A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, frequently and violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods are struggling, their priests worrying.
Hild is the king's youngest niece, and she has a glimmering mind and a natural, noble authority. She will become a fascinating woman and one of the pivotal figures of the Middle Ages: Saint Hilda of Whitby. But now she has only 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 her surroundings closely and predicting what will happen next - that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her.
Her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, plots to become over-king of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild establishes a place for herself at his side as the king's seer. And she is indispensable - unless she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, for her family, for her loved ones, and for the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future. Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early Middle Ages - all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith's luminous prose. Working from what little historical record is extant, Griffith has brought a beautiful, brutal world to vivid, absorbing life.
©2013 Nicola Griffith (P)2013 Macmillan Audio
Excellent historical novel.
Insight into how a "see-er" unraveled the patterns of the times.
Because of all the unfamiliar names, places and terminology, Hild was not the best candidate for an audio book. I wanted to see a reference map for 7th century Great Britain so I could understand where the various kingdoms were. I needed a glossary for all the unusual terms, and a genealogy chart would have been helpful, too. I wanted to page back to look at names, and couldn't do it. The story was lovely, engaging, well written and well read - but I think I would have enjoyed an e-book or hard cover edition of Hild much more than an audio rendition.
Probably the best.
It's been described as "Game of Thrones without the dragons" and that's fairly accurate. But the writing is just beautiful, and the women are richly realized.
She's got a gorgeous voice, and does a great job with choosing various contemporary UK or Ireland accents for the characters. I particularly enjoyed her performance of the narrator's ditzy friend Begu. She also reads like she admires and enjoys the prose, which is indeed worthy of it.
There's no supernatural elements in this book, just people who believe in the supernatural (Christ included), so if you're expecting a fantasy book, bear that in mind. Also, there's a lot of dynastic politics and geopolitical maneuvering, which can sometimes be hard to follow in audio format as one tries to keep track of names and places. Griffith's website has lots of resources, including maps and a family tree. The book felt real and vivid, totally immersing me in its world. What a place to visit!
I have read the print version and listened to the audio book numerous time. Though I love the story in general I will say that I enjoyed the audio immensely - trying to figure out how to pronounce some of the Anglo/ Irish/ Briton names was difficult in the print version to say the least!
Terrific narrator!! The ancient names seemed to roll right off of her tongue.
Great read - strong, female focused historical fiction. I can't wait for the rest of Hild's story
Yes I would, although it is no light read. Loving history, I found this epic tale of the woman who is otherwise known as St Hilda of Whitby, extremely interesting. and am full of admiration both for the author’s attention to detail and the narrator Pearl Hewitt.
Definitely Hild, what a character!
I and am full of admiration both for the author’s attention to detail and Pearl Hewitt’s ability to pronounce the names and narrate such an incredible story.Pearl Hewitt brings Hild, and the other Nicola Griffith’s characters to life, the listener is able to become totally absorbed into life in the Dark Ages.
This is an amazing saga which is set in seventh century Britain, at a time when the country consisted of small kingdoms, there was religious unrest and battles raged all the time. The sheer attention to detail of this novel, makes it an amazing story.
The details were fascinating, and as dense as it was at times, every detail furthered the story.
Intense, evocative, ambitious
Strong, multi-hued, female characters and their complicated relationship to each other and the men in their world. The sense of place, era, and history. The lovely, lyrical writing makes listening to the recorded version feel like immersion into a saga poem.
Initially, I did not like Ms. Hewitt's performance, thinking it sounded a little airy and lisp-y. As the story continued, however, the airiness and "lispy-ness" faded, and I grew to marvel at the many accents and nuances she brought to the characters, and her ability to pronounce all of the challenging names, words, and places featured in the story. Her excellent performance truly brought a challenging book to life for me.
The Light of the World
I listened to this book AND concurrently read a paperback version of it, which was extremely helpful to understand the characters' relationships to each other, the 7th century vocabulary and pronunciations, and the map of 7th century Britain where the action occurs. For me, it would have been difficult to get the most out of this book simply by listening to it alone.
This factionalized biography of a 7th century Anglo-Saxon girl who eventually became one of the most powerful and influential women in early Christian England, Hilda of Whitby, is difficult reading without the map, glossary and pronunciation guide in the Kindle version. Together, the book was wonderful. The author captures the natural world as well as the customs and material culture of that remote time. Highly recommended and worth the time.
The arc of Hild's young life is explored very well, but we do not learn how she became St. Hilda, and overall the ending begs at least as many questions as it answers.
What this book does exquisitely is immerse you in the world of seventh-century Britain, what life was like for women in that period, how unstable the political (and religious) scene was, and what avenues there were for gaining power and/or improving one's lot.
I agree with another reviewer that it would really help to see the map and family tree, which are in the print book (I looked it up at my local bookstore and took a picture). The number of character and place names that are thrown about can be pretty bewildering.
but had to abandon this one. The story took an inordinate amount of time to grasp my attention and I had to stop.
"Escape into a past world"
Yes, if that friend was really into local history and enjoyed audiobooks.
Any historical novel but a lot more detailed.
Pearl Hewitt has the ability to transport you into the world of these characters. She has a very easy voice to listen to and convincing accents. She became a reassuring voice on my commute to and from work. I'll miss it actually.
The loss of kyan's wife and baby was particularly moving and I had very mixed emotions at the end of the story.
This was a very ambitious first audio book and it took me a while to get into the story and follow who the characters were. It would've helped if the author gave a bit more description at the start of each chapter as to where the characters were. A little confusing at times.
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