Circe by Madeline Miller

CirceTitle: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy/Mythology Retelling

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 10th April 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 352

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist. 

Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds. Named after a hawk for her yellow eyes and strange voice, she is mocked by her siblings – until her beloved brother Aeëtes is born.

Yet after her sister Pasiphaë marries King Minos of Crete, Aeëtes is whisked away to rule his own island. More isolated than ever, Circe, who has never been divine enough for her family, becomes increasingly drawn to mortals – and when she meets Glaucus, a handsome young fisherman, she is captivated. Yet gods mingle with humans, and meddle with fate, at their peril.

In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.

~*~

Set in Ancient Greece, daughter of the sun god, Helios. and naiad, Perse, Circe is cast aside in the halls of their home as an outsider, mocked by her siblings and other gods, and named after a hawk. She is unlike anyone else, with her yellow eyes and strange voice – until her brother Aeëtes arrives, and finally, someone understands her. But still, she is isolated, as her sister, Pasiphaë marries Minos, and Aeëtes is sent away to rule his own island. So she begins meddling with mortals – Glaucus, a fisherman. When her spell backfires and he falls for her sister Scylla, the revenge she takes on Scylla sends her into an exile to Aiaia, where she traps sailors as pigs, and where one day, she meets Odysseus on his way back from Troy – a war of ten years and a journey back that has already taken several years – as told in The Odyssey. From here, Circe seals her fate as a mother and exile, and what she must endure for eternity.

The Circe (Kir-kee or Cir-cee) myth cycle is one of the most interesting myth cycles in Greek mythology. A sorceress and goddess, Circe’s most famous and well-known appearance is in The Odyssey with Odysseus when she turns his crew into swine and induces him to stay for a year on the island with her. As a witch, she used potions and magic to transform people into animals. Where most mythical retellings focus on the male heroes, Madeline Miller takes Circe’s tale and spins it into something new and fresh – Circe and what she did, her exile and how the other gods treated her and feared her – from her perspective of her role as a woman, as a goddess with the voice of a mortal but the body of a goddess and sorceress. It is Circe in her own words – what she did, what she felt when she was exiled and how she reacted to other divine figures sending their nymph daughters to her – to serve her, and in the eyes of the gods, give Circe companionship in her exile.

In Miller’s story, Circe’s dark revenge spell that she casts on her sister, Scylla, forms the backbone to this story. In a mythological world where each god, goddess and mythical figure crossover into each other’s myth cycles all the time, several other gods, goddesses and characters are woven in and out, such as Medea and Jason, seeking refuge away from Colchis, away from Aeëtes, and Pasiphaë and Minos, and the birth of the Minotaur. Madeline Miller has cleverly constructed a story that reads much like the ancient myths, but injected new life into them, amplifying the voices of the goddesses and sorceresses, and giving them a story where they are true to themselves, and where the reader goes on the emotional journey with them, never quite sure what to expect from them, or how to react to them.

Miler’s Circe is allowed to be human, though she tries to hide any instances of what the gods saw as human weakness, when it comes to her son, Telegonus, she does all she can to prevent what she fears the most. Each god and goddess show their good and bad side as well, and their ability to be heartless towards one character, yet at the same time, a patron towards another. Circe is shown as neither good nor bad, but in the grey areas in between, where many figures of mythology lie. As a lover of Greek mythology, seeing the female characters front and centre, in their own words, rather than the ancient texts, is intriguing and fascinating. Whilst still living in antiquity, modern authors give them agency and voice that ancient authors didn’t always, or that the myths didn’t allow for. The mythological world is fascinating in all its incarnations, and this latest Circe interpretation is no exception – she is feminist yet fits into her time in antiquity and uses this to her advantage, and she is individual – embracing every part of who she is because it what makes her Circe, not what Helios and the rest of her family wish she was. Circe is powerful and vulnerable in equal measure and is cautious about letting her guard down – and she is a heroine in her own right, standing up for herself and not letting the world dictate what she must do.

Booktopia

 

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The Blood of Wolves by S.D. Gentill (Sulari Gentill)

blood-of-wolvesTitle: The Blood of Wolves (The Hero Trilogy #3)
Author: S.D. Gentill
Publisher: Pantera Press
Category: Fantasy/YA/Mythology
Pages: 440
Available formats: Print
Publication Date: 1/3/2013
Synopsis: The third and final book in the HERO TRILOGY
4 DARING YOUNG HEROES…
…INSANITY… HERESY…
AND A BLOODY WAR…
As empires fall and are founded anew, the Herdsmen of Ida join the refugees of Troy in search of a vague destiny promised by fickle gods. Amidst disaster, monsters, heresy and war they risk not only their lives, but their hearts, to twist the treacherous threads of fate and deny the desperate demands of blood.

