Title: The Mercies
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publisher: Picador - Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: 17 February 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: ARC from Publisher
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Magnusdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Arctic town of Vardø must fend for themselves.
Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband's authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God, and flooded with a mighty evil.
As Maren and Ursa are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them, with Absalom's iron rule threatening Vardø's very existence.
Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, The Mercies is a story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.
The Mercies is an intriguing and engaging read. I loved the story
premise, and both Maren and Ursa come across well as characters. The focus of
the book is on the women, so we don't see much in the way of background
motivation and thought processes from the men, which does make them feel like
2D villains here and there, but not so much it spoilt my enjoyment of the
story. The sense of time and place are nicely established without bogging the book
in historical detail, and overall the prose flowed well, making this a quick
and easy read. It's not a book I fell in love with to the extent I'd wish to
keep a copy forever on my shelf to reread, but it was a pleasing story that I
am glad I got to read once. I am giving The Mercies four stars. It is a
book sure to please historical fiction fans, especially those looking for works
with a strong female focus and/or LGTB content.
I received this book as a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.