“The Mercies smolders more intensely than a pyre, whirling history's ashes defiantly into the wind.” ―NPR
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 stranger arrives on their shore. 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.
“I loved The Mercies. It opened up a completely new chapter of history to me, and I loved the way it told its story in such beautiful language. I won't forget this story of these women in a Norway I knew little about. A searing historical novel.”
―Naomi Wood, author of The Hiding Game and Mrs. Hemingway
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a British author, poet, and playwright. Her debut book, The Girl of Ink & Stars, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and British Children's Book of the Year. Her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and VOYA. She holds degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and lives by the river in Oxford. The Mercies is her debut novel for adults.