Kiran Millwood Hargrave entered the UK’s literary scene in a blaze of glory with her children’s book "The Girl of Ink and Stars." She has published poetry and in 2015 launched an original play "BOAT" about human trafficking, which received rave reviews. It was inevitable that her creative fever would lead her into the world of adult novels. "The Mercies" is an exceptional work of historical fiction. It was released Feb. 11.
In 1617, Maren, a native of Vardo, Norway, stands with her neighbors overlooking the sea as a storm reaches out and sinks a ship caring all their able bodied men, among them her father, brother and betrothed. Her small community is forced to divert from tradition and become matriarchal to survive. Ursa has been married to stranger, a man of faith, and accompanies him to a land so far north the summers chill her to the bone. He has been requested personally to weed out the indigenous witches, a terrifying and isolating prospect for the young bride.
The time, place and terror are all real. "The Mercies" is a raw and exposed novel. Ursa and Maren prove to be fast friends but will their bonds be enough to spare them from the witch hunt?
Readers will breathe softly, turn the pages with care and lie still so the hunters do not find them. It’s a winter book laced with historical facts, fictional friendships and a remote landscape one can still explore today.
Jessey Nickells reviews books for the Leavenworth Times.