Book Review: “Circe” by Madeline Miller – 5/5⭐️

Pages: 385

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thoughts:

*****SMALL SPOILER ALERT*****

It’s easy to tell that Miller has a penchant for underdog characters. In Circe, we are introduced to a goddess who is not only the outcast of her family, but also the most human goddess you will ever meet. If, like me, you choose to read this book after reading “The Song of Achilles”, I can tell you now that it is just as poetically written and enchanting. However, while TSOA was a love story (albeit a tragic one), Circe is more of a story of survival and self-discovery. 

We follow the Daughter of Helios as she first grows up in her father’s halls, ignored by all until she finally begins to show signs of her true power: witchcraft. Sadly, it is this power – feared by the gods – that leads to her eventual exile on the island of Aiaia. There, while she grows into herself and learns the extent of her powers, Circe is faced with a series of challenges, and visitors, that teach her more about the human experience. 

I fell in love with Circe because she is no pushover. There is a resilience to her that is both inspiring and humbling. Though she is no saint, with blood on her hands, she feels regret, guilt, and she learns from her mistakes. She has inner strength that keeps her moving forward when others might have given up. For example, early on in the story, she is severely injured by her own father as punishment for contradicting him. And later on, on Aiaia, she is assaulted by wayward sailors. (Trigger warning for those who are sensitive to SA and physical abuse.) These are just a few of the many trials she overcomes, and that’s not even touching on all the difficulties she faced during motherhood (which are, honestly, a nightmare all on their own). 

In all, her story is a long journey through time and turmoil, and unimaginable pain. She is touched by gods and heroes alike, creates and kills monsters, becomes a mother, and faces down eternal isolation. She’s quite the badass. It’s rare to find a book where you can hear the main character’s voice so well, but Circe’s voice is loud and clear and still echoing. I recommend this book for anyone who loves a strong female protagonist, and themes surrounding mortality, loss, self-discovery, and self-sacrifice. It isn’t a pleasant ride, but one that is entirely worth it in the end. 

If you do decide to give the book a read, please let me know what you think! 

Book Review: Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn” – 4/5⭐️

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is a hard book for me to rate, and that’s because it holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve loved this story (both book and movie form) since I was a kid, and so, I decided to reread it because I was curious about how I would see it now, as an adult. 

In the book, we meet the Unicorn, who exists alone in a kind of immortal stasis. She never leaves her enchanted wood, and so is long disconnected from the world of man. What eventually draws her out of her safety zone is learning that she is the last of her kind. Determined to find the others, she reenters the world of man and immediately runs into humans who can no longer see, or believe in, wonders. She meets the Magician Schmendrick, who, though a true magician, is incapable of controlling his magic, and Molly Grue, a woman who long thought herself well past her prime. However, together, the three journey to a land equally frozen in time, and find themselves coming back to life along the way. 

In this way, time is one of the biggest themes in the story. The passing of time being something that is both feared, but can also bring beauty. It is something necessary for life to be appreciated. The other big themes are human greed and fear, and how they can eventually lead to one’s own downfall. 

I will admit, the reason I ultimately settled on 4 stars, instead of 5, is because of the characters. I wasn’t as connected with them as I once was, though I understood their motivations and admired them all in their own way. For example, I found that I didn’t really care for Schmendrick, as his character was a bit self-centered at times. He is meant to play the fool, as he is beginning his true journey of self discovery, but I still found him a bit irritating at times. However, the harsh Molly Grue has a stronger character. She is jaded, but at the end of the story, is rejuvenated by her adventure with the Magician and Unicorn. I would have liked to know a bit more about her. The Unicorn herself learns about human emotions, like love and regret, and becomes the first of her kind to have truly lived as something else, other than a unicorn.

In all, this book is lyrically written, whimsical, and fast paced. It’s a classic read for anyone wanting a little bit of magic in their lives.