Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hild, by Nicola Griffith

I've been reading Hild, Nicola Griffith's novel that was nominated for a Nebula last year.  It tells the story of St. Hilda of Whitby as a young woman.  Not much is known about her, other than a very scant historical record, so Griffith made up a childhood and young womanhood worthy of St. Hilda.  Considering that she started as a younger child of a killed noble and ended up a key advisor to kings, she must have been pretty special.

Hild becomes a "seer", mostly by being very intelligent and observant.  She has a true feel for politics and guides her king (Edwin, overking of the Angles) through a lot of tough scrapes.  The book has both sex and violence, but isn't particularly dramatic.  It is, however, interesting, and held me to it all the way to the end.  I wouldn't say it builds, but it never lags.  The characters are strong and fully developed.  It's a good read.

What it's not is speculative fiction.  There are absolutely no fantasy, supernatural or speculative scientific elements in it anywhere.  It's historical fiction.  That's fine, but why a Nebula nomination?  The author?  Griffith is best known as a speculative fiction writer, so she has fans willing to vote for her work and get it an award nomination.  But if this is speculative, anything is.  Two stars for breaking category.

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