Review: 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 KristinLavransdatter, 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.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for the review copy! 🙂

Hild is first and foremost a beautiful piece of prose. It’s beautifully written, the settings and the characters have depth and solidity and the historical detail is amazing. If you like heavily detailed writing, you will love this. (History fans will love this book too.)

I will say this though, it isn’t an easy read. There are A LOT of characters and it gets difficult to keep track of them all. There is a lot of political manipulation and it was hard to remember who was against who and why. I’m told that Game of Thrones is like this too though: political intrigue and tons of characters. If you like Game of Thrones, you will probably like Hild then. There is a glossary and a family tree to help. (I very much needed the glossary!)

For me personally? No. I  just didn’t get on with it. The characters really got under my skin; they repulsed me. Except for Hild herself, who just popped off the page. Until Chapter Eight, in which I was hideously disappointed with her. After that she got worse and became as bad as the rest. For me to really enjoy a book, I need at least one character I like. I have to root for someone. I didn’t get this with Hild.

I’m finding it difficult to review Hild actually. The book is clearly beautifully written and painstakingly researched, but it just wasn’t for me. My rating is as high as a 3 out of 5 simply because of the writing itself, not the story. I didn’t enjoy reading Hild, but not because it was a bad book. If I was rating on writing alone it would be a 4 (one star deducted for the way the descriptions of adult scenes and gory things were written. The words chosen just really didn’t work for me.) If I was rating on my enjoyment of the book alone it would be a 1. (If it wasn’t a review book, I would have DNF’d it after a couple of chapters.) I based my rating on the writing and my enjoyment of it, hence the 3.

I think Hild would appeal to a specific reader – either one who is intensely interesting in the time period, or one who adores political intrigue and a heavy, detailed style of prose. It isn’t a quick read, nor a light one. There are numerous adult references and a fair bit of bad language. There are also some gory things described in ways I found unpleasant, personally.

Hild is the first in a planned trilogy. It is already out in the UK and the USA. I think the paperback is launching in July.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – not for me personally, but it is a very well-written book


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