Nicola Griffith
Hild Cover


Ann Walker

Like A Stranger in Olondria and, to some extent, The Goblin Emperor, Hild is all about the character - not much happens in the way of thrilling plot. For some reason that I never fully understood, eight-year-old Hild becomes established as the king's seer, accompanying him in battle all over Britain as he seeks to establish himself as high king.

The writing is rich and dense, like all the embroidery so lovingly described. I would say that world-building is one of the novel's greatest strength, though this is not a fantasy world, but one which existed - it's very obvious that the author had done her research. I'm not even sure why this is considered a genre novel, rather that straight-up historical. The writing is absolutely gorgeous:

In the predawn light, thin and grey as skimmed milk, mist rose from the river, cool and smelling of secrets. A bittern boomed from the marshy plash downriver by fell silent at the approach of thirty people, eleven in white wool robes - twelve if you counted little Eanflaed, fast asleep in her swaddling and snug in the queen's arms. Ducks rose in a flurry of wings and honked into the distance. Something splashed hurriedly into the water, out of sight.

The "seering" is interesting; it's not like she's scrying or anything like that (though they sometimes pretend she does, for dramatic effect). But she's very much in tune with the natural world and so from observing bird and animal behavior, for example, she's able to tell that a devastating storm is on the way, warning the people in time for them to bring their animals in, and to collect enough food to hold them for a time. She's also an astute judge of human nature, and is able to guess from careful observation and physical reactions which nobles are faithless.

This book did not cover Hild's entire life, and I'm very pleased to know that there is a sequel under way! I'm looking forward to continuing with this fascinating character on her journey.