The Familiars
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women.

The Familiars Details

TitleThe Familiars
Author
ReleaseFeb 19th, 2019
PublisherMira Books
ISBN-139780778369189
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Paranormal, Witches, Fantasy

The Familiars Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ‘’Justice means fairness. Luck of prejudice.’’ I’ve always loved Pendle Hill and the stories of the women who were accused of witchcraft during one of the darkest moments in the history of Europe. The fascinating legends found a perfect home in Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, a novel full of darkness, raw beauty and folklore. Stacey Hall’s The Familiars is not as vicious as Winterson’s masterpiece but it is no less poignant, atmospheric and an absolutely beautiful novel, fully doing jus ‘’Justice means fairness. Luck of prejudice.’’ I’ve always loved Pendle Hill and the stories of the women who were accused of witchcraft during one of the darkest moments in the history of Europe. The fascinating legends found a perfect home in Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, a novel full of darkness, raw beauty and folklore. Stacey Hall’s The Familiars is not as vicious as Winterson’s masterpiece but it is no less poignant, atmospheric and an absolutely beautiful novel, fully doing justice to its dark themes of prejudice, injustice and sheer violence against women. Sadly, these are issues that have not been extinguished in our world. Centuries later we face the same dangers, albeit wrapped in a different, more ‘’civilized’’ package.Pendle Hill and Malkin Tower are in the centre of attention in Fleetwood’ household. She is the young wife of a noble house, her mission to produce an heir - a male heir, let us not forget - and things have not been going well. Fleetwood is with child, one more chance to do her ‘’duty’’. Her fortune brings her to Alive, an eerie girl who seems to know nature and its gifts as well as an experienced wise woman. Or as well as a witch...The witch hunt is in full swing under the reign of King James and Fleetwood has to face her husband’s wrongdoings, her fear for her pregnancy and the injustice against women who know Nature better than anyone. ‘’I wouldn’t wish a girl’s life on anyone.’’ The Familiars are the spirits in objects and animals that act as replicas of the so-called ‘’witches’’. This belief lends the name to the title of this beautiful book that seems to be perfect. Indeed, I couldn’t find a single feature that would have made me reconsider my rating. The technical elements are brilliantly composed. The era, the dialogue, the atmosphere of terror, of suspicion and prejudice will captivate your heart from the first chapters. This novel is an example of how a writer can create female protagonists that do not resemble any stereotype but are fully imagined and brought to life so realistically that the readers feel as if they’re watching actual people of flesh and blood fighting for the right to have a voice. This is why I won’t tire you over technicalities. What I feel the need to focus on is the exquisite treatment of the themes that make this novel such a beautiful and frightening experience.The main theme reflected in the use of the witch-hunt era as the setting is the position of women in a society that seems to take an almost orgasmic satisfaction in supporting every possible prejudice against them. Men practice infidelity because it is their ‘’right’’. Women are not even allowed to choose their own midwife. Pregnancy becomes an obligation. Something you must do because society tells you to. And if you don’t want children of your own, everyone will look at you at best with apprehension and at worst with disgust. I am using the Present tense intentionally because things haven’t changed much. Not as long as the Trumps of the world tell us what to do with our bodies and our own choices. Religion and politics have always lent themselves as culprits of irrational actions, dogmas have long been used as pretexts for absolute control over the fates of women. Take the ridiculous Daemonologie, written by King James, as an example. One of the most incompetent, ludicrous monarchs of Europe that led dozens of women to their death.There are men encouraged to feel superior by oppressing women because they feared their intelligence and independence. Women bow to an absurd will and condemn other women because they are influenced by uneducated priests and are envious of the women who live their lives according to their rules without needing a man and a surname to sustain them or verify their existence. These issues are still relevant to our world. Many men cannot recognize women’s right to equality. Many women still need a man to verify their worth. Flushing out certain parts of our anatomy on Instagram, projecting ourselves as objects does not help. This is not emancipation. It is outright prostitution. Let us not fear the words and speak clearly.What can be better than a Historical Fiction novel that prompts you to think of how universal and relevant certain issues are, how vital in our daily experience. This novel by Stacey Halls is like a heavy storm that has been brewing for hours. Like the grey sky over Pendle Hill. Like the fragile hope that comes with the arrival of a child in the world… ‘’Do we not have eyes and ears like our husbands, and the men who will condemn them?’’ Many thanks to MIRA and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Beata
    January 1, 1970
