Book review | A Bit Player Becomes a Hero

Published: 2018 ◼️ 393 pages

Dear fans of fantasy fiction,

I wish I was given more time to savor this classic epic about a character who had previously only been a bit player in the world of mythology. Miller elevated the role of the witch of Aiaia to that of heroine.  She made her sympathetic and compelling.  It reminded me of Wicked by Gregory Macguire which elevated the Wicked Witch from Oz in much the same way.  Once we learn more about villains, their motivations and past challenges they become less of a villain and more of a 3 dimensional character.

Circe is not just the evil witch who turned Odysseus’ men into pigs and kept Odysseus on her island for a year.  She is the daughter of Helios the titan, who had the voice of a human and the ability to perform magic, and was thus shunned by her own family to live out her life exiled on Aiaia.  She is the woman who had been groped as a child by her uncles and raped by mortal visitors to her island.  For this is a book about sexual abuse and its ramifications as much as it is reminiscent of classic epics.

Circe is about nature versus nurture and motivations.  It is not about black and white but about the million shades of gray in between.  One of the remarkable things about fantasy fiction is that it acts as a foil for current social problems without hitting the reader over the head with the need to feel sympathy for those who have gone through unthinkable struggles.  It makes you think and learn.  By allowing yourself to be immersed in a mythological world, you understand the real world that much better.

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