[BOOK REVIEW] Circe by Madeline Miller

Rating:

Finished Reading:

March 26, 2020

Note:

Crosspost from Goodreads

TL;DR Review: (For the Gina Linettis)

What I signed up for:

  • Great prose narrative
  • Badass witch
  • Stong, independent heroine
  • Greek mythology retelling

What I got:

  • Great prose narrative
  • Right pacing (except when Odysseus came into the story)
  • Sad, boy-crazy, semi-badass witch
  • SLOW character development (1000 years slow)
  • Self-sufficient heroine
  • Greek mythology retelling with some trivial stories I don’t really care about
  • Not enough sorcery

Full Review: (For the Amy Santiagos)

Pre-exile

Greek gods and goddesses in literature were always glorified. They revel in mortals’ worship and wars. It’s a breath of fresh air that in this novel, they were painted in a different light. They saw humans as a form of entertainment. They’re gods and goddesses after all — superior and immortal and most likely very bored.

Circe was a daughter of the sun god Helios. Weak and ugly, she grew up in an emotionally hostile home and was a pariah among the gods and the goddesses. It was not acceptable to me that she didn’t find any hobby on her own pre-Glaucos days. She had everything at her disposal. She’s Helios’ daughter. She liked animals. Why didn’t she have pets? She’s not strong — can’t even set a log on fire. Why didn’t she tried to explore her interest in plants, music, art or anything not related to sports / strength? A child with no interest in anything at all. How is that possible? Are there really kids that boring? If she’s not trying to prove she’s worthy of her father’s affection by her intelligence or whatever sort of skill she possess, why did she spend a huge amount of time following her father around? Helios was not sweet. He liked showing how strong and powerful he was to his child. He was not particularly affectionate either. I don’t get it. Looking back at her childhood, I kinda wished she stumbled upon some sort of sorcery on her own but her revenge was cool so this was forgivable.

Nevertheless, Glaucos was the main person who drove her into defying the Fates. She transformed a human to a god.

Unrequited love + broken heart = Revenge

It was understandable why she would cling to anyone who would offer her even the slightest affection. Despite Aeetes on her side, she still grew up lonely. Her revenge towards Glaucos and Scylla was very understandable and one heck of a cool revenge. She went from weak nymph to powerful witch. YASS (BITCH) WITCH!!!

The stage was set! Her exile in Aiaia was where the fun begins… or so I thought!


Exile

Centuries passed and she kept doing the same old thing. She kept wolves and lions as her pets. She honed her sorcery, tended to her plants, potions and her house. Her character lacked depth. She didn’t do self-exploration (besides witchcraft) — her emotions, her sexuality, her beliefs, her relationships with her family.

As a child, the idea of astronomers’ death delighted her. Why wasn’t that transpired into the story when men would land on her shore? She didn’t torment anyone for fun — not even the ones who tried to rob her or rape her. She just turned them into pigs (fun but it gets old after awhile). She transformed Scylla into a six-headed, human-starved monster. Surely, there were other things that would have sparked her interest other than turning them into pigs and/or fucking them.

She could have experimented on:
– Making a fertilizer out of their bodies
– Trying to make these men grow an extra arm or leg
– Hosting an animal competition race on the shore (after transforming them) and then setting them on fire
– Transforming the men into different animals (use their ships as play pen and make a mini zoo)

All this out of pure boredom. Humans have pathetic lifespan, anyway.

Also, It’s very difficult for me to believe she didn’t sleep with any nymph at all. Seriously? Not even one of them catered to her “fondness of novelty”? Thousands and thousands of years in exile, she didn’t explore her sexuality. And not even once she invited nymphs to bed with Hermes? Not even Hermes brought it up? Come on!

It was as if her happiness depended on someone showing her affection. Her exile reeked of sorrow. Why didn’t she catch a glimpse of happiness all on her own?

Strong, independent woman, anyone? HELLO?

Exile Break

I must say, I loved Circe’s relationship with Daedalus. The understanding ran naturally between them. Most likely, it was because they were both mistreated by Pasiphae. I wish she spent more time playing and talking to Ariadne. She could have taught her a little bit of witchcraft, too.

When she found out Pasiphae’s witchcraft was weaker than hers, why didn’t she do any form of revenge. I mean, come on! Look at her revenge against Glaucos and Scylla. After all those years of bullying, even a slap on Pasiphae’s face would be better than nothing. Wasn’t she known for her revenge?

Plus, I could NOT get over the fact that the soldier she asked for Ariadne’s whereabouts dared to scoff at her. Why didn’t she turned him into a pig on the spot. It’s not like they have CCTVs to verify that on a trial.

At this point, I was still disappointed for the lack of character development. She could’ve given her conditions or whatsoever before agreeing to help her sister but she didn’t.

She could threaten to kill Minotaur so Pasiphae could send her back home. BUT NO. Despite her badass sorcery, Daedalus, a mortal, HAD to save her from her misery. WHY? WHY CAN’T SHE SAVE HERSELF?? They could still have pure connection without being such a damsel-in-distress. She was still the same old pushover that she was during her pre-exile days. Babe, it’s been CENTURIES. I. NEED. MORE. SASS!!!


Exile Part 2 (A.K.A. CHARACTER ARC GALORE)

I’M SO PROUD OF HER!!!

The Odysseus part was unnecessarily long. I mean, I get it. We need a glimpse of the whole Trojan war but it didn’t have to go on and on for pages.

I skipped some of it for 2 reasons:
1. It’s not very relevant to the plot. I mean, you made your point. Odysseus = dead + bad person. Next!
2. Seriously? Who hasn’t read or watched anything related to that famous 10-year war, anyway?! Bitch, I already read, re-read and watched that! Everybody had!

Badass shit she did to defy Athena and protect Telegonus

1. Stood her ground against Athena when she asked Circe to handover Telegonus to her (First of all, what kind of mother hands over her baby to his murderer. Second, as a goddess of war who probably knows all the tricks and strategies there is to exist in the world, what made her think asking Circe point blank this would work?!)
2. Protected the entire Aiaia by her sorcery
3. Surpassed her siblings’ courage by obtaining Trygon’s tail.

Badass shit she did to end her exile:
1. Demanded it from Helios
2. Blackmailed Helios

Post-exile

She did one more badass thing: killed Scylla. YAAASSS BITCH!

Happy ending. Telemachus, her son’s half-brother. So weird! But hey, that’s Greek mythology for you. Love story. Got kids. Yey!!

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