On Wilder Seas

On Wilder Seas is a historical novel inspired by the true story of Maria, the woman who sailed on the Golden Hind during Francis Drake’s circumnavigation voyage in 1579.

As Drake’s secret mission takes the ship into the Arctic north, Maria, an escaped slave, makes a bid for true freedom. Dismissed and erased for 440 years, On Wilder Seas centres Maria in her own story for the first time and shines a new light on Drake’s famous voyage.

The inspiration for the book comes from the ‘Anonymous Narrative’, an account of the voyage of the Golden Hind kept at the British Library in London. After passing through the Strait of Magellan in September 1578, Drake sailed up the coasts of Chile, Peru, and Mexico, raiding Spanish ports and ships as he went.

From one ship, the Anonymous Narrative tells us: “Drake tooke… a proper negro wench called Maria, which was afterward gotten with child between the captain and his men pirats, and sett on a small island to take her adventures.”

Reading this casual dismissal of Maria and her fate sparked an enquiry into the possibilities of her life that resulted in my novel.


‘In this gripping tale of true feminine courage, strength and spirit of adventure, Marmery gives voice to a woman who, like so many others, has been written out of history.’

 Martine McDonagh

‘On Wilder Seas is a gripping adventure story of an extraordinary journey. Marmery brings Maria vividly to life along with a tremendous crew of compelling and believable characters.’

 Mandy Haggith

A lively, spirited account of an epic voyage. Marmery’s debut novel is thoroughly researched and vividly written, with a host of colourful characters. The brutality, horror and discomfort of life on board a 16th century galleon and the wonders and dangers that the crew experiences are skilfully evoked. Maria’s perspective, an oppressed but feisty outsider, lends the familiar story an unusual dimension.

 Sally O’Reilly

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