Book Review: ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller

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Published February 27, 2019
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The Montclarion
Madeline Miller's "Circe" was published April 10, 2018. Photo courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

“Circe” is a captivating, fantastical tale following the life of a lesser-known Greek goddess.

Madeline Miller’s latest release features Circe, the outcast daughter of Helios, the God of the sun who sees her as nothing but a nuisance. However, a power brews inside of her that leaves others on edge until one day she turns a mortal into a god with the use of witchcraft. Because of this forbidden action, she gets banished to a deserted island to live out the rest of her days with only the stars to keep her company. “Circe” is a fiery, mythological retelling that is a must-read and will leave readers in awe of the adversity Circe strives through for centuries.

From the moment the book begins, readers are transported to the infamous, mythical world of gods and monsters. Miller reels us into Circe’s life full of strife and mistreatment at the hands of her family and strangers alike before she is exiled for using forbidden witchcraft against others. As she grows older and begins to hone in on her untapped power and potential, Circe uses her magical abilities to either help mortals who visit her island or punish them for their wicked deeds.

Not only do we see Circe’s rise to power but readers will also see well-known gods and villains make appearances as well. Prometheus, the Minotaur and Odysseus’ stories are woven into the narrative of “Circe.” Each showcases their twisted and gruesome origins and how they eventually were knocked down.

In a world full of complex relationships and tales, Miller highlights the gods and goddesses who make the biggest impact on Circe’s life, along with infamous mortals who come to her island’s shore.

What makes the biggest impact in this novel is Circe herself who stands out from the rest of the powerful characters living in this story. She is a flawed goddess who makes mistakes, takes revenge on those who’ve wronged her and falls for the fragility and impermanence of mortals. She is a resilient female lead that rises above her circumstances and makes a name for herself as a goddess and witch.

In a way, Circe is morally gray in the actions she takes and how she punishes the countless array of men who have wronged her. But her character development shines through the narrative. At the beginning of her life, Circe was a meek goddess who was bullied by her siblings and parents, but by the end of her tale, she is a force to be reckoned with and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

Miller’s writing is dazzling and brings to life Greek mythology through wondrous prose, complex characters and an epic tale that has only briefly been touched upon in Homer’s “The Odyssey.”

While some readers may get muddled by the vivid descriptions of Circe’s world and the multitude of characters who influence her journey, fans of Greek mythology are sure to fall in love with Miller’s latest release full of witchcraft, myths and a resilient protagonist.

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