Hild is an amazing historical novel. I can’t recall another recent novel that so superbly puts me in the world the author creates. The work seems effortless. Whenever I open the book, it’s only a sentence or two till I’m back in seventh-century Britain. Author Nicola Griffith’s skill is par excellence. The narrative is lush, scented, textured, alive.
The book is Griffith’s recreation of the life of the very real Hild (Saint Hilda of Whitby) based on the scant documents of her and that period that survive today. Seamlessly woven into the real historic figures and events of the period are Griffith’s fictional characters and circumstances.
Hild is a young girl and niece to King Edwin. In the midst of clashing tribes, Christianity is making inroads on the island, replacing the old gods. But superstition still holds, and Hild’s visions come to pass, earning the king’s trust and favor, while also earning the enmity of the chief priest Paulinus, who sees her as a rival and a witch. As her influence grows so does the danger.