The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This book is an anticipated read for me, I am a fan of the author’s previous works, and have been waiting to read her first adult novel.

The Mercies is a story revolving around true historical events in Norway, which included persecutions of men and women, burnt at the stake for witchcraft accusations.

The story starts with a big storm, just off the coast of Vardø, which was very unexpected and seen to be lifted so suddenly, that people felt witchcraft was surely involved. Maren, one of the two main characters, father, brother and betrothed were all killed in the storm. Along with thirty-seven other men. Leaving Maren, her family and the rest of the small town without a male population, other than a few elderly gentlemen and children. This left the population of Vardø vulnerable, so the women had to learn to fish and fend for themselves, to the dismay of some.

News of the storm had reached far and wide, along with the rumours of witchcraft. Gathering the attention of many people involved with witch trials all over Norway, including Lensmann Cunningham, who employed the help of Commissioner, Absalom Cornet from Scotland, whom ventured to Vardø with his new wife Ursa in tow. Ursa is from a prestigious family, who up to recently had wealth in Bergen, and never experienced life like the women in Vardø. She must learn to survive in such a dramatically different way of life. Ursa meets Maren, and soon asks for her help in adjusting. Their friendship develops into something that surprises them both, greatly.

This book is hauntingly written, and beautifully descriptive, I really could imagine everything the author was describing. It is emotionally charged due to the knowledge that Kiran’s ideas came from true events, where many people lost their lives on the basis of being a witch. The relationship between Maren and Ursa is so special. I could feel the love through the pages.

I truly loved this book; it did not disappoint at all. A definite five star read.

I received an advanced reader copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Title: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Author: The Mercies

Publisher: Picador