Excellent historical fiction. Case study in turning one paragraph of actual history into two–or three or four–thick volumes of story. Fully realized history and culture. Complex relationships, even if a bit modern. Manages to include eighteenth century entrepreneurship, twentieth century social conscious and twenty-first century sexual mores without bending the frame of history too badly. After all, we know little about eighth century England, so she may as well base her tale on how she wants it to have been. Occasionally the story becomes indistinguishable from the rich tapestry of background.
Like the way the closing repeats the opening.
Griffith does better when she inserts her own proverbs–“women make; men break” or “fate goes ever as it must”–than when she leans of clichés like “God helps those who help themselves,” which she puts into the mounts of priests even though it is not a scriptural expression, or “where there’s a will there’s a way.” “Love is never wrong,” of course, in a late twentieth century pop music expression cum culture wars creed.
She deftly blurs the details of combat. Should have done the same with the sex scenes.
That Roman and British Christianity were at odds is historical, but she seems to paint the Roman dominance as too early. Like the politics, she gives sympathetic voice to many religious points of views. (Hard to imagine that the Anglo-Saxon priests gave up so meekly.) Of course, Hild herself will figure in the historical victory of the Romans over the British at her Synod of Whitby (in volume two, or three, or . . .)
Quibble: Griffith provides an excellent map and genealogical table. Why not put them on facing pages rather than half a dozen pages apart?