    The novel is based on true events, Pendle Hill Witch Trials, and most of the characters did exist, although it was the Author's imagination that directed their actions. The story revolves around a noblewoman, Fleetwood Shutterworth who is expected to provide her husband with an heir. She miscarages several times, and one day, when pregnant again, she meets a local woman, Alice Grey, who has a knowledge of the herbs and skills which may help Fleetwood during her pregnancy. The story seems simple, The novel is based on true events, Pendle Hill Witch Trials, and most of the characters did exist, although it was the Author's imagination that directed their actions. The story revolves around a noblewoman, Fleetwood Shutterworth who is expected to provide her husband with an heir. She miscarages several times, and one day, when pregnant again, she meets a local woman, Alice Grey, who has a knowledge of the herbs and skills which may help Fleetwood during her pregnancy. The story seems simple, but the Author managed mastefully to create a novel which I couldn't put down. There are several themes in the novel which I found interesting: position and fate of woman in the early 17th centrury, prejudice against wise women which in consequence led directly to the accusations of witchcraft and then to stake, and the role children played during the so-called witchhunt. A very good atmospheric novel which I would recommend to FH lovers.*Many thanks to Stacey Halls, Harlequin-Mira and Netgalley for providing me with ARC in exchange for my honest review.*
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  • Mackey
    January 1, 1970
    There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that I’ve just finished, so much so that I start babbling to my neighbors, call up family members, talk about it to strangers in stores despite their strange looks as though I’ve lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. I’m part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that I’ve just finished, so much so that I start babbling to my neighbors, call up family members, talk about it to strangers in stores despite their strange looks as though I’ve lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. I’m part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is an animal that is close to a witch who does certain things for the witch. They can act as protectors, spies, a type of servant or, most often, a close companion. If you see one, you most often will see the other because they rarely are separated.Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 years old mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. The year is 1612, and she pregnant for the fourth time. The problem, however, is that she has yet to bring a child to term, something both she and her husband are concerned about, each for very different reasons. By chance, Fleetwood encounters a woman in the forest on her property. This woman, Alice Gray, claims to be a midwife and promises Fleetwood that she can help her give birth to a healthy child. They agree on terms and Alice is brought into Gawthorpe Hall where Fleetwood almost at once begins to feel better. There are problems, however. King James, as we all should know, is on a witch hunt and his minions who wish to stay in his favor will do whatever necessary to stay in the king’s good graces, including accusing innocent women of witchcraft. Fleetwood has the misfortune of living near Pendle Hill and one of her husband’s dearest friends and benefactor’s is just the sort of man to gather up innocents to appease the king – and that is exactly what he does – including Alice Gray.I live in a town named Pendleton settled by men originally from Pendle Hill. We actually have a place called Pendle Hill in our tiny town so I have a strange, slightly bizarre fascination with the Pendle witches of Lancashire. When I first read about The Familiars, I was led to believe that it was a witch story and somewhat cutesy. That is far from the truth. This is a story of the women in the surrounding village who eventually were charged with murder and witchcraft at Pendle Hill, specifically, Alice Gray. It is the story of Alice’s friendship with Fleetwood and the extreme measures that Fleetwood took in order to save her friend. It is a beautifully told story of women, devotion, love, motherhood, history and so much more but it is very much rooted in historically accurate research. At the heart of the tale is Fleetwood and her desire to bring her child into the world safely and alive. In order to do so, she truly believes she must have Alice by her side. It isn’t about magic or witchcraft, it is about herbs and knowledge passed down from one generation of women to the next. As we learn, these women were being rounded up far too often because of men who merely wanted them gone for reasons of cheating, anger, because the women were more knowledgeable, not unlike what is happening today when intelligent women are mocked in the public arena. They were also being hanged because their religion no longer aligned with that of King James. Then, as now, religion was a source of war. Isn’t it amazing how absolutely nothing has changed after all of this time? How we have learned nothing from the past?I absolutely loved the transformation of Fleetwood from silly, frivolous socialite to the mature woman willing to fight for her child and her friend. Women will do that when they have the right influences to guide them and it was beautiful to see how Alice, so quiet and unassuming, could give the much needed confidence to Fleetwood, not with magic but through friendship and care. In the end, this is a novel of historical fiction and it stays true to the story. Twelve women were charged with witchcraft, some were hanged, one landed in stocks for a fortnight and one is released. This is a wonderful imagining of their story, one that I highly recommend!Thank you to #Netgalley, #Harlequin-Mira and #StacyHalls for my advanced copy of #TheFamiliars.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a 2019 Mira publication.Very impressive debut novel!! Fleetwood Shuttleworth is once more with child, hoping this time she will be able to give her husband, Richard, the heir he is so desirous of. But, when she stumbles across a letter, written to her husband from a physician, warning him that if Fleetwood should once more find herself in childbed, she would not survive. To keep herself and unborn child from certain death, Fleetwood hires the midwife of her choos The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a 2019 Mira publication.Very impressive debut novel!! Fleetwood Shuttleworth is once more with child, hoping this time she will be able to give her husband, Richard, the heir he is so desirous of. But, when she stumbles across a letter, written to her husband from a physician, warning him that if Fleetwood should once more find herself in childbed, she would not