Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller


Madeline Miller’s Circe is a book that I enjoyed so much that I wrote my honours thesis on it. It is a feminist retelling of the character Circe from Greek mythology, which is a topic that Miller is very acquainted with.

If you’re not familiar, Circe appears in the Odyssey as another trial for Odysseus to surpass on his way home. She is the daughter of the sun, Helios, and her powerful witchcraft exiled her to an island. In The Odyssey, Circe turns Odysseus’s men into pigs and Odysseus drinks a potion that makes him immune to her magic. After drawing a knife on her, he then seduces her and she is persuaded to free his men. She then consults an oracle to tell him where his journey must take him next. 

While The Odyssey is her most famous appearance, Circe is a character with a rich mythology that Miller encapsulates wonderfully. She is not reduced to the “temptress” archetype, becoming a fully realised character. We watch as she goes from the “ugly duckling” of her family, to ultimately falling in love which leads to exile. We see her grow jaded on her island, left to the whims of men, and we watch her tenacity grow. 

Miller uses Circe to explore the ways women are overlooked in Greek mythology. While mythological Circe is a powerhouse, she’s never written sympathetically and is defined by the men in her life. Miller makes clear the ways that men control Circe and the other women in the story. Circe was an outcast in her family of Titans and was thus singled out. Her sister Pasiphae was favoured, but was handed off to a husband as a peace treaty between Zeus and Helios. The women in this story are wonderfully flawed and distinct. Miller doesn’t erase the effect of the patriarchy in this book; she explores how women are affected by it. They play into or reject the rules prescribed to them. 

No longer does Circe’s story revolve around Odysseus: the witch-goddess is her own hero. Along with her godly family, the cast of this novel includes some big Greek mythology names. Circe brings in characters like Athena and Hermes, and incorporates the myths of Jason & Medea, Daedalus & Icarus, the Minotaur, and more. Before reading it, I considered myself pretty well-versed in Greek mythos, but this book gave me so many new things to research. 

Miller’s writing is like poetry. There’s a comforting, flowing quality to it that paints very vivid pictures. The text is laced with such gorgeous metaphors, descriptions, and symbolism that I didn’t mind reading it four times. I just love the way Miller describes Circe’s emotions and the development of her powers. It’s a female empowerment story, but not in a shallow way. Circe is flawed and complex, often making the wrong decision on her path to learning the right way. The trauma she experiences in her past cause her to lash out and not trust, but she learns to be better. She finds a way to exist as herself, not the person she is expected to be. 

Circe is a beautifully evocative book that leaves you in a trance. The world of Greek mythology comes alive through Miller’s well-constructed words. It is a feminist take on stories that have not been kind to women, nonetheless, it does so without being preachy. I love this book with all my heart. It’s the best I could hope for from a modern take on Greek mythology. If you get the chance to read it, I highly recommend you do!

You can find Madeline Miller’s book on her website here.

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth


You’ve never read a book like this before, I can guarantee. Described as a science-fantasy, Gideon the Ninth transcends genre in its whirlwind narrative and utterly enthralling setting. 


“The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.”

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is the first instalment of The Locked Tomb series. It’s an exceptional blend of sci-fi, fantasy, gothic horror, and murder mystery. Shattering expectations with every chapter, this book has enough twists and turns to make you dizzy. 

Set in a post-apocalyptic world relocated to the void of space, powerful necromancers run a fractured society. Gideon Nav is an unwilling member of the Ninth House who wants nothing to do with it or her peer, Harrowhark Nonagesimus. However, Gideon is forced to be Harrowhark’s bodyguard as she attempts to join the Emperor Undying in immortality. 

The world of The Locked Tomb is incredibly dense and complex. This futuristic society takes a bit to comprehend, but it’s a marvel how much detail Muir puts into the setting. Necromancy is the driving force of this world, but Muir adds so many layers beyond just raising skeletons. There’s bone magic, flesh magic, spirit magic … the possibilities are endless! If there’s one thing I love in a fantasy series, it’s a good magic system. Muir adds so much creativity to what a necromancer can do, but there are still solid rules in place. None of the characters feel too overpowered, even the exceptionally strong ones. 

Speaking of the characters, Gideon is a refreshing protagonist. Her tongue-in-cheek narration is the perfect complement to the story’s often heavy subject matter. Her internal monologue makes her seem charmingly arrogant, but her interactions with others show her to be shy and humble. It’s wonderful to have a proud butch lesbian as a protagonist who is seen as attractive by every other character. 

The other characters are just as impeccably fleshed-out as Gideon. The people in this world are as complicated, dark, and twisted as the world itself; all an absolute joy to read. The characters are surprising and bracing, scrabbling out of any archetypes you try to fit them into. There’s a broad spectrum of personalities, motives and desires, which means there’s never a dull moment in Gideon the Ninth. 

This book truly does have something for everyone. It’s packed with action, high-stakes puzzles, mysteries and dark secrets. What I love about this series is that there aren’t huge chunks of exposition. You’re thrown straight into the action with barely a moment to catch your breath. While this could be overwhelming, Gideon the Ninth leaves enough tantalizing story crumbs that you’re not weighed down by details. You just want to keep pushing through until you’ve discovered every hidden treasure. Gideon the Ninth is available in most major bookstores and online. The third instalment in the series is set to be released in September.

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