Book Review: Circe

“How many of us would be granted pardon if our true hearts were known?”

Madeline Miller’s retelling of the goddess and titan Circe’s story is quite endearing. It has that interesting buildup vibe all around it. I could never shake away the feeling that something was about to happen. And many times, something did happen. But I still wanted more.

The synopsis of the book reads:

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.

Like many of you, I read that and thought to myself, “Oh my God! I can’t wait to read this book. It’s going to be amazing!” And in a way, it was amazing. There was a lot I loved about this book. But sadly, there was a lot more I didn’t really like.

Those who have been following this blog for a while know that I enjoy most of Madeline Miller’s writings. Her book, The Song of Achilles is still one of my favorite books till date. I was in all the feels after that book. Somehow, someway, Circe misses my heart by a wide margin. Anyone following my Instagram – which you can by clicking here – would know that Circe was on my tbr from the day I heard about it.

Some of the things I loved about the book were of course, the magic, which actually made sense. I love it when a magician or a sorcerer has to work for and hone their craft. It makes their spells seem all the more powerful, than if they wake up one day and suddenly they can cast the spell to bring down worlds. Magic must be honed and sharpened like any other weapon.

The characters were also pretty great. Owing to the fact that this is Circe’s story and not a general rundown of Greek mythology, some characters were notably absent. But those who were there fit in perfectly. The story was also well tidied up around those characters, with all the cubes in their holes. It really was a well knit story.

If there was one thing I didn’t really enjoy about the book, it has to be that the whole book seemed like a story leading up to another. Kind of like a forerunner book. I didn’t feel or notice any ‘climatic’ moments. The ending for me seemed like another paragraph in the story. Anyone could add a couple more paragraphs and it would feel unchanged. And I felt it for a while even before the ending. But I had enough faith in Miller to wait it out. I wish I wasn’t disappointed.

“Is it not our human tragedy that some men must be beaten like donkeys before they will see reason?”

That said, there is a lot to love about the book. As aforementioned, the characters are easy to connect with. The plot leaves much to be desired, but the story itself is a beautiful spin on a very ‘eventful’ book. I really wish I could recommend this book for an ending that would leave you breathless. But I can’t. And that’s my major gripe with this book. It could have been amazing.

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