Review | Hild – Nicola Griffith


Hardcover (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 560 pages)

First published 2013; this edition published 2013

Rating on Goodreads: 2 stars

“Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.”

I really wanted to like this. I mean, I’m studying early medieval history at university. This should have been right up my street.

But Griffith does too much telling instead of showing. There is no suspense. It reads very much like a dense history book rather than a gripping work of historical fiction. There are too many characters, and none of them save Hild herself are fleshed out adequately. Medieval history is fascinating, but Griffith manages to suck all of the life out of this novel. It was not gripping. It didn’t give me a sense of urgency or excitement – and you’d think a book centring around medieval conflict would give both.

The beginning was intriguing enough, but as I read further into the novel, I lost all sense of joy at reading this. If you’re looking for a wonderful historical novel set in the early medieval period, do not read Hild. It collapses under the weight of all its expectancies, which is a very great shame, and delivers no satisfaction to the reader at all.


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