Monday, December 7, 2015

The Abbess of Whitby: A Novel of Hild of Northumbria by Jill Dalladay

ISNB: 9781782641544
$14.99 Paperback | Lion Fiction
About the book: Chosen as Eostre's handmaid, Hild will serve the fertility goddess for a year before being wed. Her future is predictable--until King Edwin claims her as kin and she learns that her father was murdered.

Her first love is given a command in Edwin's forces and vanishes from her life, wed to her sister. The court is baptized, ending the old religion and Hild's role. Life looks bleak. She can't stop wondering who killed her father.

Suspecting Edwin, she challenges him, only to be married off to safeguard his northern frontier. Struggling in a loveless marriage, she is intrigued by the Iona priests making pilgrimages to spread Christ's love. When home and family are lost in Oswy's sack of Edinburgh, she finds herself in enemy hands, but meets the charismatic Aidan.

Inspired and guided by him, she builds communities to live and teach Christ's love. She attracts followers. Even her old enemy, King Oswy, entrusts his child to her, gives her Whitby, and seeks her help to reconcile divisions in his kingdom.

She never ceases battling against old superstitions resurrected by storm, plague, and solar eclipse, but at last she receives a bishop's blessing--from a man she trained herself.

My thoughts: I have recently read several novels written by individuals highly involved in the histories of the medieval period. I have found them interesting though a bit difficult to read because of the names of the people and places. I personally like to actually involve myself a bit in researching a period in which a story is immersed to garner more information on said period and to judge the authenticity of it as well.

The Abbess of whitby is staged in the 7th century of medieval Britain. It involves an actual historical individual - Hild of Northumbria. The author, Jill Dalladay, has extensively researched other author's works including the venerable Bede. I found that Hild's story parallels previous works, Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King by Edoardo Albert. I found it interesting to again meet these ancient kings in Hild's story.

While Hild is actually born into the royal line, her plight is not easy. Life was very rustic and hard in Northumbria in the 7th century. It was interesting to read about the life and activities of the times fleshed out by the author who based much of it on archeological finds and her own imagination. The peoples of Northumbria worshiped the ancient gods but were gradually being introduced to Christianity.

I found it interesting how the transition from pagan religion to Christianity took place. How Christianity was spread and how whole clans or "countries" accepted it. Hild's story is just that - transition or transformation from pagan worship to acceptance of the Christ as Savior. It is about how Hild became a leader through her very humble servant's heart, and of the eventual establishment of a very important religious house in Northern England.

I found this an easier to read than other medieval historical novels, yet still I flipped back and forth a bit to review people and places on the informational maps and lists in the front of the book. These were a big help.  The author gives a short dialogue in the back on her research of the period and her reading list of helpful works.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publications on behalf of Lion Fiction to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.


  1. Hi Vera! Visiting from Literacy Musing Mondays and just had to connect over good medieval lit of the Celtic Christian era. This book reminded me of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries by Peter Tremayne and the Cadfael Mysteries by Ellis Peters--both are historians before they are novelists. Their painting ot time and place is compelling--as are the stories. And, you're right--it is fascinating to observe what the transition from pagan to Christian might have looked like in all its harsh realities.

    1. Miss Kathy - Thank you for taking the time to tell me about these other early Christian era books. I've reviewed others along this line and review them through the Kregel blogging program. Got a mystery coming up in about a month. ;)

  2. I too struggle with medieval lit but I know I should keep trying. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday this week! It's a pleasure having you!

  3. The medieval time period is certainly an interesting one. Most of what I've learned about it, I've learned from homeschooling my kids! Thanks for linking up at #LMMLinkup.

  4. I recently reviewed this one as well. I loved it. The medieval time period is very interesting to me, but I agree that it's sometimes hard to keep up with who's who.

    1. If you enjoy medieval or ancient stories told with believability then you might also enjoy the works of Mel Starr and his "Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, surgeon". I've read/reviewed several and they are quite enjoyable.


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