Karen from SF, October 23, 2014 (view all comments by Karen from SF)
This lovely book takes you back in time to the 7th century, the so-called dark ages, in Britain. From page 1 you are immersed in the atmosphere, culture and even language as you follow Hild's remarkable rise to status and power. Packed with exquisite detail, this dense book pulls you in and delivers an amazing, unforgettable story. Hild is a fascinating protagonist, all the more so because she was a real woman. Griffith has done her homework: I painlessly learned more about the Anglo Saxons than I ever thought I could from a novel. Rich, rewarding, and so, so good.
frostel1, October 22, 2014 (view all comments by frostel1)
This book is amazed and inspired me to learn more about the Anglo-Saxons. I am a big fan of historical fiction, especially the kind of historical fiction that takes a mythic person and shows the reality, the everyday that made that person who they were and that made the myths and legends associated with that person. The writing is lush and absorbing. This is one of the few books I've read this year that I can see reading again.
efrompdx, October 21, 2014 (view all comments by efrompdx)
This book is a tour de force! Griffith creates an elaborate, believable, fully realized world and fills it with people from kings to slaves. Hild is the king's seer, a child mystic, 'the light of the world', who helps guide him in his quest to solidify and expand his kingdom. War, class struggles, fracturing alliances, Romans and Catholocism, the old gods vs the new, weaving and brewing - all are part of this glorious story set in 7th century England. It reads like a cross between mythology and historical fiction and will appeal to readers who enjoy either of those genres. Definitely my favorite book of the year.
alisa11, May 19, 2014 (view all comments by alisa11)
This is now my favorite. Favorite novel, favorite historical fiction, favorite Nicola Griffith product. I keep seeing the word "transported" in reviews of this novel and it is so apropos. The story telling takes you there, her descriptions are so vivid, you can see it, feel it, smell it, and be there! And it is a full view of the culture, not just a male dominated “men on horses, history book” story. Everything from cooking, weaving, planting, creating a hedge, smithing to medicine is delved into. It is so very rich!! The only thing that made me sigh was that it ended and the next book is not done yet.
Marjorie Madonne, May 5, 2014 (view all comments by Marjorie Madonne)
Nicola Griffith has written a gorgeous book about a girl in Anglo-Saxon times in England. Hild is clever, and she's the niece of a king -- but she's a GIRL, in an era that values women mainly as bearers of children, and, in the case of girls of royal blood, as "peace weavers," who can be traded off in marriage to cement political alliances. Hild does not particularly aspire to either career path. However, she has an out -- her mother had a dream when she was pregnant that she was bearing a child of great promise, who would be "the light of the world." Everybody assumes this child will be a boy. When Hild is born, the common reaction is, But how can a girl be "the light of the world"? Hild's clever mother, Beguswirth, fosters the belief that Hild carries some sort of magic -- she can read minds, predict the future. Beguswirth trains her in the arts of observation and analysis, of which Beguswirth herself is no mean pracitioner. Hild's Uncle Edwin, the king of Northumbria, who's busy trying to make himself "overking" of the island, takes her on as his "seer" when she's still a child. Hild grows up as a remarkable young girl in a land that mixes civilization and barbarity. Many things are changing -- the new Christian religion is penetrating England, displacing the old gods. Hild herself becomes a Christian. But there is no sign yet of the future Saint Hilda. Hild has mystical leanings, but none that are specific to Christianity; she is baptized, along with most of the Northumbrian court, as yet another one of Edwin's political ploys, The book ends with the promise of a sequel, which I'm looking forward to.
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Award-winning LGBT author Griffith brings a sci-fi appreciation for alien culture and a woman's perspective to this fictional coming-of-age story about real-life Saint Hilda of Whitby, who grew up pagan in seventh-century Britain. Daughter of a poisoned prince and a crafty noblewoman, quiet, bright-minded Hild arrives at the court of King Edwin of Northumbria, where the six-year-old takes on the role of seer/consiglieri for a monarch troubled by shifting allegiances and Roman emissaries attempting to spread their new religion. Eventually Hild is baptized along with Edwin — a scene Griffith depicts as less about spirituality than pomp and politics. Puberty's sexual awakening soon follows, propelling Hild toward her slave girl, then the former girlfriend of Hild's longtime boyfriend, Cian, who teaches Hild swordsmanship and other manly skills. Britain in the years after Rome is a relatively undiscovered country for historical fiction. Griffith goes boldly into the territory, lingering over landscape, wallowing in language, indulging the senses, mixing historical fact with feminist fiction in a sweeping panorama of peasants working, women weaving, children at play, and soldiers in battle: the Dark Ages transformed into a fantasy world of skirt and sword. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, The Gernert Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Neal Stephenson,
“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.”
by Dorothy Alison,
“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.”
by Manda Scott,
“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!”
by Karen Joy Fowler,
“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.”
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