Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: Hild by Nicola Griffith

Here is the book's premise, taken from Amazon:
"A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild

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."
This is the perfect book for anyone interested in Medieval history. You can tell that Griffith did her homework, and it pays off. Even though the book is pretty long, I was never stuck, I was never like "my gosh this part is pointless." Despite its length, I didn't want the book to end.
I loved how it followed Hild from her early childhood up until she marries. We see her grow as a woman. She is raised by a mother who knows how hard it is for women to have power amongst the men, and she implants Hild with the knowledge and confidence to hold her own, even with the king.
Hild is known by her people as a seer, but she's really just an ordinary girl who knows how to read people and nature, one who is smart enough to know that she needs to continue to be known as a seer. While she and her mother clash often, it was her mother's planning and love for her daughter that made Hild the person she became by the end of the book.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was how they described daily life for people in each of the cities the king would visit. Even though Hild and her sister and the queen were royalty, they still did chores. They still helped with the harvest. I also loved how much Hild felt safe and at home in nature. She took the time to get to know the different animals and plants in each place she visited and lived, and the land is was gives her peace when nothing else is going the way it should.
All in all, this is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that will leave you with the feeling that you know Hild as if she were your own sister.  My twin sister is obsessed with the Middle Ages, so I am definitely recommending this to her, and to anyone else in my life who also loves the time period.

Title: Hild
Author: Nicola Griffith
Date of Publication: November 12, 2012
Number of Pages: 560
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Netgalley

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