survive. To keep herself and unborn child from certain death, Fleetwood hires the midwife of her choosing, a young woman named Alice Grey. Fleetwood knows that Alice’s methods are unconventional, but she is desperate, willing to try anything. But, when Alice is accused of witchcraft, Fleetwood will do whatever it takes to free Alice, but time is of the essence. I loved this book!! This is the style of Gothic mystery that I first fell in love with. This debut author has done an outstanding job of creating a heavily laden atmosphere of suspense, casting doubts in all directions and pitting our heroine against those she should be able to trust, against society, and against time. The fever pitch anxiety and furor which permeated the air during the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials creates the perfect backdrop for the danger, paranoia and suspicions surrounding Fleetwood. Using real life characters in the book is a nice touch, adding a nice theoretical solution to an age- old mystery. Other real- life props and events are scattered throughout the novel capturing the atmosphere of the times perfectly. The story is a Gothic lover’s dream, with the suspense building and building, becoming nearly unbearable. But the story is also one of courage, of hope, determination and of friendship and unbreakable bonds forged out of desperation. I can’t say enough nice things about this one. Right now, historical fiction is one my very favorite genres, and then add in these unmistakable Gothic elements- a genre that is hands down my favorite of any genre, then how can I go wrong? The straightforward prose fits the style of Gothic fiction, I think, and compliments the characterizations, especially that of Fleetwood. The pacing it pitch perfect, never hurried, which is what creates that fraught, nervous, sitting on pin and needles sensation, and is where many young Gothic novelists flounder. I’m sure it is harder to pull off a slower, more balanced pace now, than in days past, with the limited word count required by most publishers. So, apparently, this author obviously understands this genre, has studied it, and appreciates the nuances that make it successful. Overall, Stacey Halls has my undivided attention. I’m super excited to see how she progresses from here on out.
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  • Whispering Stories
    January 1, 1970
    Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.comThe Year 1612, Pendle, Lancashire. Seventeen-Year-Old Fleetwood Shuttleworth has been married for four years and in that time she has been pregnant three times too, losing each child before their birth dates. Fleetwood is once again pregnant and hoping to make it to full term with her child so she can give her husband an heir to carry on the Shuttleworth name. Unfortunately, she comes across a letter from the local physician which was written a Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.comThe Year 1612, Pendle, Lancashire. Seventeen-Year-Old Fleetwood Shuttleworth has been married for four years and in that time she has been pregnant three times too, losing each child before their birth dates. Fleetwood is once again pregnant and hoping to make it to full term with her child so she can give her husband an heir to carry on the Shuttleworth name. Unfortunately, she comes across a letter from the local physician which was written after she lost her third child which states that if she would be to fall pregnant again it is unlikely that she will survive.Fleetwood is distressed by the letter and wants to confront her husband about it but doesn’t know how. She decides to go a different route and hire a local woman to be her midwife, a woman that knows all about potions and herbs and promises to deliver a healthy baby – Alice Grey.There is talk amongst the local people of witches in the area and her new midwife is soon finding her name bought into the accusations of witchcraft. Fleetwood is sure Alice is innocent and with the trial looming close and if found guilty Alice will be hung, Fleetwood will do anything to save her new friend, even going against her husband for the young woman.The Familiars is a historical novel set in the era when people who were a little different were accused of being witches and killed, not only in the UK but across the world too. One of the most famous and best-recorded witch trials in the UK was in Pendle, Lancashire, now dubbed the home of the ‘Pendle Witches’, where twelve people went on trial and ten found guilty.Ms. Halls has weaved her superior tale around the events from 1612 and brought into her fictional novel some famous names from the trials, including Alizon Device and Alice Grey. The Shuttleworth family are also a well-known real family from the area too.Fleetwood although only seventeen has been through some hard times. Not only is it illegal to get married at the age she did these days, but you just couldn’t comprehend a young girl of seventeen having been married for four years and not only being pregnant four times but losing three of her children before birth too. I found her character although a little weak minded at times, yet she was intriguing and I enjoyed watching her evolve as the plot progressed.Whilst the book is set during the Pendle Witch trials, for my liking, there wasn’t enough about them in the book, mainly because I love a good book featuring witches and this is what made me choose to read the story in the first place. What information there is, is historically accurate and you can tell that the author has a keen interest in the past and has done lots of research.Overall the book left me satisfied and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It left me feeling enthralled with parts and spellbound by others. The pace felt a little slow to at times but in my personal opinion slowness works in historical fiction as it allows you to really grasp the past and understand it. The pace does pick up as you near the end.This is a book that I feel is going to be a bit like Marmite in that if you have an interest in historical fiction or indeed the witch trials or Pendle, you will love it. If you have no interest in these subject then I can’t see it being of interest to you.
