Circe is an epic fantasy that reads like a historical fiction novel, based on the Greek mythology of the witch of Aiaia, the daugher of a Titan- Circe.
I minored in the classics at university and one of my favorite classes was mythology. I love taking apart stories that mirror humanity’s foibles and try to explain the origin of some of life’s harder truths.
In the war between the Titans and the Olympians, a creation story that could be interpreted to mean the ascension of modern culture over more ancient superstitions, the Olympians triumph. But the Titans are not wiped off the face of the earth.
“Beneath the smooth, familiar face of things is another that waits to tear the world in two.” loc 272, ebook.
Some of the Titans’ powerful and mysterious children play central roles in the great mythological stories. Circe is one of those.
“They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves.” loc 102, ebook.
She began her life in the halls of Helios, a Titanic deity who was a god of the sun, much like Apollo.
“At my father’s feet, the whole world was made of gold. The light came from everywhere at once, his yellow skin, his lambent eyes, the bronze flashing of his hair. His flesh was as hot as a brazier, and I pressed as close as he would let me, like a lizard to noonday rocks.” loc 158, ebook.
Compared to her great father and gorgeous, manipulative mother, Circe was nothing- one of the many faceless children of the greater gods, whose future was destined to be a wife and then mother to more godlings.
Circe’s future is not as simple as all that.
She, and her brothers and sister, have a unique power that no other gods possess. They have the ability to harness the plants and power of the earth, to create potions and salves with miraculous effects. They call it: pharmakeia.
Modern readers can recognize the roots of the word “pharmacy” in the name.
“Pharmakeia, such arts are called, for they deal in pharmaka, those herbs with the power to work changes upon the world, both those sprung from the blood of gods, as well as those which grow common upon the earth.” loc 909.
It is a power no one understands and, because of its mysteriousness, it makes even the gods afraid.
There is more to Circe’s story than pharmakeia. She also interacts with Hermes, Daedalus and Odysseus. She creates a god and a monster. She shakes the foundation of the oceans.
Highly recommended for those who enjoy mythology or historical fiction. It will transport you to a world where gods and goddesses walk the earth and humanity can do nothing but tremble in their shadows.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an advance, digital copy of this book.
Thanks for reading!