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"Quiet mouth, bright mind."
Those are the watchwords Hild learns to live by in Nicola Griffith's stunning new work, Hild. Set in seventh century Britian, Hild takes us from the time she's three years old and follows her as she grows into womanhood, leaving room for a sequel (perhaps?) where Hild will eventually become St. Hilda of Whitby.
Hild is the daughter of a fallen king, neice to the reigning king, Edwin, and she becomes his seer, his light, the one who predicts for him, tells him what is going on. Hild is not so much mystical as wickedly intelligent; she sees patterns, puts things together from a hint here, a dropped word there, and her understanding of how people search for power gives her prominence and sets her apart. Because she has trouble articulating what she knows, she's considered a prophet, one to be guarded and honored -- so long as she makes no mistakes.
Hild is a complicated novel. This is not a light read, a beach read. Nicola Griffith has proved her research capabilities beyond doubt. There's a map, a glossary and a pronunciation guide for a reason. But despite the strange names and convoluted relationships, the heart of the book is Hild's story, who she is, who she becomes. Life in the seventh century was in many ways brutal, and Griffith's telling of it through Hild's eyes makes the reader know that it was ordinary, everyday life, however different it is to us now. The casual violence, the constant awareness of danger, the deep bonds that can be broken by the whim of someone in power, all of these are just the way of Hild's world.
And central to the story is the influx of the Christ priests, bringing their new religion into the lives of those who have worshipped Woden and the older gods. Not only does Hild have to navigate the dangers of Edwin's court, she must see her way through a new and powerful religion. Often lonely, searching for herself as she finds her way through a rapidly changing world, Nicola brings Hild's story to vibrant life.
The writing is lyrical, the story is complex, and knowing that most of the people in Hild's life were real makes for a rich and powerful tale, one you won't easily forget. For anyone interested in this time period, I suspect that Nicola Griffith's Hild will become one of the definitive works illuminating an age that has perhaps gone unremarked for far too long.— Fran
A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild
In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying. Hild is the king's youngest niece, and she has a glimmering mind and a natural, noble authority. She will become a fascinating woman and one of the pivotal figures of the Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby.
But now she has only 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 her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
Her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king's seer. And she is indispensable unless she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for 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 Middle Ages all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith's luminous prose. Working from what little historical record is extant, Griffith has brought a beautiful, brutal world to vivid, absorbing life.
About the Author
Nicola Griffith is the award winning author of five novels and a memoir. A native of Yorkshire, England-now a dual U.S./U.K. citizen-she is a onetime self-defense instructor who turned to writing full-time upon being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993. She lives with her wife, the writer Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
“You will never think of them as the Dark Ages again. Nicola Griffith’s command of the era is worn lightly and delivered as a deeply engaging plot. Her insight into human nature and eye for telling detail is as keen as that of the extraordinary Hild herself. The novel resonates to many of the same chords as Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, The Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones—to the extent that Hild begins to feel like the classic on which those books are based.”
“Nicola Griffith is an awe-inspiring visionary, and I am telling everyone to snatch this book up. Hild is not just one of the best historical novels I have ever read—I think it’s one of the best novels, period. It sings with pitch-perfect emotional resonance, and I damn well believe in this woman and everyone she engages. I finished the book full of gratitude that it exists, and longing for more.” —Dorothy Alison
“You could describe Hild as being like Game of Thrones without the dragons, but this is so much deeper than that, so much richer. A glorious, intensely passionate walk through an entirely real landscape, Hild leads us into the Dark Ages and makes them light, and tense, and edgy, and deeply moving. The research is flawless, the characters fully alive. If it wasn’t like this, it should have been—and I’m sure that it was!” —Manda Scott
“What a fabulous book! Hild has all the joys of historical fiction—transportation into a strange, finely detailed world—along with complex characters and a beautiful evocation of the natural world. But the tensions of the gathering plot make Hild feel like a quick read—too quick! I fell into this world completely and was sorry to come out. Truly, truly remarkable.” —Karen Joy Fowler