Sunday 23 June 2019


Only noticed Madeline Miller has another book out when I saw someone tweet about buying a copy during their weekly shop.

I really enjoyed Song of Achilles, and very glad she didn't take another ten years to write this one. I'm an absolute sucker for stories of gods and monsters. Fond memories as a kid of sitting on my aunt's narrow boat, Celia, with my nose pressed to the illustration's of a book about Greek legends. I love anyone who can make those larger-than-life characters live and breathe. 

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.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.

Bit of a canny marketing move to focus in on Circe, what with all that Game of Thrones hype going on. Lot of people searching for Circe, I just wonder how many get Lena Headey and how many get the book.

Whatever, I absolutely loved this. Think the cover's gorgeous, the writing is crisp and vivid, and the narration, by Perdita Weeks, was absolutely perfectly suited. 

Some choice lines:

I had never felt a lash. I did not know the colour of my blood.

... all I saw were faces bright as whetted blades.

Sorcery cannot be taught. You find it yourself, or you do not. 

What was the fight over?’ ‘Let me see if I can remember the list.’ He ticked his fingers. ‘Vengeance. Lust. Hubris. Greed. Power. What have I forgotten? Ah yes, vanity, and pique.’ ‘Sounds like a usual day among the gods,’ I said.

His guilt was thick in the air as winter mists.

Death's Brother is the name that poets give to sleep. For most men those dark hours are a reminder of the stillness that waits at the end of days.

If there was some other purpose, we would never know it. All the things he had done in life must stand now as they were.

For gods are the opposite of death.

[In the afterlife] Some walked hand in hand with those they had loved in life; some waited, secure that one day their beloved would come. And for those who had not loved, whose lives had been filled with pain and horror, there was the black river Lethe, where one might drink and forget. Some consolation.

This was a treat, and I look forward to finding out who she will write about next.

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