First, I should say that this was just (as in this week) voted “Fantasy Book of the Year” on Goodreads. Second, the readers there got it right.
In Circe, Madeline Miller delivers the full package. Compelling characters? Check. Excellent storytelling? Check. Powerful, subtle, simple yet elegant prose? Check. Compelling characters? What, did I say that already? Then let me say it again. In this book, you will be beguilled by Circe as you watch her grow, as you watch her childhood innocence and naivite get whittled (and burned) away from her, as you watch her discover both the glories and the pains of the world, and as you watch her discover her own self.
While the book draws upon events and characters from Homer and ancient Greek myth, you don’t need to be a Greek myth geek to enjoy this. Cognoscenti will enjoy all the references to Jason, Theseus, etc. but that’s all secondary to the story. (Circe was, after all, an exile, so she knew next to nothing about the ancient Greek world, as well.) The focus of this book is, instead, a thoroughly modern tale about a damaged, strong, vengeful, remorseful, capable and weary woman. It shows us a Circe who falls in love and grows to recognize the failings of her lovers, a Circe who simultaneously hates the world and misses it, and who rails against the gods yet must sometimes kneel before them.
It is, quite simply, the best work of fiction I’ve read in a long time. Nuff said, I’m going back to read it again.