I don't know where to start. I read a lot, generally at least two books a week. I love large, thick books that can take awhile to read. When I love a book, the longer it lasts the better it is! I read with enjoyment. I don't spend my reading time with anything that I don't enjoy, which is why I seldom give books less than 3 stars here or on any other site on which I post my reviews. Actually, most of my reviews are 4-5 stars. This one should have at last 7 stars by that reckoning. Some books, very few actually, are finished but stay with me, like the after taste of a particularly fine something .. wine, chocolate, a favorite dessert or meal. This book is staying with me, and I am wishing that the sequel was already available so that I could continue to savor the reading.
Ms. Griffith is a master at prose. This book, in places, reads more like poetry, each word so finely tuned that they sing like a finely tuned violin or as the voices in a perfectly pitched acapella.
I have to admit to having a few issues with the uniqueness of names and places in this seventh century world that we enter when we open this book, but it did not take long for me to fall into the book and become one with the pages and the story.
We step into the story of St. Hilda, but this story gives so very much more. We walk in the life of the seventh century. We go to the dairy house and help make butter, we smell the torches, hearth lights and the blood of war. We feel the tensions of King and thegns, the stress as the old, polytheistic, religions give way to the new, Christ, religion. As a female I weigh the place of women in this ancient society; the withering work of simply 'being' in this cold, calculating, somewhat viscious time, the offering of wine and mead - and sometimes of something more.
This book is lyrically written, each moment poignant. Hild, the daughter of a would-have-been king is a person who is patient, who sees and hears things and uses knowledge to uphold her position as the King's trusted seer. Her mother, a women, the widow of the 'would-have-been-king' has not standing, no property. She who is a healer and she uses nothing more than her wits to preserve the life of her children.
This is a book that takes hold of you and transports you. I simply could not put this book down! Well done Nicola Griffth! Let there be more ! I can't wait!
This book should appeal to everyone because of how well it is written, but it will hold special interest for those of us who have an affinity for historical fiction and, more than that, anyone who appreciates perfectly wrought fiction.