Mini-Review of ‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm of 1617.

Book Blurb

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves – the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Vardø is now a place of women.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs . . .

My thoughts…

I enjoyed this ‘Norwegian Crucible’ of a story. Based on historical events where the search for witches becomes a bloodthirsty passion. It’s such an horrific part of our world history, that shouldn’t be forgotten, and this book serves to remind us of the awful way power, superstition, control, jealousy and mass hysteria can cause humans to do horrific things.
The story follows two young women, who meet in differing circumstances but find an instant connection with one another. One woman who has endured great loss and hardship and another married to a stranger and taken to a new land. Both are likeable protagonists and I loved how their relationship developed amidst the chaos of accusations and suspicion.
The writing is rich and immersive, the landscape dark and cold. I really enjoyed this book and the inevitable bittersweet ending.