Circe by Madeline Miller | worth the hype?

Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Pages: 393 pages
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
Source: BOTM book club pick
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mythology
Rating: 4/5 stars
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.

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TW for the book: rape, gore, violence 

You are not imagining things. It is I, Alyx, back from months of nada to bring you another review. I think I honestly spent most of 2020 buying books and then DNFing them, which isn't a good mix let me tell you. But I think I was just waiting for the right book to grace my readerly eyes and keep me sucked in. I loved Miller's first book, Song of Achilles and I am a sucker for anything Greek Mythology, so I had an inkling that this book would be right up my alley. I remember when this book first came out and my feed blew up with stories and posts praising this title. Even still, two years after its release, this book is still talked about as if it was released just last month. I decided to finally read it for myself and see if it is really worth the hype.

I wouldn't say that I'm so well-versed in aspects of Greek Mythology, but I had this point in my life where all I read were books about Greek Mythology. I know the basics and some of the lesser Gods, but it was so interesting to see so many deities' stories intertwined in this story. This book caters well to both audiences- avid Greek Mythology book readers and new and eager readers ready to step into the genre. Most importantly, this book centers upon a very underrated figure in mythology, Circe. Even before I started the book, I did not know of her existence, yet I picked up what was going on rather quickly. Miller has a knack for writing beautiful stories about mythological figures, without you ever needing to know much beforehand. And for that, I praise this book because I didn't have to do any Google searches, and if I did it was only because I was interested to learn more, not that the web search was super integral to my understanding of the story. So if that was keeping you from reading this book, it didn't seem like a problem. My advice, though, is not to fixate on pronouncing every new character's name correctly in the book. It will definitely slow you down and isn't as important as remembering who they are in the story. I just gave everyone nicknames :)

As for the writing, I really admire her lyrical writing, which was often filled with some beautiful metaphors and descriptions. There is very little dialogue, since our main protagonist is most often by herself on her island of Aiaia, and so the author is forced to immerse us in the world through the different senses. Though I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed this, the book kind of lacks a specific plot. The story is much more character-driven than it is plot-driven.

Let's talk about characters, my favorite part. I think the author really had a challenge tackling this story because she's taking these well-known figures in mythology, who we already have pre-conceived associations about, but she adds her own spin on these characters and truly makes them come alive from the pages. I think the draw about Greek mythology is that it connects so much with history, and we love seeing their personalities come to play in the books we read. The main character, Circe, goes through some incredible character development very early on in the story and my only gripe was that I wish it was more drawn out through the length of the book. I also wanted to see more of the side characters developed more. Although I knew they were only minor side characters, I was so interested in Circe's brother Aeetes and one of Circe's lovers, Daedalus.

It's hard to admit that Circe was the first book that I was able to finish so far this year. I have spent many months reading through many books, only to find myself at another DNF. But with Circe, I succeeded in finishing the entire book and it was more than enough to captivate my attention.

Did the pressure of the book community contribute to my enjoyment of this book? Maybe, but the world will never know. Circe is certainly a super entertaining book that was a nice mix-up for me since it has been years since I have read some Greek Mythology. It is probably not the most mind-blowing book of the year, and I much preferred the author's first novel, Song of Achilles, but rest-assured it lives up to its name in the book community.

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