Title: The Witches of Vardø
Author: Anya Bergman
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Manilla Press
Publication Date: 5th January 2023
They will have justice. They will show their power. They will not burn.
Norway, 1662. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft. After recently widowed Zigri’s affair with the local merchant is discovered, she is sent to the fortress at Vardø to be tried as a witch.
Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch – whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family.
Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius, once the King of Denmark’s mistress, who has been sent in disgrace to the island of Vardø. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court?
These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King. In an age weighted against them, they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.
I had seriously high hopes for The Witches of Vardø seeing as it checked so many boxes for things I love in a book! Happily I can confirm that it is just as spectacularly good as I hoped it would be. The story is a retelling of the Norwegian witch trials and weaves together historical fact and fiction beautifully. The plot follows Ingeborg, a determined young woman whose mother has been accused of witchcraft and imprisoned and Maren, whose mother was executed as a witch and who vows to help Ingeborg rescue her mother. A third narrative follows Anna, a former mistress of the King of Denmark who has been exiled in disgrace to Vardø. The lives of these three women become intertwined in a time when being a woman in a world ruled by men was extremely dangerous.
I could not put the stunningly evocative tale of The Witches of Vardø down. It is a beautifully written and fiercely female story with themes that, however distant they may feel, are still shockingly resonant and every bit as important as they were 400 years ago. Ingeborg, Maren and Anna are very different, yet all have power within them and each is capable of wielding that power as a force of good or as a means of destruction. The prose is elegant and feels authentic to the history whilst remaining accessible and relatable to a modern reader. The Witches of Vardø is a book that expertly blends history, folklore, nature and social commentary with grace and skill. I couldn’t recommend it more highly!
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher for which I thank them. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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