Release Date: January 5th 2023
Publisher: Manilla Press
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4/5 stars
Norway, 1662. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft. When Zigri, desperate and grieving after the loss of her husband and son, embarks on an affair with the local merchant, it’s not long before she is sent to the fortress at Vardø, to be tried and condemned 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 to Vardø in disgrace. 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 of Denmark. In an age weighted against them they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.
Set in Norway in 1662, The Witches of Vardø is a beautifully told historical fiction tale about a group of women accused of witchcraft. When Zigri starts an affair with the merchant’s son, she is denounced as a witch and taken to the island of Vardø to await trial. Her daughter Ingeborg is determined to rescue her from a terrible fate, so joins forces with Maren, the daughter of the infamous witch Liren Sand. Will the two girls be able to save Zigri and the other women accused of witchcraft? Those in the witches hole are not the only women captive on the island. Noblewoman Anna Rhodius has been sent to Vardø in disgrace. She has lost everything, but what will she do to regain the King’s favour and return to her previous life of privilege?
The Witches of Vardø is a harrowing tale, one full of cruelty and brutality. The story is well paced, giving the reader the chance to get to know Ingeborg and her family before the paranoia and accusations begin. I really enjoyed Bergman’s writing style and I found myself reading big sections of the book in one sitting. The story has a really captivating setting and the remote, snowy Norwegian landscape really comes to life in Bergman’s writing. Bergman also does a great job of increasing the tension as the story progresses and I was completely glued to the book for the last hundred pages to find out how it was going to end.
The characters in this story are certainly compelling and you really feel for the horrendous way they are treated. Both points of view characters are really interesting, they’re both such different people but are ultimately trying to get back what they’ve lost. I did prefer Ingeborg’s POV to Anna’s, however, both were really engaged and concluded in a way I didn’t expect. I also thought Maren was a fascinating character, she was fearless and determined to stand against those in power. Bergman does a fantastic job showcasing the relationships and loyalty between the female characters in this story, particularly as they are tested in the most horrible ways imaginable. Based on true events from history, this is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story, one that historical fiction fans won’t be able to put down.