Book Review – The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Rating – 3/5 Stars

The Mercies’ first begins in 1617 on Christmas Eve, where the small island of Vardo in Norway suffers a terrible storm, in an instant killing the majority of the male population. Maren is left alone with her Mother and heavily pregnant Sister-in-Law after her Father, Brother and Fiancé are lost to the sea. The women have to learn to fend for themselves, until a Commissioner is appointed to govern over them, tasked with scenting out the witches among them. He brings his young wife, Ursa, from her city of Bergen. You follow from both the perspectives of Maren and Ursa, each of them struggling to come to terms with their new lives.

The Mercies is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s first adult fiction novel having previously written both middle grade and YA novels. This is the first book of hers that I have picked up, and I am anticipating reading her other novel The Deathless Girls.

The language style took me a while to get in to, but once I had, I loved the historical world the author had created – bringing to life a part of history that I had never read about. I enjoyed how the relationship between Maren and Ursa was explored and grew, and learning about the historical aspect of life in the 1600s. Especially the persecution of so called ‘witches’, who in reality were strong-willed, independent women; who’s only crime was that they no longer wanted to fit into the role that was expected of them.

However, the story was told at quite a slow pace – a lot of drama happens toward the end of the book. I would’ve loved to had a bit more action happen throughout the rest of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a tale of historical fiction (like myself!), though the slower pace wasn’t my favourite.

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