Hild was my Christmas gift to myself. (Ok, not my only gift to myself, but perhaps the best one.) I’d like to say I finished it in a rush after two sleepless nights, but travel over the holidays and the return to work means I’m still trucking through it. However, I didn’t want to wait to gush about it until next month, so here goes:
I feel like Nicola Griffith’s novel is set in one of the most finely crafted fantasy worlds I’ve ever encountered. The characters, even those who are only at the edges of the scenes, are drawn with great depth. The imagery of the costuming is stunning. The action, from bloody skirmishes on a riverbank to the killing of a piglet in a marketplace, is created on the page as vividly as it would appear on a video screen. But Hild isn’t a fantasy. It’s set in seventh-century Britain, amidst the growth of Christianity and the annexation of kingdoms by Edwin of Northumbria.
Hild, the king’s youngest niece, is growing up in a world filled with uncertainty and political intrigue. As she learns her way around the court, the child, prophesied to be “the light of the world,” makes herself indispensable to the king as his seer. Hild is not a typical child, nor is she a typical woman for the period, and as she learns more about the players and kingdoms at stake, she is more deeply drawn into the plots that determine the course of Edwin’s conquests. She must stay constantly alert to protect herself and her loved ones, to remain in the king’s good graces, and to follow her wyrd.
As I mentioned, I’m entranced by this book. The scenes of daily life, like tapestry weaving and jewelry making, set it solidly in its time, and the conversations and characters make the seventh century feel raw and real. A tremendous amount of research must have gone into this novel, as well as a tremendous amount of imagination. Little is known about St. Hilda of Whitby, upon whom Hild is based, but Griffith nevertheless gives us her life from the age of three in immersive detail.
Get Hild here (or at your local bookstore)!