-love for me and I didn’t feel anything. I would have loved if the writer would have spent more attention to detail and development in the romances too. Now, they almost seemed to be page fillers instead of paramount events in the maturing and becoming of the main character.
Eventhough the romance was a bit of a let down (for me at least) the rest of the book was fantastic. If you love a bit more slow-paced stories with great worldbuilding, well-developed main characters and a combination of fantasy, history and mythology you should definitely put this one on your to be read list!!! Trust me you won’t regret it 😉
Happy reading you all!