Hild

by Nicola Griffith

Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.

My Take

This is an engrossing book about a misty time in history, seventh-century Britain. It does an excellent job of covering all facets of life during that period. Not just battles and politics, but day-to-day life details like the food they ate, medicine, and sexual and interpersonal relationships. Like The Baroque Cycle it’s a long read (and there’s a sequel, Menewood, out) and it took a while to get through it, but I never felt bogged down. It was a comfortable place to hang out for a while. I expect I’ll return for the sequel but I’m not ready for it yet. Hild is a fascinating person and I look forward to spending more time with her.