Saturday, May 16, 2020

Review - The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Title: The Mercies
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Pages: 343
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: 6th February 2020

Blurb from Goodreads:
After a storm has killed off all the island's men, two women in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village struggle to survive against both natural forces and the men who have been sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft.
Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter 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 Northern 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 pushed together and 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 1620 witch trials, The Mercies is a feminist story of love, evil, and obsession, set at the edge of civilization.

My Review:

 *I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley*

Tragedy strikes the small and isolated Norwegian island of Vardo one Christmas Eve when nearly all of the men living in the village are killed by an unexpected storm when out fishing.

That day, Maren Magnusdatter loses her father and brother, and along with the other mourning women, must learn how to survive without them.

Over a year later, Scotsman Absalom Cornet arrives in Vardo with his new wife, Ursa, sent there to bring about order and cleanse Vardo of its ungodliness.

Maren and Ursa form a friendship that will be put to the test by Absalom's actions as he attempts to stamp out the evil in Vardo.

The Mercies was inspired by a real storm that happened in Vardo as well as the witch trials in 1620, which I knew nothing about so that was an interesting aspect of the book for me. It's pretty horrifying to think of all the men and women who have been murdered over the years because they were accused of doing witchcraft or unnatural things.

The main characters were Maren and Ursa, who I both felt sorry for - Maren for how much she'd lost, and Ursa for having no say in her marriage to Absalom, who I didn't like at all.

Maren and Ursa's friendship was probably my favourite thing about the book, and I was glad that they had each other.

I enjoyed the setting, which was bleak and dreary. I could almost feel the cold of Vardo as I read.

Going into The Mercies I had no idea that there was queer representation, so that was a pleasant surprise.

The plot was good overall, but it was a bit slow for me at times, and I wasn't as gripped or invested in the story and characters as I thought I would be.

The writing style took me a few chapters to warm to, but it was easy enough to follow.

I am a bit disappointed that I didn't like this more, but I did end up enjoying it.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read.


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