From pagan to saint
British author Nicola Griffith is best known for science fiction and crime writing, but she takes a detour with Hild: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $27). It's a coming-of-age story set in seventh-century Britain, where Hild, a pagan child, goes to the court of her uncle, King Edwin of Northumbria. Hild grows into the king's main adviser during the time when Christianity was making inroads in Britain, and the twist is that the novel's heroine will become St. Hilda of Whitby. What might be just a feminist take on an ancient Christian saint becomes an adventure story about a young woman who was very much a product of her time, with lush description of life in the early Middle Ages.