Book Review: Hild

04_bookreviewRead for: Because I love Nicola Griffith
Rating: 3/5
My previous experience with Nicola Griffith was first with Slow River then later with Ammonite, both of which I thought were great. Ammonite, Griffith’s first novel, I especially liked as I am a big lover of feminist science fiction; the plot revolves around a matriarchy (win) and it won a James Tiptree Jr. Award (super win). All that being said, Hild is not science fiction! It’s got much more of a Game of Thrones vibe to it, minus the dragons (sad face). Griffith has done extensive research into the life and times of St. Hilda of Whitby, of which little is actually documented, especially during her early years. What Griffith has done is build a world around Hild filled with strong characters, rich descriptions and fictional but possibly-true-ish events leading up to a certain point in her life (but not the end of her life; the author’s note mentioned she is currently writing part 2 of what I would guess could end up as a trilogy). Griffith’s language is beautiful, and she has done an outstanding job of describing in meticulous detail what life was like in the middle ages (the real life Hilda lived from 614-680). My experience with this novel was perhaps a bit hindered by the fact that I listened to the audiobook version, and therefore was unable to use the map and glossary reportedly included in the print version. There were a lot of words that were read that didn’t make sense to me, and I’ve tried to guess the spellings and google the definitions but have failed miserably. Yessieth? Yamache? Something that sounds like “weird”? Hmmmm. I feel like it also would have been easier to keep track of all the characters if I were able to see their names in print. As for the story itself, it started out strongly for me, and ended with a series of events that held my attention, but I felt that the middle dragged on a bit. It is a long book (over 20 hours of audio), so perhaps it could have been condensed a tad. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy journeying with Hild and watching her evolve as the King’s Seer. Griffith depicted Hild as a very strong-willed and clever woman who used her influence with the King to lead him to a series of successes, which later lead to other Kings and Princes seeking her advice. Towards the end Griffith illustrates Hild’s role in bringing Christianity to England, which sets her up for her role as Abbess later in life (and beyond the point reached in this book). Looking forward to seeing where Griffith goes in the follow up!

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