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Review: Nicola Griffith's HILD at NPR Books

My review of Nicola Griffith’s Hild is up at NPR Books! In brief: I can’t recommend it enough, and slammed up against word count before I could even scrape the surface of the thousand and one MORE things I loved about it.

This is a book that I spent some hours ignoring World Fantasy in order to keep reading, and that, while reading, I kept exclaiming about — on Twitter, in person, to people who hadn’t read it and to people who had. I kept saying, “I think it’s the best book I’ve read this year. And I read Code Name Verity this year.”

I still can’t quite bring myself to commit to saying the one is better than the other there, for Reasons, but I loved it so much.

Things I loved but couldn’t quite fit into the review:

  • How Hild’s observation-magic is magic because she exists in a world where there is no such thing as leisure time; where watching birds and weather patterns is the work of magicians because they are afforded time and isolation in a way that cloth-makers and brewers are not.
  • How Hild’s isolation makes her uncanny, and how Griffith’s prose makes her loneliness into a cold stone.
  •  How identity is tied to language and landscape, and how a different landscape is a different country.
  •  This book acknowledges that black and brown people existed in 7th century Britain! It doesn’t focus on them, but they’re there!

But most of all, MOST OF ALL, I loved that a very young Hild learns, through observation, the mechanics of a well-executed squat, and uses this to perform a feat of strength that makes her appear to be magical. 


As in real life, of course.