Being the daughter of one of the most powerful gods might give you the most extravagant lifestyle you can imagine–yet Circe’s life is anything but that.
A tale of triumphs, grief, heartbreak, and ego-filled gods, Circe focuses on the peculiar daughter of Helios (god of the sun) and Perse (a nymph and naiad). Since her childhood, Circe the nymph has had to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that her siblings don’t even have to–and she eventually snaps, getting ousted from the opulent house of Helios.
Circe is evidently very different from the others, and is often mocked by everyone including her own family. Despite having things being (literally!) handed on silver platters, the shiny things don’t outweigh the callous words that are spat at her regularly:
...all my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was the creature in it.
Always feeling left out, she dabbles beyond boundaries that gods can’t even cross, resulting in her punishment. However, this curse is also a blessing for her. From finding her strengths, unique gifts and magic, we see how Circe develops as a character who is more than just “the strange nymph” through her experiences and trepidations. It’s interesting to see the contrasting views of the characters she holds as she ages. At one point she holds a certain lover to a pedestal, and on the other hand admits that he is deeply flawed, though that doesn’t diminish her love for him. Whether it’s mortals or gods, Circe has to watch out for herself in many ways, and can only truly trust herself, albeit she is flawed too. Her immortality is a fascinating motif that makes certain incidents leave an imprint of sorrow in her, or makes her appreciate fleeting moments the way mortals do:
I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I now see they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.
I think this is a well-written Greek retelling and would recommend anyone who is into Greek mythology, whether you are a beginner or not. Circe’s character development is also very well-rounded, and we come to know the nuances of her; every single emotion known to mankind has been expressed in the novel, and we still get an in-depth view of the other characters, as well as the precarious ways of how “gods love novelty.” I do love Miller’s prose style, she has a good balance of intricate details and plot-driven perspectives.
One thing to note though, is that I often see people brand this book as a feminist retelling, and I have to disagree with this because of the way Circe navigates some of her romantic relationships or interests when they don’t go her way. I see certain feminist traits of her perhaps as she gets wiser, but I personally wouldn’t consider the novel a feminist retelling in and of itself.