Be Strong, Saith My Heart: Reviewing Circe by Madeline Miller

Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to talk to you about Madeline Miller’s sophomore novel. I have reviewed her debut novel, The Song of Achilles. You can check that out on my blog. Anyways, I do absolutely love mythology, in particular Greek mythology. I also enjoy these particular stories that are classic tales retold with a new angle. Novels likes Wicked have shown how popular this trope is and how it is really great when done well. I shall continue on and tell you all about Circe by Madeline Miller. (Quick note: Circe is pronounced as Sir-See.)

During the fall of the Titans, Circe was born to Helios, a god of the sun and a powerful force. From her birth, Circe realized she was different that the other immortals and turns to mortals for comfort. Circe then discovers her true talent: witchcraft. She is banished by Zeus and Helios to a remote island for eternity. There she hones her powers and crosses paths with many icons of mythology, with the most notable being the cunning Odysseus. Circe, however, soon finds herself in danger after angering the gods and Titans alike. Circe must prove her true powers or else lose everything that she loves in this thrilling and vivid story.

I was absolutely hooked on this book from the first page. Circe herself is a relatively lesser known figure in Greek mythology who is only really known for having an affair with Odysseus. Miller, however, saw this character and turned her into a force to be reckoned with. The first thing I wanted to talk about was the mythology backdrop and the godly characters. They felt equally as human as they did divine. The competition between the Olympians and the Titans felt very much like Game of Thrones, which I enjoyed. With that being said, the novel did present a certain harsh reality within the mythical world. Circe herself embodied what it meant to be a survivor, in my opinion. Despite her familial history, she still goes through many struggles with little to no help. The novel certainly carries a feminist message throughout, which I found very empowering. Her voice, thoughts, and feelings are all very strong and honest. Miller certainly proves that even gods struggle but that there is hope through survival and perseverance. You probably know I’m going to highly recommend this novel to you. Circe was an exciting and emotional reading experience that is impossible to put down.

Note: I got the title of this review from The Odyssey. I do actually really enjoy that epic.

Build God, Then We’ll Talk: Reviewing Sleeping Giants (Book One of the Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel

Hi everyone! First of all, I want to congratulate myself for posting two days in a row. Second of all, the title is stolen from a Panic! At the Disco song (which they probably took from something else) and I’m not ashamed because it works really well with the review. I am really excited to talk about this particular novel. A lot of reviews compared it to The Martian and World War Z, two books which I love. It pretty much hit all of the marks on something I would be interested in. Now I shall tell you more about Sleeping Giants. 

When she was a child, Rose Franklin stumbled across a giant metal hand in her town of Deadwood, South Dakota. Years later, Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist who dedicates her life to finding the mystery behind the origin of the hand and how it works. Dr. Franklin and her team must work against powerful forces stronger than any government in order to learn whether the world will ever be the same after discovering that we are not alone in the universe.

The first thing I want to say about this novel is I love the narrative style. Like The Martian and World War Z, it is told through things like interviews, articles, and journal entries. Some people don’t particularly like this style of story but I really enjoy it as it makes me feel immersed in the story. Sleeping Giants felt like diving down a rabbit hole of conspiracies. It felt so real and unreal at the same time as the story navigates between the science fiction elements and the global political crises caused by the discovery of the hand. I find conspiracy theories fascinating so this really piqued my interest. The writing itself felt very real. The transcripts of the interviews helped to develop the characters as well the story itself. I liked the balance between the forces driving the plot. Neuvel doesn’t sacrifice character development for the sake of the alien element. There’s more than enough humanity in this novel. What is also nice about the novel is it doesn’t get involved with jargon to the point that you don’t even know what anyone is talking about. Since most of the characters are involved in science, the military, and the government, it can get overwhelming at times but the unnamed interviewer helps to serve as the one who clarifies all of it. Speaking of that, the book has an overall suspenseful feel as everyone has their own agenda and it makes the story even more interesting. I found myself not wanting to put the book down at all. If you couldn’t tell by my long review, I am absolutely going to recommend Sleeping Giants and I look forward to getting my hands on the rest of the series.

This and This and This: Reviewing The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This maybe an unpopular opinion but I preferred the Illiad to the Odyssey. Both of Homer’s epics are great but I have always enjoyed the former. I like the intertwining stories of the gods in Olympus and the mortals fighting to the death. The Trojan War is just such an interesting topic to me. Being the mythology buff I am, when I heard about Miller’s novel I was immediately intrigued. Now that I finally have a physical copy of the book, I will review The Song of Achilles. 

Told through the eyes of Patroclus, his story begins when he is exiled from his home by his father after a violent altercation. In an attempt to be a better prince and son, he hopes to learn from the famous demigod, Achilles. The two soon become closer and closer as they train to be heroes. When Helen of Sparta is kidnapped by Prince Paris, the two young men find themselves right in the center of the Trojan War. With the help of the centaur Chiron, the clever Odysseus, and other famous figures, Patroclus and Achilles must withstand the test of the five-year war and learn who they truly are, unaware of what the Fates have planned for them.

I truly enjoyed this new look at the Trojan War. It’s interesting to have such a different perspective at Homer’s classic epic. In particular, this novel focuses on Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship as lovers. (Note: Homosexual relationships were very common in ancient Greece for various reasons. More than likely, they were in a relationship based on historical records. Also, they were not cousins like they were in the Brad Pitt movie.) Miller combines the intimacy of their relationship with the intensity if the war in the background in a beautiful way. It’s heart-breaking, thrilling, and gripping. With a better look at the other famous characters, Miller takes a classic epic and puts it into a new perspective for the modern reader. This novel is perfect for mythology buffs or romance fans with Miller’s beautiful writing.

The Tale of the Lost Gods: Reviewing American Gods by Neil Gaiman

As I have mentioned in a previous review, I have been interested in mythology for a long time. American Gods seemed like an obvious choice for me to read. Since Starz has released the television adaptation of this book, I figured that I would give a review of it for anyone who is either not familiar with it or anyone watching the series. (Note: The Starz adaptation is excellent but it does take have differences, like any book-to-screen adaptation).

American Gods centers around Shadow Moon who is released from prison after finding out about the death of his wife, Laura. While traveling back home as a free man, he meets the enigmatic and quick-witted Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job as his assistant. Since Shadow realizes he has nowhere to go, he accepts the offer. Soon Shadow is thrown into a battle between the forgotten gods of the past and the new gods of the future. As the lines between reality and mythology blur, Shadow must decide where he stands and what he truly believes in.

First and foremost, what I love about this book are the interweaving narratives. Not only do you get to follow Shadow as he travels across America to meet with lost gods, but there are other narratives from across time that illustrate how beliefs travel across the world and either thrive or are forgotten. Gaiman isn’t afraid to be explicit or get a little philosophical. (Another note: this book is pretty R-rated, as is the tv show). Gaiman’s combination of dark humor and observations about mankind’s beliefs are thought provoking and eye opening. I had a tough time putting down this book when I first read it. I laughed and cried and gaped in awe at the revelations made by Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. It is many different stories stitched together into one beautiful and mysterious tapestry depicting personifications of human beliefs. American Gods is beyond unique and depicts a new kind of America where religion is put to the test against the future.