Cover of Menewood: A Novel by Nicola Griffith (MCDxFSG 3 October, 2023). Cover art by Anna and Elena Balbusso. Cover design by Na Kim.

Image description: Richly coloured cover of a novel, Menewood, by Nicola Griffith, painted predominatly in blue, gold, black, and red. The image is of a young woman—Hild, the protagonist of the novel—standing tall against an ominous backdrop of medieval warfare. Behind her in the upper left, the top corner is golden, with white-hot tipped yellow arrows arcing overhead against what might be dark mountains or forbidding trees. The arrows are, perhaps, on fire. Crows are dodging them. Below the arrows and crows a mounted warrior charges from left to right, shield glinting silver, sword raised, face hidden behind a helmet. Behind Hild to the right, against a sky full of dark cloud and smoke, the arrows fall towards a host of spears and banners. The pale blue banner in the foreground shows a stylised boar with garnet eyes. The banner behind that displays a raven. In the centre of the image, and taking up more than half of the total image area, is Hild. She looks directly at the observer with blue-green eyes filled with a weight of experience beyond her years. Her expression, partially obscured by windblown hair—pale chestnut with a slight wave—is clear and farseeing: this is a woman who makes decisions that decide lives. She wears what appears to be fishmail armour beneath a richly textured but torn and worn cloak. The cloak is mostly sky blue and held together at the breast by a great, early medieval equal-armed cross brooch of gold and garnet inlay. The belt beneath the cloak is styled somewhere between Celtic and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ interlace. In her right hand she hold a wooden quarterstaff, bound with blood-spattered iron. The cloak is overlain with other images: a red fern, a black war horse, a crow, black leaves, cloud and smoke, and bare, blood-red branches. Lettering, of textured gold in early-medieval style, is superimposed on the image. “Menewood,” centred below the cross brooch in large type. Below that, in smaller type, on the left “Author of Hild” and, on the right, “A Novel.” Below that, in large type, “Nicola Griffith.”

About Menewood

Menewood has been a long time coming—over a decade from beginning to end. I was eager to write it but it would not be hurried. It’s a big book, epic and intense—rage, love, lust, loss, fierce joy, grief, triumph, delight—but it’s also full of gentler emotions, those stolen moments of contentment and peace, basking a moment in sunlight, or enjoying a quiet conversation over a bowl of soup. It’s a book about life: how it feels, what it means, why it changes. And its beating heart is its protagonist, Hild: becoming herself, learning to live on her own terms, to build and wield power—exploring and really inhabiting who she is.

It’s set 1400 years ago in seventh-century Britain and it takes up where its predecessor, Hild, left off. It covers fewer years of Hild’s life than the first book yet it’s longer, and deeper and richer—a bigger book in every way. (Imagine it as a trilogy in one volume and you’ll have a sense of what to expect.) It has, though, the same mix of heroic scale and human intimacy, the same soaring exhilaration in the high, wild places of the Long Ago.

Hild when it came out ten years ago was a different kind of book—full of the awe and magic of life, only with no actual magic. It was about a different kind of protagonist: a bright girl then young woman who stayed one step ahead of the murderous whims of a volatile king using acute observations of nature and human behaviour to work out what might happen next.

How do you portray that on a cover? You find a different kind of artist—in this case an artistic team, Anna and Elena Balbusso—who play with time, perception and colour to create clean visions that are somehow infused with layers of wonder. For Hild, they captured Hild’s frank and open gaze perfectly. We wanted to refresh the cover of Hild to coincide with the publication of Menewood—and we’ve adjusted the type—but the image didn’t need a single change. (See below.)

Now, for Menewood, the Balbusso twins again perfectly capture who Hild has become: Against a backdrop of violence and regime change stands a young adult marked by war, honed by the responsibility of power—and vivid with life.

I loved writing this book—Hild and her world are a joy to me. I can’t wait for you to read it.

I love this cover. Later this week I’ll write more about the process to come up with it. Meanwhile, here’s the new cover for Hild.

Refreshed Hild cover

The new cover of Hild: A Novel by Nicola Griffith. Cover art by Anna and Elena Balbusso.

Image description: Richly textured cover of a novel, Hild, by Nicola Griffith, painted predominantly in green, with green-black, black, indigo, red, gold and white. The image is of an adolescent girl—Hild, the protagonist of the novel—standing straight against a backdrop of the natural world at night. Behind her and to the left, the full mon is bright and silhouetted against it are bare tree branches and four roosting birds. White specks and faint shades of indigo hint at a starry night with gauzy drifts of cloud.  The pattern of trees and sky without birds, is repeated to the right. In the centre of the image is Hild, standing with her hands behind her back and her head slightly turned but nonetheless gazing directly at the observer with clear blue-green eyes. Her head and shoulders are protected by a chanmail coif but enough strands of hair escape to show it is dark chestnut. This is a girl-woman with the thousand-yard stare of someone who has faced death and made terrible decisions since the age of eight, who looks out with the clarity of one who knows life is an undiscovered country full of joy and patterns to be understood. She survives because she has an extraordinary mind and a will of adamant. Her longsleeved overdress is the same colour as the sky and blends into the background. This blending is furthered by and overlay of the same bare black tree branches. A gold and garnet equal-armed cross is fastned at her breast and she wear a belt decorated in interlace from which hangs a seax. Lettering, of textured gold in early-medieval style, is superimposed on the image. Above Hild, across the top, in small type, “Extraordinary…[Hild] resonated to many of the same chords as Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur, the Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones. — Neal Stephenson” to Hild’s left, “One of the best novels, period. — Dorothy Allsion” and to the right “Truly, truly remarkable. — Karen Joy Fowler” Just below the centre of the image, immediately beneath Hild’s cross, in giant type, and all-caps, is “HILD” Immediately below that, again in small type is, to the left “Picador” and, to the right, “A Novel” Below that in large type, “Nicola Griffith.”