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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Staff Review: Hild by Nicola Griffith

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In the seventh century, a young girl named Hild, along with her mother, sister, and best friend, find themselves in terrible danger when her father dies suddenly.  They are forced to go to Hild's uncle, the king of Northumbria, for protection, but King Edwin is not the safest man to be around as he attempts to make himself the overlord of all the Angles, Saxons, and Celts of northern Britain.  Nicola Griffith's new novel is a beautiful coming of age story based on a little-known historical figure who, nonetheless, had a major impact on English history as the monarchies of the Dark Ages united and converted to Christianity.

The attention to the atmosphere of the period is lush and detailed, reminiscent of the works of Philippa Gregory, Diana Gabaldon, and Ken Follett.  Hild must navigate the cultures and languages of the Anglish court, the Briton natives, and the Frankish priests who come to bring change to her world.  Griffith also traces the sometimes contentious bond between mother and daughter as Hild is taught the skills of healing, weaving, brewing, and managing a household necessary for a royal woman.  But Hild's mother also raises her to be the king's seer and prophet by showing her how to watch and observe the behavior and reactions of the people around her and to listen carefully to news from around the island.  As Hild grows, she is forced more and more to leave behind her childhood friends and play the role that has been created for her.

Hild combines thrilling battles, insightful history, and heartbreaking romance.  Anglo-Saxon England has never seemed so alive and present as in this story of a young woman trying to create a place for herself in a chaotic and changing time.  Whether you've enjoyed Alison Weir's Queen Elizabeth or George R.R. Martin's Arya Stark, Hild is the book for you.

Jeff Hartman
October 17, 2015

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