Sixteen-year-old Hild has always been a favorite of her uncle, king of the Shylfings. So when she protects her cousin the crown prince from a murderous traitor, she expects the king to be grateful. Instead, she is unjustly accused of treachery herself.
As punishment, her uncle sends Hild far away to the heir of the enemy king, Beowulf, to try to weave peace between the two kingdoms. She must leave her home and everyone she loves. On the long and perilous journey, Hild soon discovers that fatigue and rough terrain are the least of her worries. Something is following her and her small band of guards—some kind of foul creature that tales say lurks in the fens. Will Hild have to face the monster? Or does it offer her the perfect chance to escape the destiny she never chose?
Hild is a whining whiner right up until the 97% mark but I liked her anyway. There is no romance whatsoever, and I think I should probably read this book’s companion novel, but I don’t think I will. This was a quick read and an enjoyable one, but it’s pretty standard historical fiction. I would have loved to see more world-building, because this is set during the time of Beowulf, and the Scandinavians are my people (VIKINGS RULE, etc). Again, maybe the world-building was done in the other book, so I missed out on it. That said, there’s nothing really remarkable about this book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a decent read.
Hild is “far-minded,” something which seems to only affect women. These women have traditionally used their ability to help the Shylfing king, but for Hild, it’s different. She kills an ambassador of the queen’s people, and the skald (or bard) decides she’s been possessed. Hild is locked up in her house before being sent away to Beowulf’s kingdom. She spends a lot of the time being prejudiced against the people she’s going to rule, calling them “seaweed-eaters,” which, hey, seaweed can be good, Hild! She also makes the mistake that her slave, Unwen, loves Hild and wants to help her, but when Unwen gets the chance to escape, she’s gone without looking back. Hild is hurt by this and even says, “doesn’t she know the gods made her a slave, not me?” Oof, self-awareness was non-existent back then.
Hild is controlled by her ability, and has a hard time mastering it, but she does get it under control before they enter Beowulf’s kingdom. She complains and condescends about how small and pitiful the village looks, even though she knows they just got attacked by a dragon (which killed Beowulf). She is greeted by two girls who she treats as slaves until she realizes they’re of noble birth. She is still trying to escape very late in the book, but I’ll let you discover whether she does escape.
In all, this book is a solid read with very little thinking involved. The book is more about traveling and battling smelly monsters than about Hild’s “destiny,” but it’s worth a shot.