I recently finished Hild by Nicola Griffith, a historical novel set in Britain in the 8th century ACE. I was sort of expecting Bernard Cornwell, and that wasn’t far wrong, as Hild is a seer and a warrior and a noble at a time when Edwin, the grandson of Longshanks, is trying to become the overking of Britain. There are Angles and Saxons and Irish and Mercians and a whole host of others, and there are shield walls and competing religions (including the Norse and Woden) and remnants of the Romans (the Redcrests).
- according to Griffith (whose blog, linked above, proves her to be quite a scholar), Hild was an historical figure, someone who Griffith uses as a way to understand 8th century Britain.
- Hild trains with a staff, instead of a sword, and has all kinds of lovers. Griffith makes the point that people of the time did not identify themselves based on the genitals of the people with whom they had sex. Sort of refreshing, eh?
- the sense that no matter where one goes in Britain there is someone else there (often Roman ruins, of an unimaginable beauty to the Britains) might give a feel to why so many wanted to emigrate to America.
- The power of Christianity comes not from Christ in this novel but from the power of Rome that Edwin wanted to claim. The power was not military – Rome could spare no armies. Instead, it was financial, and spiritual in a power sense – who could conjure the best juju, essentially, to help defeat one’s enemies or make alliances or bribes.
- Not that the priests aren’t true believers, but they’re portrayed as also being very aware of the political strategies needed to supplant the old gods.
This review feels sort of bloodless, but I had trouble putting this one down…