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.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award winning poet, playwright, and novelist.
Her books include the bestselling winner of the British Book Awards Children's Book of the Year and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2017 The Girl of Ink & Stars, and Costa Book Awards- and Blue Peter Awards-shortlisted The Island at the End of Everything, and The Way Past Winter, Blackwell's Children's Book of the Year 2018. A Secret of Birds & Bone, her fourth middle grade title, was published in 2020. Julia and the Shark, in collaboration with her husband, artist Tom de Freston, was Indie Book of the Month, Scottish Booktrust Book of the Month, and has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Book of the Year 2021.
Her debut YA novel The Deathless Girls was published in 2019, and was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize, and long listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. Her first book for adults, The Mercies, debuted as The Times number 1 bestseller, and at number 5 in the Sunday Times Bestseller Charts. Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Emily Barton called it 'among the best novels I've read in years', and it won a Betty Trask Award.
She is represented by Hellie Ogden (UK) and Kirby Kim (US) at Janklow & Nesbit. Kiran lives in Oxford with her husband and their cats, Luna and Marly.