Circe – Beautiful, but Predictable

I was finally able to read Madeline Millers new book Circe. I have been a fan of hers since I read her debut novel The Song of Achilles that was critically praised and has since become a fan favourite. Circe has been critically praised as well, though the reception by fans has been more lukewarm.

A summary:

Circe, a Titan born from the sun god Helios and Perse, an Oceanid nymph. She is different from her siblings, her only friend being her brother Aeetes. She is fascinated by the mortal world and feels more at home there than amongst her fellow immortals. As her powers grow she is soon banished to the island of Aiaia, where she meets many strangers who come to her shores.


Madeline Miller is very good with prose, almost a master in fluid descriptions and metaphors and her weaving on ancient myths together is very good. There are many myths of Circe, and she uses almost all of them. Indeed the books hardback is one to cherish and just beautiful to look at at.

So, what is my little problem with this book, as lovely as it is and how much I genuinely like Madeline Miller as a writer and a fellow greek myth enthusiast?

As the title says, it’s predictable. The way Circe’s journey goes is wonderfully written, but still it feels like there could have been more to it. Maybe I’ve read too many YA novels and know the formula and because I know most of the myths I wanted more added or twisted around to make something new and exciting…and it wasn’t. Sure, I can blame my expectations, but this is Miller’s second book and it just feels like she went with the formula that writers who write a second book take, which is a formula on itself. It follows a different route from the first book, is tonally different, more adult and all that which is all good, but I guess I wanted more that wasn’t there.

The story is edger, darker and much more philosophical than The Song of Achilles. It has grand moments and wonderfully written small ones as well. There is a little nod to Miller’s first book, which is nice, but because of it I realised why the book wasn’t grabbing me as much as The Song of Achilles did. The characters, I didn’t care that much about them, not like I did in the first book where I was invested. Instead, I found myself reading this in rapid pace, almost trying to find something to convince me otherwise…but it didn’t. Gods are non-changing beings, but Circe is, so why her and not some other immortals have a change of heart, or anyone she hears of? I mean there is Hestia, Persephone, Hebe, all women who are characteristically good, so why does Miller make it a philosophy to make all gods children and not add nuance by telling us Circe is not the only one who sees the bigger picture (again, personal opinion here on greek mythology, we all have it, this is mine).

The ending, as right as it is, and is very true to Circe’s character in the book, feels a little uncomfortable because of the man she truly ends up loving in the end. I won’t spoil it, but it made me as I said uncomfortable. Sure gods have different morals, they are another race all by themselves, but still, I would have preferred for her to stay single.

Again I think your own opinion on this book falls on what spectrum of what you think greek mythology is to you. I recommend you read it and form your own opinion, its beautifully written, wonderful to look at, I will likely read it again, but like some fans, I feel lukewarm to it.





Thank you for reading! 

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