Select one of the keywords
Circe    by Madeline Miller order for
by Madeline Miller
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2019 (2018)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Any fans of Mary Renault out there? Remember Last of the Wine? I've read and loved all Renault's historical novels set in ancient Greece, and wished there were more. Finally, here's an author, Madeline Miller, who measures up to Renault. I devoured her Circe, starring an immortal nymph, daughter of Titan sun god Helios.

Though you'd think an immortal would have power, the women (unsurprisingly) didn't, but over the centuries, some of Helios' children discover they have talents that even gods fear. Since her siblings do a better job of handling family politics, Circe is the one who suffers for it. She falls for a human, Glaucos, and uses herbs grown from gods' blood to transform him into a sea god, welcomed by her kin.

But when Glaucos rejects Circe for the lovely nymph Scylla, Circe uses her power to transform Scylla, not knowing what the end result will be. She regrets it when she finds she has created a monster who will slaughter seafarers, but cannot undo it. When Circe admits to her father what she has done, Helios exiles her to a deserted island, Aiaia, though at least he built her a palace there.

On Aiaia, Circe perfects her arts, and for a time enjoys a liaison with Hermes, who visits her there. He tells of a prophecy that 'a man named Odyssues, born from my blood, will come one day to your island.' Circe remains fascinated by humans, and Odysseus does eventually find his way to her, on his circuitous route home from Troy. Cicre also has a role to play in the birthing (and containment) of Crete's Minotaur.

There are surprises for the reader in how events play out, in particular Circe's relationship with Odysseus and his family. I enjoyed this novel very much, and plan to seek out Miller's prior Song of Achilles. Circe is a book well worth reading and Madeline Miller an author worth following!

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews