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(Light of the World #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  9,507 ratings  ·  1,795 reviews
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 curio
Hardcover, 546 pages
Published November 12th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  9,507 ratings  ·  1,795 reviews

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Jan 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
So, I've been struggling with Hild: A Novel--or as I think of it, Hild: Nicola Griffith Did Her Research and She Really, Really Wants You to Know It--for almost a month now. I am only halfway through the thing. I've been thinking the whole time that, gosh, there are probably people who would love this book and devour it and celebrate its own unique intricacies, and how unfortunate it is that I am not even close to being one of those people. I do really love some things about the book--the politi ...more
Robin Sloan
Nov 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's been a long time since I was so happy reading a book this fat, and even longer since I was so sad to see it end. But! -- it took a gloriously long time to get there. HILD is a thick one. You get to the point where you're swimming in the world of the book, just totally entranced, drunk on story and language, and you think: given everything that's happened so far -- whole lives unfurled -- this must be coming to a close. But no: feel the pages beneath your fingers. You're not even halfway thr ...more
Patricia Bracewell
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Griffith's writing is gorgeous. There is an immediacy and specificity in her descriptions of the 7th century Anglo-Saxon world that completely immerse the reader in that unfamiliar time and place. She uses language like a magic wand, although the world she creates in this novel is anything but romantic -- it is hard and cold and dangerous; life is peripatetic; 'home' is a concept rather than a place; days revolve around the laborious tasks that keep a people alive, and years around the seasons o ...more

I have spent the last four days in seventh century Britain so fully engrossed in its brutal and beautiful world that sitting down at my computer feels like I have come back to the future.

Saint Hilda of Whitby, daughter of a Northumbrian prince, grew up to become an Abbess, a trainer of bishops for the growing Christian church in Britain, and a consultant to kings and princes, but except for a brief mention in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede, aka the Father of English His
Julie Christine
I don't know when I last waffled so much considering how to rate and review a novel. I'm opting on the high side because Nicola Griffith writes with such confidence and because I believe that ardent fans of speculative historical fiction have every reason to be crazy in love with this book.

This reader got bogged down in highly-and-repetitively-detailed world building and the army of characters with impossible names and a plot that lurched from battle to battle for reasons that I simply gave up
Amalia Gkavea
That's it! I admit defeat! I never thought I'd abandon a book with this subject matter, but there is a distinctive line between a well-researched historical novel and one that is full of words without meaning, less-than- zero action, flat characters and dialogues that repeat the same things over and over again. I've been struggling with this for about a month, each time I attempted to continue with my reading I felt as if I was preparing to climb Mount Everest. At least, that would have been rew ...more
Tanja Berg
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Given up at page 150. I do not care what happens to any of the characters, there is almost no forward tension and the historical details in themselves are not enough. I strongly suspect that if I bothered to struggle through the rest, I would hate it even though I desperately want to like it. So I won't. Goodbye and good luck Hild. I hope you were more interesting in real life. ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Before she was even born, Hild's mother prophesied that she would be "the light of the world." Hild turned out not to be the boy her parents expected, but her mother trains her to become an important figure nevertheless. As a child, Hild's sharp mind merits her a reputation as a seer and inclusion in her uncle, King Edwin's, household. Through observation, curiosity, and never-ceasing reflection, Hild's mind continues to expand amidst never ending political (and physical) battles.

Every moment f
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was underwhelmed by this. I was reading an ARC so I didn't have the author's note or maps, so perhaps I was at a disadvantage but I don't know why Griffths' novel stopped before Hilda's transformation to the abbess of one of the most notable monastic houses of the early medieval period. The novel felt very hodgepodged to me - lots of research,a modern sensibility and an ending that I didn't believe.

It's also a complex time of warring factions, tribes, and religious tensions and there is simpl
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is driving me nuts, because parts of it are so wonderful and parts are utterly infuriating.

My objections are similar to the ones appearing in other reviews. Yes, it is meticulously researched, and paints a very real-seeming picture of daily life for women in the time period. I often felt very immersed in the world of the book. Yes, Hild the character is awesome and brilliant and genre-convention-breaking.

But this book meanders, and it does a very poor job of explaining just what the he
Jennifer (aka EM)
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Mantel's Wolf Hall/BUTB; middle-agers
Recommended to Jennifer (aka EM) by: Simon
Historical fiction (but is it?) about a lonely, violent, spookily-intuitive, pagan (tho’ converted), lesbian (Griffith says she’s actually bi) saint-to-be and her manipulative, astonishing mother, written as though it was speculative fiction.

If you think there’s a lot to unpack in that first sentence, you ain’t read Hild yet.

Politics, war, and the very early Christian conversion attempts by Roman priests in 7th Century Britain.

Women. Spinning, weaving, plotting, planning, making the world go '
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." (Faulkner)

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." (L.P.Hartley)

These two quotes, pulling against each other, capture something immensely important between them. I'm always fascinated in historical fiction to see how authors deal with this. How do they give a sense that they're not writing about "us in fancy dress, with our mouths full of... prithees and zounds," (as J.L. Carr puts it), but still do justice to the fact that we
Samantha Shannon
I'm a fast reader, and usually it wouldn't take me more than a few days to fly through a book the size of Hild – yet it ended up taking me weeks to finish. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but because (a) I had to keep putting it down so I could absorb what I was reading, and (b) it was so immersive, I needed to be able to set aside a few hours each time I opened it so I could sink in without being disturbed.

Hild is slow-pouring honey. It is rich with detail, gradual in its movemen
2020 re-read: There's not much I can add to my original review below aside to say that this is still a great book, and has definitely made it to the re-read list. I only wish I could expect the sequel to be out sooner than currently projected!

Original review:
The bottom line is that this was a wonderfully engrossing read and I can’t give it less than 5 stars. Time will tell if it becomes a perennial favourite added to the re-read queue (though it likely will), but regardless of this it was a fant
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kate Sutherland
Hild is a book I've been looking forward to with unalloyed anticipation, ever since Griffith mentioned it on her blog a long time ago. I was thrilled to get an early NetGalley copy to read. And then, for awhile, I was floundering. It's a huge story, populated with a great many characters, many of whom have similar names. Or if not similar, equally unfamiliar to the modern ear. There were a lot of words to puzzle out contextual meanings of (as the glossary in the e-Galley was too complicated to k ...more
"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."

If you are interested in historical fiction at all, read this book.

It is gorgeously written, set in Medieval England, covering the "history" of a powerful woman, St. Hilda of Whitby. T
Althea Ann
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A truly excellent book.
I’ve read everything by Nicola Griffith, so I’ve been looking forward to this release with quite a lot of anticipation. I have to say, the book isn’t really what I expected. However, neither was it disappointing – not even close!
While Griffith’s previous work has been (excellent) science fiction and crime fiction, usually with a tense, quick-moving plot, ‘Hild’ is straight historical fiction. While there’s plenty of violence, the pace of the book is slow and deliberate, a
Justin Robinson
Dec 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Did not finish. Threw in the towel on page 124 after another scene of farm chores and conversations about Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Book.

I wanted to like this one. I really did. Orphaned noble attempts to navigate tricky politics she only barely understands in Dark Ages Britain? And it's all historical? Sounds incredible. Unfortunately, the reality is ridiculously dull and cluttered with pointless detail and irrelevant names.

Reading Hild is a lot like being cornered at a party by someone who has
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm gonna be honest... I normally don't read to many of these books that fit into the historical fiction genre. Its just usually not my thing unless something grabs my attention in the story line. What grabbed me with this one, you ask? THE COVER!!

I mean look at it. Its gorgeous. A nice teal/turquoise blue and that picture of Hild on the front, very nice indeed. Now this is a nice fat chunky book, but I gotta say I was very impressed. It kind of took me a chapter or two to get into the story but
This is a beautiful, meandering story of the imagined childhood of Saint Hild of Whitby.

Set in a time when Christianity was replacing the old Pagan religions with the help of the political machinations of the British royalty, the pace of the story lets you get immersed in the life and times of the powerful of 8th century Britain.

I loved this story. The characters were fascinating, even those with small parts to play are not left to be cardboard cutouts but are given life and personality. The s
Tim Hicks
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure
Nebula Award nominee, and it's not really either SF or F.
Often frustrating, but still a masterful piece of work.

He sat down to write a review. His hand fell to the grip of his seax. He looked out at the late-spring trees, where the blossoming pogarups heralded a good beef crop and cheerful chickadicks with their "twee-twee" indicated a probable rise in barometric pressure over the next week, with impact on the Baltic shrimp harvest, which worried him because with all the boats out shrimping i
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: patient readers
2-3 stars for historians, professional or avocational
4 stars for everyone else
I read this a few years ago so very briefly the things that stuck with me:
- It's a terrific book, I enjoyed it but left it not wanting to read the next one or possibly anything else Griffith had written.
- Griffith did massive research on the era and that's what lodged in my head after a few pages, stayed there and lingered. This is a very dense read, I kept feeling that I should be organizing my note cards for i
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I so did not want this book to end. Even though I knew it was completely made up, with hardly a morsel of truth in it, I adored it.
"Hild" is Nicola Griffiths imagining of the first part of the life of St. Hilda, a Seventh Century convert to Christianity and an early saint. She was said to have been King Edwin's seer, and in Griffith's telling, she is a precocious, gifted observer of people and extremely talented at pattern recognition, which would go a long way toward explaining her gifts.
I a
Lauren Stoolfire
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hold by Nicola Griffith is an absolute must read for those interested in immersive historical fiction based on real life figures with fantastic world building. If you enjoyed Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel or medieval fantasy. I'm so glad that family trees and a pronunciation guide are included. I'm also glad that my meager Welsh language studies on Duolingo somewhat prepared me for some of the language and words used in this novel. I bet it would be a real treat to hear this on audiobook. ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
One reason we read is to be transported to another mind, place, time. At its best, Hild is completely transporting. Griffith excels at descriptions of the natural world:
As the mist began to dissolve she could see the dark, wet beach. Long-legged birds speared shellfish, and women with sacks collected coal and driftwood, dodging the surf that ran up over the sand like the froth in a milkmaid’s pail. The sky showed as blue as twice-dyed linen. The sea was restless, glinting like napped flint. It,
Many other reviews of Nicola Griffith’s stunning new novel Hild will be written by people who have a much deeper understanding of its historical period, its main character, and the author’s previous works. Sadly, I am a blank slate when it comes to all three: prior to reading Hild, I had very little knowledge of Seventh Century England or St. Hilda of Whitby, and (to my great shame) Hild is the first novel I’ve read by Griffith.

I’m starting this review with that information because I believe man
This is a magnificent book. I have a habit of sometimes reading to finish a book, rather than reading to experience it. I lived this novel, the grit and the grime as well as the glamour. It is a lush imagining, an act of deft, from-the-ground-up worldbuilding. I love how everyone has things to do, whether they are men, women, nobles, farmhands: there are herbs to collect, sheep to shear, cows to be milked, people to be healed, cloths to be woven. I love that the women have purpose and agency, an ...more
Sharman Russell
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A description of the main character Hild worrying about all she has to worry about--which is quite a bit: "On and a cat licking her mind." Writing like this made me really love this book. It's a tour de force of seventh century Anglo-Saxon England, and you don't find too many of those. This is a gift to the reading world. Yes, okay, sometimes I found myself skimming just a bit (I do that, a bad habit, and this is a long book) and I also didn't always bother keeping track of all the nam ...more
Was sort of uninterested in this book, until I read this blog post by the author. Boom! Sudden interest, give it to me now. And I’m really glad I picked it up. My experience with Hild is the textbook example of why it’s a good idea to read outside your normal genres every once in a while. I don’t read very much historical fiction, and those I do read are usually the ones that have some sort of unusual hook, like TWO SOLDIERS IN WWII RUSSIA LOOK FOR A DOZEN EGGS FOR A WEDDING CAKE! (City of Thiev ...more
Cathy Douglas
This turned out to be historical fantasy. Very little is known about Hilda's early life, so Griffith fills in with some highly improbable shit she made up. I kept having to ask myself if I had a problem with this, and myself kept saying no, not really. The everyday-life scenes that go on in the background--butter churning, cloth dying, childbirth--give the book a nice dose of real history. The storyline itself needs a grain of salt, but it works if you think of it as speculative fiction.

Hild's a
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Nicola Griffith has won the Washington State Book Award twice, the Nebula Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, the World Fantasy Award, Premio Italia, six Lambda Literary Awards, and others. She is also the co-editor of the Bending the Landscape series of anthologies. Her newest novels are Hild and So Lucky. Her Aud Torvingen novels are soonn to be rereleased in new editions. She lives in ...more

Other books in the series

Light of the World (2 books)
  • Menewood (Light of the World #2)

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