~*~

The Blood of Wolves was my first introduction to S.D. Gentill’s work when I read it and reviewed it for the New South Wales Writer’s Centre. The second time around, having purchased and read the preceding books in the trilogy, I came to it with a better understanding of the events that led to what happened in this book, and found it just as enjoyable.
The fall of the Trojan empire and Aeneas’ attempts to position himself as the Son of the Goddess and to build a new city for his people coincides with the conclusion of the Trojan War and Hero and her brothers’ journeying to find Odysseus and their adventures following their encounters with him. Aeneas, and his young son, Iulus, who finds Hero a great comfort during the time the Trojans find themselves wandering with the kinsmen of The Herdsmen of Ida. Aeneas’ dedication to the gods and the signs they give him, so he says, capture Hero’s attention, even when it seems Aeneas is leading those with him into disaster.
Accompanied as they have been by she-wolf Lupa, throughout the trilogy, the siblings find themselves helping Aeneas, but then threatened by the Carthaginians when Machaon battles to gain the freedom of the Phaeacian princess, Nausicaa, who helped them during their search for Odysseus, and finally embroiled in tragedy that Aeneas claims has been foretold, the journey of the siblings must come to a conclusion. What that conclusion is to be can only be decided by yet more war and tragedy.
Gentill has yet again seamlessly woven ancient history and mythology into a fine narrative, accessible for young adults and anyone interested in Greek Mythology. In calling the chapters books, as in The Odyssey, and describing the gods as Homer did, it adds a layer of authenticity and familiarity for people who have read The Odyssey and texts with similar themes such as The Aeneid, and can introduce the idea of reading these texts to new readers. I found this trilogy to be enjoyable, and would love to revisit them. I recommend them to anyone interested in adventures and mythology or ancient history, and hope that future readers enjoy the journey as much as I did.

Booktopia

Trying War by S.D. Gentill (Sulari Gentill)

Book Title: Trying War, (Hero Trilogy Book Two)
Author: S.D. Gentill
Publisher: Pantera Press
Genre: Young Adult/Mythology/Fantasy
Release Date: 17th February 2012trying-war
Book Synopsis: Mac, Cad, Lycon and Hero return to the ruins of Troy to conf
ront disaster. Once again the Herdsmen of Ida are caught in unfolding legend – facing monsters, murderers and the gods at war, in a desperate attempt to challenge what the fates have decreed.

~*~
Picking up where Chasing Odysseus left us, we rejoin Mac, Cad, Lycon and Hero on their journey across the ancient Greek world. From their pursuit of Odysseus back to Ithaca to reclaim the honour for the Herdsmen of Ida, but their return is hindered by Hero’s capture by the Amazons, in search of a new Queen to have a child with Ares, their god, after the death of her mother, Pentheselia. Bremusa, which I deduced was Hero’s true name before her mother stripped her of it and sent her to live with Agelaus at the beginning of Chasing Odysseus where their journey begins. Hero’s capture made me scream NO, so many times in my mind, that I felt I was there with her brothers and Oenone plotting to get her back. Their journey brings them into contact with Medea, a figure from Greek mythology I am quite familiar with, and was immediately fascinated by her appearance, yet alarm bells started ringing as I knew her myth cycle…this is the witch who, in revenge for her husband, Jason, abandoning her and taking up with another princess, a revenge which led her to unspeakable acts that are described in the book and in all her myth cycles. S.D. Gentill has definitely done her research here with the ancient sources and any other sources. In terms of the Medea myth cycle, she has seamlessly combined each aspect of the myth cycle explored by different ancient texts together to explore her character. Her involvement with the Herdsmen does not last the entire novel, but enough for her to cause enough havoc and bring the Erinyes after Machaon for much of the book.
Trying War doesn’t follow a specific myth cycle, rather it takes on various aspects of the Pantheon of Olympus, Medea, and the priestesses of Artemis in their temple in ancient Athens, in the heyday of the power and authority of the Pantheon, and has our heroes, the Herdsmen and their sister, encountering Ares himself, due for trial in front of the entire Pantheon for a crime against another god. The climax rises with the decision of the fates and the pantheon – too many spoilers to give away here for potential readers, so all I will say that it was a great climax and finale. This familiarity with the Greek mythological cycles, I feel, gave me a better understanding of the books but it isn’t a necessary understanding to have: the important facts of the myth cycles, such as Medea’s, are presented to the reader in conversation.
Yet another spectacular book from Sulari, and I look forward to many more in the future. A definite fan here.