Madeline Miller has picked up the Red Tentacle award for her “work of true genius” Circe (Bloomsbury) at this year’s Kitschies.
The annual awards, sponsored by Blackwell’s, were handed out on 15th April at London’s Star of Kings to the best “novels containing elements of the speculative and fantastic”.
Circe, the Homer-inspired tale of a mythological witch, got top honours in the Red Tentacle category for best novel, rewarding its author with a hand-crafted trophy and £1,000. It saw off competition from Record Of A Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton), Rosewater by Tade Thompson (Orbit), The Smoke by Simon Ings (Gollancz) and Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar (Tachyon Publications).
Judge Lucy Smee said: “With Circe, Madeleine Miller has created a work of true genius, an overused word that I truly mean here. You think you know something of Ancient Greek mythology, but then the story, the characters, the world of immortals are all redrawn in a way you had never imagined but that upon reading, you realised you deeply needed.
“Circe isn’t simply the retelling of Greek myth from a woman’s point of view and it isn’t simply the story of Circe’s long life well told. It is a deep, languorous, gripping, familiar, revelatory, feminine epic woven together with pure poetry.”
Frankenstein In Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld) won the Golden Tentacle and £500 for best debut. The book was praised by judge Daniel Carpenter as a “masterpiece” that gave “a bolt of new life to both the post 9/11 Iraq novel, and to the titular monster himself”.
The book had been up against Children Of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (Pan MacMillan), Semiosis by Sue Burke (Harper Voyager), Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley (Sandstone Press) and The Poppy Way by R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager).
Suzanne Dean received the Inky Tentacle cover art trophy for her work on Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (Harville Secker). The category also saw nominations for The Book Of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch, designed by Rafaela Romaya (Canongate), The Smoke by Simon Ings, designed by James Nunn (Gollancz), Square Eyes by Anna Mill and Luke Jones, designed by Anna Mill and Luke Jones (Jonathan Cape) and Slender Man by Anonymous, designed by Mike Topping (Harper Voyager).
Inky judge Dapo Adeola said Dean had created art “that manages to be fresh and varied yet works together harmoniously”.
This year’s winners were selected from 178 submissions, received from over 50 imprints. Awards directors Glen Mehn and Leila Abu el Hawa said: “Seven years of giving out tentacles has taught us that there are publishers, big and small, taking risks and bringing out amazing books that aren’t afraid to blow your expectations of what speculative fiction can do to your mind.”