Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Circe [review]

Circe by Madeline Miller
Published by Little, Brown and Company on April 10, 2018
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
4.32 (as of 2019-04-03)
Spoiler-free Review

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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.

Circe had already been on my TBR since I really liked The Song of Achilles, but I had seen lukewarm praise by friends and decided not to prioritize it. Its place on the Women’s Prize longlist is what skyrocketed it to the top of my list. I can see to some extent why it’s so well-loved: Madeline Miller manages to create a feminist retelling of Circe’s place in history. Miller’s prose is lovely, as expected, and it’s quite an easy read.

I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips towards yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.

Unfortunately, I just found there to be something missing. With The Song of Achilles, Miller really managed to tug at the heartstrings in a way that I didn’t experience again in Circe. Part of this may have been due to the length of the story, which takes place over thousands of years and which necessitates large gaps in time. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint anything else, though. There’s nothing I can point to as causing my neutrality, I just… wasn’t quite as invested in the story as I would’ve liked.

I did not care. I thought: give me the blade. Some things are worth spilling blood for.

Overall, though, Circe is a worthwhile read. Miller is a great writer and I don’t regret picking this up. It seems by and large to satisfy audiences, so I’m definitely in the minority with my rating.

More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
The Silence of the Girls

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Song of Achilles [review]


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Ecco on August 28, 2012
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.3 (as of 2018-09-06)
cw: rape, brutal murder, everything you would expect from war

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Alright, I can see what all the fuss is about now. I had been intending to pick this up for a while now, mostly due to the hype. Luckily, someone in my postal book club chose it, so I had a great excuse to read it!

As if he had heard me, he smiled, and his face was like the sun.

I went into The Song of Achilles relatively blind, knowing not much except that it was about Achilles and was allegedly super gay. Both of these things are true. I’m not very familiar with the mythology, so almost all of the plot was new to me. I’m not sure whether this enhanced or detracted from my experience, but it definitely brought a lot of surprises! I think I could have benefited from knowing the other players a little more, as they sort of blurred together for me, but I also found the story itself more enjoyable because I didn’t know what would happen next.

I feel like I could eat the world raw.

It’s hard to classify this into a genre. It’s kind of fantasy, kind of historical fiction, and kind of romance. And let me tell you, Madeline Miller really knows how to write a romance. Even though I’m not typically one for historical fiction or classics, I found myself really drawn into both the plot and the writing. The characters were so well done and I felt I really understood Patroclus and his motivations. It was incredible to watch both the boys mature and change in their own separate ways.

My mind is filled with cataclysm and apocalypse: I wish for earthquakes, eruptions, flood. Only that seems large enough to hold all of my rage and grief. I want the world overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at my feet.

Overall, this was a really nice read and I’m glad I got around to it! I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to pick it up yet (I may have been the only one left).

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)