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  • Miriam Smith
    January 1, 1970
    "The Familiars" written by Stacey Halls is a story based on a true historical timeline and real life people, namely Fleetwood Shuttleworth born in 1595, who was a woman of gentry and mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. It is a work of fiction based on the premise of the Pendle witch trial in Lancaster 1612 and sadly highlights the plight of women disproportionately targeted as part of witch hunts during the time period set. I'm generally not drawn to the 1600's as a story setting but I do have to admit "The Familiars" written by Stacey Halls is a story based on a true historical timeline and real life people, namely Fleetwood Shuttleworth born in 1595, who was a woman of gentry and mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. It is a work of fiction based on the premise of the Pendle witch trial in Lancaster 1612 and sadly highlights the plight of women disproportionately targeted as part of witch hunts during the time period set. I'm generally not drawn to the 1600's as a story setting but I do have to admit that the inclusion of witches and the infamous trial did spark my curiosity as I've always been intrigued by witchcraft. I did overall enjoy the story, if a little lightweight, and I would have possibly enjoyed reading some chapters from Alice's point of view as she stood accused but generally the slow pace and atmospheric setting did provide a feeling of being transported to the setting of the story. The ordeals and suspicions that fell upon women who were probably no more than 'wise women' who used nature to help cure ails and treat pregnant ladies was very sad to read and the author covered these tragic events professionally. With a truly gorgeously printed hardback cover to the book, this is worth every penny to adorn any bookshelf and I would happily recommend, it is slow but engaging, well written which leaves you asking 'was she or wasn't she?' and I wish the author every success with this sure bestseller for 2019.4 stars
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  • Libby
    January 1, 1970
    What a fascinating time period for this intriguing historical fiction tale. Rife with political and theological goings on, 1612 was a hotbed of science and superstition. Work on the translation of The King James Bible began in 1604 and was completed by 1611. Not to mention a treatise, ‘Daemonologie,’ published in 1597, on the study of demonology and uses of witchcraft and magic, authored by King James himself. His stature gave added authority to attempts to weed out witches and sorcerers and he What a fascinating time period for this intriguing historical fiction tale. Rife with political and theological goings on, 1612 was a hotbed of science and superstition. Work on the translation of The King James Bible began in 1604 and was completed by 1611. Not to mention a treatise, ‘Daemonologie,’ published in 1597, on the study of demonology and uses of witchcraft and magic, authored by King James himself. His stature gave added authority to attempts to weed out witches and sorcerers and he would become known as a most notorious witch hunter. In ‘The Familiars’ by Stacey Halls, our main character, Fleetwood, who was a young child bride, has by the age of seventeen had three miscarriages. Married to Richard Shuttleworth, who has an earring and a plush closet, she’s still deeply in love after four years of marriage. But, if she cannot bear his heir, then as a woman, what does she bring to this coupling? That’s the idea of the times. Women are mere possessions to be handed from father to husband along with any properties attached. Fleetwood does not think she’s very pretty, but it seems there is quite a bit of property that goes to Richard, a financial boon perhaps? Fleetwood is pregnant again, has persistent vomiting, her hair is falling out, and her skin is pale. A frequent horseback rider, even on her worst days, she manages to stumble across a woodsy girl (Alice) in the forest, a girl familiar with herbs and their uses. When Fleetwood finds out that Alice has midwifery experience from being with her mother at deliveries, Fleetwood asks Alice to be her midwife. Fleetwood would do just about anything to carry this pregnancy to term with a live baby to show for it. A neighbor, an older friend, Roger, who is the local magistrate, albeit on the verge of retiring, is very invested in looking good to King James, and looking good to King James means being on the lookout for witches and weeding them out of your community. A calamity in the community involving a man who’s stricken with what sounds like the symptoms of a stroke, droopy face and an inability to talk, has been cursed. A young woman admits to cursing him and