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Review: Hidden by Donna Jo Napoli

Monday, December 29, 2014


Hidden
Donna Jo Napoli


Genre: Historical
Hardback: 384 Pages
Publication: December 30, 2014
by Paula Wiseman Books (S&S imprint)



Lost at sea when her sister is taken captive on a marauding slave ship, Brigid is far removed from the only life she knew as a princess and the pampered daughter of an Irish king.

Now Brigid has few choices. Alone and abandoned, she disguises herself as a boy and vows to find her innocent sister taken into slavery. Through her search many years pass and she grows from being a child to a woman, tough Brigid does not give up. She lives from the land, meets friend and foe along the way, and gains a reputation as a woman thought to be fierce enough to conquer men. It is not fierceness that guides her but the love of sister and the longing for her family to be united. One day she finds her way, knowing that her only real power comes from within herself.


Review

I love how historical novels like Hidden give us a look into life as it was in the past. Hidden explores the adventures of an Irish girl who finds herself in Norse territory. I especially enjoyed seeing the different cultures of the time and wish that more time was spent world building. There's so much potential for historical fiction to teach us about the lives that people led in the past.  I also love the focus of sisterly bonds. Though Brigid and her sister become separated at a young age, Brigid always remembers her sister and makes decisions based on what will allow her to chase after her sister faster. We don't see familial bonds enough in YA lit, so I was delighted to see this.

It was surprising to see that family wasn't the entire focus of the novel. The synopsis is misleading in that it doesn't tell us how much of Brigid's growth depicted throughout the novel. This causes Brigid's concern for her sister to be put on the back burner. I think it's really neat how the novel takes us through the important moments of Brigid's life. It helps give us a feel of how Brigid has grown over the years and how her experiences with different people help shape her into the person that she becomes. However, this comes with a cost. While it shows us the overarching span of Brigid's growth, we don't get to know her with the depth that we might have otherwise gotten if the story had focused on a more specific timeline. Just when I got settled into one period of Brigid's life, the story skips a few years to show us what she got out of her time in the place she was staying and has her move on. This is problematic because it feels more like we're watching a documentary of Brigid's life rather than partaking of an adventure alongside her. Furthermore, it takes the focus off Brigid's goal of finding her sister, which is the entire reason that Brigid postpones her journey home.

At the same time, it's moving to see Brigid sacrifice the different lives she might have otherwise led in pursuit of her own happiness. So many years pass before Brigid is able to begin her search for her sister. Anything could have happened in that time, and she doesn't have the Internet or media to help her. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up hope that she will find her sister one day. Her determination to rescue her sister leads her to touch lives she might not otherwise have come into contact with. It's a great reminder that our determination to reach out own goals can bring us to do things for others, thus resulting in greater happiness all around.

I do wish that the novel didn't skip around so much. The whole of Brigid's story is more than one novel has sufficient room to tell properly. It would have been better to tell it across several books or to skim over her younger years faster and focus the novel on the search for her sister. As it is, this was an enjoyable novel albeit one with a loose, poorly structured plot. I recommend this for readers looking for a historical novel that depicts Irish and Norse culture.

An ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

Series
  • Hush (companion novel)

Content
  • Slavery
  • Rape scene (not very explicit)

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