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.
Starting the book review dream with a powerful one, so let’s go!
Genre: Fantasy – Mythology
Page count: 393
“Witches are not so delicate.”Circe
Witches are raw power. And raw power through its definition is not delicate.
Being honest right now, I have never been a huge fan of Greek mythology. I used to be obsessed with Egyptian mythology and fascinated by the Celtic one. But Greek mythology seemed all Greek to me (pun intended!). Not because it was unattractive, but just because I never understood it properly. I felt like it was a never ending tale, too elaborate for my capacity of understanding. But this book written by Madeline Miller, Circe, helped the eyes of my mind flush open with understanding and for this I am thankful.
Circe is introduced to us as a nobody. She is neither a full Goddess, in the true meaning of the concept, nor a mudblooded mortal. She is a Goddess, the daughter of the mighty Sun, the Titan Helios, and the beautiful nymph Perse, but the mundanity of her voice and the inutility of her presence made her a lesser Goddess in other Gods’ point of view, even lesser than universally considered. She is an outcast even in her own family and as hard as she wants to change this, she’s bound by unseen powers not to (Fates, duh!).
The book expands some universal and social ideas: the road of an outcast hero, searching for love in a loveless life, feminist actions abnormal for the time’s mentality, vengence and forgiveness. So many more.
Starting with the first one, the road of an outcast hero, all is there to say is that if you are not outcasted, then you don’t suffer and if you don’t suffer then you have no drive to make something worthy out of your life. In this case, an infinite, immortal life. Circe’s exile on the isle of Aiaia makes her realise the infinite power that she possesses within her and everywhere around her. It all starts with a plant. It all ends with the same plant.
Pharmaka is associated in the book with witchcraft. The power of the herbs to heal is magical. In my native language, Romanian, there is a word similar to the word Pharmaka and its meaning from the book. We say farmece, witchery spells. When someone does farmece to you, that person casts an unseen and unfelt spell over you (both metaforically and practically speaking). Circe’s power is to tame the so-feared Pharmaka and use it without being afraid.
Circe’s power is to tame the so-feared pharmaka and use it without being afraid.
”You are wise”, he said.
”If it is so”, I said, ”it is only because I have been a fool enough for a hundred lifetimes”
Circe is a powerful individual, but she gains this power from her wisdom, the wisom of time. She is a free spirit and she has her father’s roots of pride. She is her own master and she doesn’s agree with the ancient etiquettes, sung by bards and stuck for eternity in people’s minds. This shows the power of freedom she raised in herself.
”Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
Circe is powerful, yes. Circe is unique. Circe is herself. She gives us a valuable lesson of how to live free and how to live sufficient. She is a figure of self respect and self care and she says, with unspoken words, that if you want to live happy, you have to live true to yourself.
Circe is different at the end. A mortal’s love for her makes her see the life she wants to have. She gives away her immortality, thinking of the words the Trygon told her once:
”I cannot bear this world a moment longer.” (Circe said)
”Then, child, make another.”
And as to paraphrase a quote from the book as my own strong impression of Circe, however gold she shines, do not forget her fire.