Gwladus so soft and pliant, Hild hard and clear.
“I’m not pretty.”
“You don’t need to be pretty. You’re like lightning. Like a tide. Like a blizzard.”
“Something to run from.”
“Something to get caught up in. Something to remember for the rest of your life.”
This for me is the dialogue that summarize what should have emerged about Hild from the novel, unfortunately the author missed the chance to value an enigmatic historical figure with great literary potentiality like Hild.
Hilda of Whitby is a historical character, few is known about her before the 647a.C., after that date Hilda is known to have founded the Whitby Abbey. The fact that she was noble born (her uncle was Edwin of Northumbria, a britain king who converted to Catholicism) and this temporal slice when nothing is known about her make Hild an interesting literary character, unfortunately the novel is too much about the historical component than to the fictional one.
Hild by Nicola Griffith
The novel follows Hild’s life since three years old till adolescence; since childhood she has a destiny to make true: her mother Breguswith designed her to be the light of the world for the king; Hild will have power if she will be able to be the king’s seer.
The girl, who appears to be very smart and intuitive till very young, is trapped in the role of seer: on one hand the need to listen, to understand alliances, intrigues and political changes make her reflexive and introvert, one the other her divinatory powers make common people scared of her.
Hild has a strange emotionality – and it’s very difficult for the reader to feel some involvement, she is cold, driven by logic but very attached to some key people of her life (the strange relation with her mother, Cian, Gwladus).
Concerning the historical perspective the novel is very accurate: the numerous archaic terms help in this sense (nevertheless they tend to make this a hard read), as the (in my opinion excessive) detail on political plots, wars and travels of people and nobles from various locations in Britain.
Concerning the pleasure of reading – and so the fictional part – the novel fails, the character are believable but it’s hard to find one to empathize, the emphasis on the historical component is too much (and in the end is not interesting if the topic knowledge is shallow).
There are some interesting themes like the role of women, the increasing importance of a new religion, the court plots, moreover the historical setting is accurate, but it loses strength in making human (and likeable) the main character.
Hild had great potentialities that were exploited only partly.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.
* Hild by Nicola Griffith ★★★☆☆½
*I read this book in English