I would have happily read another 700-plus pages of this. Nicola Griffith’s depiction of medieval Britain remains rooted in the rhythms of nature coursing underneath the intricate, constantly-shifting allegiances amongst kings and lords. Through it all Hild, now almost twenty years old, tries to find a way to keep her people safe and her home of Menewood free from the greed of kings.
Griffith is interested in what true leadership looks like, and what leaders owe their community—what does it mean to be a good king? What does Hild—who does not want the power and doom that come with a crown—do with all the people who look to her for the things that a king can provide: protection, food, and gold? The Hild of this book is a lot more unsure of herself, actively rejecting the role of king’s seer that was thrust upon her as a young girl. Stripping away the first book’s driving force of fate/destiny creates a real sense of danger that feels most heightened away from the battle scenes—true violence foreshadowed by a sudden shift of the hand, a narrowing of the eyes, or a gift that doubles as a threat.