Thanks to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson children’s series, there has been a recent comeback of classical mythology retellings in contemporary fiction. Seemingly boring, textbook-style myths become renewed in the form of elaborate tales fit for modern day readers. It is every mythology-lover’s dream–– a resurgence of new ways to listen to their favorite myths, spun in a different perspective each time. Someone who has executed this idea particularly well is Madeline Miller, author of two novels retelling mythology–– The Song of Achilles, and Circe.
Circe jumped to reader’s favorites lists and filled the timelines of social media platforms. With a stunningly beautiful bronze cover, Circe easily caught readers’ eyes. The book details the goddess and witch Circe, who was commonly known throughout mythology as a goddess of magic. The book spans most of Circe’s lifetime, from a young child to hundreds of years old. Disliked and rather unloved by her extensive family and relatives, Circe was known as the ugly, mistaken daughter of Helios, who was believed to hold little to no talent. In comparison to her beautiful sister and brothers, Circe was outcast and humiliated day by day, and was betrayed consistently by people she thought she could trust. But as Circe realizes she possessed the power of witchcraft, something nobody expected her to have, she begins to allow her power and her life to grow (even while being exiled to an isolated island).
With iconic appearances from classic mythology heroes like Promytheus, Hermes, Athena, and many more well-loved beings, Circe draws readers in and somehow makes a story spanning thousands of years seem short. It is remarkable how Miller creates a character such as Circe, an immortal goddess and witch, so incredibly relatable to whoever opens the book. Many characters come and go, some with much more lasting impression than others, but Circe remains powerful and endearing throughout the novel.
Miller’s writing makes Circe feel straight out of a fairytale, with formal writing and proper dialogue that feels perfectly placed for a mythology retelling, but makes one wonder how it would possibly fit in any other work of fiction. Even so, her talent in this genre of fiction is so spectacular that I hardly care enough to find out.
Circe battles the ongoing question of morality and what makes a person good or bad. Circe constantly finds herself stricken over fatal mistakes, always trying to be more trusting and more giving, all while her witchcraft becomes more powerful and more dangerous. Her lasting legacy within mythology has been her tendency to turn men into pigs. Circe also delves into discovering her identity, something that any reader can connect with. Despite her immortality, Circe is still discovering her own worth and her true purpose while hundreds of years old. She experiences love, heartbreak, tragedy, loss, and even the pains and wonders of motherhood.
Read this with background knowledge of mythology, or read it without having read a single text of mythology ever before. Circe can teach anyone of all ages what it means to resilient and true.
Rating: 5/5 stars