Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on December 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

Review: Circe by Madeline MillerCirce by Madeline Miller
Published by Little Brown (4.10.2018)
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 393 pages
Source: Library

3 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.

My thoughts

Trigger Warning: Rape

I have some very mixed feelings on this book, which is going to make it super hard to review. I love mythology, so the basis of this book is a total win for me. However, I was not a fan of the writing style at ALL.

The prose is very, VERY dry. That was probably my biggest issue with this book. It’s told in past tense, first person – which is usually my favorite, because I tend to connect better when things are first person (I honestly kind of hate third person 90% of the time). But this one was told in a way that makes you feel as if someone is telling the story after things have already happened – yes yes, that’s the point of past tense, right? I don’t know how to explain it, but usually with past tense I still feel like part of the story as it’s happening, and with this one I just felt like nothing mattered and things were going to reach an inevitable conclusion (which probably sounds totally stupid, because that’s true of all stories – but you know how it feels like you’re IN the story and it’s happening to you and you hope for things can go a certain way? Yeah, I didn’t get that with this one) and I just didn’t care about the in between. Then there would be certain phrases along the lines of “I didn’t know it at the time” and she would jump timelines to say how a person was in the future, while telling a story of the past, and it just dragged me out of the story so bad. I like subtle foreshadowing that leads me to figure things out for myself (or get the OHH! moment when it’s revealed later if I hadn’t picked up the foreshadowing), not being blatantly told that things will be meaningful at a later time. Snore.

I also didn’t like how everything was TOLD to me – I did this. I did that. With literally no feeling behind it. It was just a bunch of telling and absolutely NO emotion whatsoever. I don’t remember one instance where Circe said anything about how she was actually feeling when things were happening, which caused a major disconnect between me and the story. View Spoiler » It was all so clinical. Like she was telling someone else’s history. It should have been a moving story, but it never moved me.

Now that I’ve gotten my complaints out of the way, let me move on to what I did like! As I said previously, I adore mythology. I love stories of gods. This book really brought to light their vain, selfish, cruel nature. Basically, the gods are assholes. And Circe’s life was pretty rough because she was a doormat and object of ridicule for the other gods. I felt pretty bad for her – I mean, her entire life is basically one big sob story for crying out loud – but even still I never felt any real emotion over anything that happened to her.

I enjoyed how fucked up all the gods were. (Um, the Minotaur….*shudders*) It’s one big drama-fest, which was rather entertaining. I love how there was always something outlandish or scandalous happening with distant relatives. I also enjoyed the witchcraft involved and the magic that Circe performed. It was really awesome, actually! I love that she used herbs and incantations for spells. And she was quite a badass, too (turning lecherous pigs into literal pigs = epic). The main thing I enjoyed was learning more in depth about popular legends. Of course I’ve heard of Daedalus and Icarus, Odysseus, Jason and Medea, etc; but I never really knew a whole lot about any of them, so that was a treat getting to read some backstory!

Overall, I’m rather let down by the hype surrounding this one. I enjoyed reading about the gods and legends, and mythical monsters, but was severely underwhelmed by Madeline Miller’s writing style. The lack of connection dragged the story down.

Overall Assessment

Plot: 3/5
Premise: 5/5
Writing style: 2/5
Originality: 3.5/5
Characters: 3.5/5
World-building: 4/5
Pace: 3.5/5
Feels: 0/5
Cover: 2/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Jessi (Geo)

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