reads, Recent Reads

Circe

I recently read Circe, a historical fantasy by Madeline Miller, a retelling and exploration of the maligned figure in Ancient Greek mythology, the witch Circe.

Circe follows the unusual female figure of Ancient Greek literature, the witch daughter of the Titan god Helios, exiled to Aiaia by Olyimpium Zeus. The details of Circe’s strangely mortal-like voice, her yellow Titan eyes and seemingly lack of powerful gifts make her unwanted and taunted among the Titans and Olympians alike. Yet Circe raises her brother from infancy and it is he who discovers the hidden powers of the Titan and Nyrad heritage. Aeëtes later becomes the infamous god, creator of the Golden Fleece, father of Medea and challenged by Jason and the Argonauts. Their sister Pasiphaë is wed to King Minos of Crete, the extravagant courts of Knossos later falling to Pasiphaë’s own vengeance when she gives birth to the monstrous Minotaur. Circe’s gifts for witchcraft are later revealed when she transforms mortals into gods and rival nymph Cilla into a monster.

Exiled on the island of Aeaea, Circe enters the legendary heroic tale of Odysseus who, shipwrecked on the Isle, stays for several years on the course of his travels back to Ithaca. Unbeknown to Odysseus, Circe bears him a child and earns the wrath of the powerful Olympian goddess Athena, Odysseus patron and protector. The prophecy of Odysseus death relates to his son and desperate to protect her child, Circe obscures the Isle in a powerful illusion, keeping all the gods away except the trickster Hermes and challenges Trygion, the ancient god of the deep sea for a weapon powerful enough to inflict pain upon the immortals.

Circe was vividly described and detailed, the explanations of Ancient Greek mythology and literature were wonderful. As a former scholar of Ancient Greek and Roman history and mythology, I loved the originality of Miller’s witch Circe while still adhering to the foundations of the broader mythologies. A surprising and exotic storytelling! Definitely well recommended!

reads, Recent Reads

The Blue Rose

Recently, I read The Blue Rose by Australian author Kate Forsyth, a historical fiction novel that spans the French Revolution and the court of Imperial China. The heroine of The Blue Rose is Viviane de Faitaud, the intelligent daughter of the Marquis de Ravoisier. Raised knowing only her father’s displeasure and cruelty, Viviane leads a remarkable but secret life on her family estate, the Château de Belisama-sur-le-Lac in Brittany.
When Viviane’s father falls into gambling debts, he marries a much younger woman and in celebration, the grounds of the Chateau are to be landscaped in the latest English style. David Stronach, a Welshman, arrives at the Chateaux and begins work on the garden immediately.
Determined to make his name in the world, David continues to work at the Chateau despite growing unease between the social classes in France and delayed payments from the Marquis. Viviane befriends David and soon they fall in love, both of them trapped by claustrophobia in having their futures dependent on Viviane’s father, the Marquis. When the Marquis discovers their intentions to flee France together, David is chased from the Chateau grounds and Viviane forced to marry to a much older and wealthy duke to settle her father’s gambling debts. David escapes France as the revolution breaks and news reaches him that Viviane died at the guillotine with Queen Marie Antoinette. Heartbroken and determined to fulfil his promise to Vivane to find the blood red rose reported to grow in China, David joins a British expedition to the Imperial Chinese court to seek the elusive rose.
The Blue Rose is a fabulous historical fiction weaving together a delightful romance, the emotion and chaos of the French Revolution and the social confines of the 17th century. Behind this are the clashing of cultures, French and British and the trading tactics as they make contact with one of the oldest societies in the world and the splendour of Imperial China.

Recent Reads

A Wizard of EarthSea

I have read many reviews about the late US author Ursula K. Le Guin but I had never read her works. After listening to fellow authors and the reading community discuss the impact of her work, I decided I must read A Wizard of Earthsea for myself. Despite my high expectations, I was not disappointed. Originally published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea follows Ged, the greatest sorcerer in the realm of Earthsea. Beginning when Ged was a young child and known as Sparrowhawk, a child from a poor and rural background but gifted with rare and powerful magic. After performing powerful feats of magic, Sparrowhawk is is apprenticed to the travelling wizard Ogion. But Sparrowhawk is ambitious and not content with the humble existence Ogion offers. Instead, Sparrowhawk gains entrance to the greatest school for wizards on the Island of Roke. Once there, ambition governs Sparrowhawk and his personality clashes with both the wealthy and less-talented students. Resentment grows and soon Sparrowhawk has only one student to call his friend. In a effort to prove himself the better of the others, Sparrowhawk conducts a magic that breaches the boundary of life and death, accidentally summoning a Shadow that haunts Sparrowhawk and pursues him relentlessly across Earthsea. Throughout his battles with the Shadow, Sparrowhawk loses any chance of gaining social standing and begins to learn his powerful talent with magic has destroyed much he hoped to gain in becoming a wizard at Roke. Cast adrift from the school and the Island of Roke, Sparrowhawk begins to master his talent and learn humility as Master Ogion had tried to teach him before he went to Roke. In summoning the Shadow and breaking the fundamental laws of magic, Sparrowhawk proved that despite possessing great power, he lacked the maturity to make decisions worthy of such power. While I might be late discovering A Wizard of Earthsea, it was was unlike any young adult book I had read. Most uniquely, the themes were subtly done and told in a narrative quality that reminds with great power, comes a greater responsibility which made this a wonderful read for any age group.