Review of Circe by Madeline Miller

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.

So I have been toying with whether to post this review on the blog, it’s kind of off genre but perhaps not, as mythology and fantasy tread a similar path and there is witchcraft!  I admit that I purchased this book solely on the cover which is amazing and the first edition print run has the most amazing embossing on the hard cover itself – like Helios himself the sun is luminescent when it shines upon it!

This was my first foray into ancient mythology and I had not read the Song of Achilles first, which I don’t think really matters but it’s likely there will be parity between the tales at some point. I did however, find that this book was really accessible for those who had a little knowledge.  Most people know Zeus and Athena and many will know the stories of Icarus and Deadalus, and Theseus and the Minotaur, and by having just that little bit of understanding made the book all the more joyful to read.

Circe is a tale told in retrospect, a tale of a goddess in exile. Throughout her hundreds of years she is tested and put through trials, often lonely, but not always – and taking the time to learn all that she can about what she truly is, not just a goddess but a witch with a great power. I found it it was a story which ebbed and flowed, much like her life on her island of Aiaia.  There was often a great deal to love, I enjoyed her interactions and reactions to what she learns and also the calmness about her time alone and the knowledge that she has committed wrongs that will endure as a result of her vanity.  I hate to use the Journey word but that it what this story comes down to – as an immortal however, she is a lot more stubborn and has many hundreds of years longer to learn from what has come before, but there is learning and catharsis.

However there was just a little bit too much time spent getting to the place she gets to.  I devoured the first 250 pages, I loved that it was a new genre to me and I was enjoying what I was reading, however, I found the last section lagged and it felt that it was a little repetitive.  She’s stuck on an island so I get that there wasn’t much else to do but sit and wait for people to come to her but I felt that the final section, which was the most poignant could have been wrapped up a little better and without the slight ick factor that I felt about a certain turn of events.

I give this 4* the first 250 pages were 5* all the way but I felt it just stumbled at the last section which was a shame.

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