her ten-year-old sister is standing witness against the entire family for witchcraft, and with that, there is a domino effect. The animals in their lives, their familiars, are thought to do their bidding. Fleetwood, herself, has a giant French mastiff, Puck, that she takes everywhere. Fear leads to more fear.Stacey Halls pacing is stellar, with pages flowing masterfully into a river of beautiful storytelling. Fleetwood’s first-person POV pulled me right in. Isolated and alone at Gawthorpe, the family home, her anxieties about the pregnancy are palpable. She has nightmares. High emotions, the life of an unborn child and others at risk, the uneasiness of not knowing who can be trusted, give the reader a heightening gothic element. A young woman with high hopes for a good life, her gender would become an obstacle if she allowed it. Richard has a secret that will cast everything in doubt. Fleetwood’s innocence may be collateral damage. The vulnerability of women is a prominent theme. This is Stacey Halls debut novel. For me, it does not have the lyrical prose that I love, but Hall’s prose suits the novel and her young main character. I felt like I was in the hands of a capable and experienced author.
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  • Umut Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    It started well and exciting, but didn't follow through with a solid story and plot. So, it's not for me.
  • Marialyce
    January 1, 1970
    I so enjoy when an author can take piece of history, the unknown about a real person in history, and weave a story around those events. In the book The Familiars, Stacey Halls has done just that.In seventeenth century England, things and happenings not understood were often attributed to the realm of witches. It was a time with an eerie fascination with the people thought to be witches and this thinking led to many executions of those tried and convicted. Even King James of that time had a certa I so enjoy when an author can take piece of history, the unknown about a real person in history, and weave a story around those events. In the book The Familiars, Stacey Halls has done just that.In seventeenth century England, things and happenings not understood were often attributed to the realm of witches. It was a time with an eerie fascination with the people thought to be witches and this thinking led to many executions of those tried and convicted. Even King James of that time had a certain fascination with witchcraft. The Pendle witch trials held at Lancaster, were one of many trials held. Twelve people were accused, one died while in Lancaster prison, while eleven went to trial. Ten were found guilty and executed by hanging and one was found not guilty. Using this time as a backdrop in this story, we meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, who is ever so anxious to have a child. Fleetwwood has lost babies before and as her husband, Richard, grows ever more anxious for an heir, Fleetwood fears another lost child. Fleetwood meets the strange and elusive Alice Grey, a midwife, who vows to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy child. However, in the turmoil of the witchcraft times, Alice is accused of being a witch.Alice and Fleetwood form a friendship, one vowing to help the other and as Fleetwood battles for Alice, Alice is determined to give Fleewood her desire. In this story we see the times of the seventeenth century. Women were chattel, considered owned by the men of the times. Their purpose was to provide pleasure, and in the case of the nobles, it was to provide a male heir. Witches were mostly women, so the conclusion that can often be drawn was that these times were actually not witch hunting, but the hunting of women. These women were poor, they couldn't read, and oftentimes, because they offered help to the sick who happened to get better, they were considered witches. Will Fleetwood be able to save Alice and will she ultimately be able to deliver a child she so desperately wants and needs?I so enjoyed this story. It was my second time listening to an audiobook. As I investigated this time further, I found that both Fleetwood Shuttleworth and Alice Grey were real people who lived at this time. This was a fascinating story portrayed so well and made one ever so aware of the way in which women were treated and thought of in times of long ago. It was a terrific blend of fact and fiction which made for a wonderfully informative and well researched story. Definitely recommend this one to those who love a well constructed historical fiction story.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    Solid historical fiction for readers of Jane Harris and especially Martine Bailey. The language – especially the dialogue, even when trying to be relatable and/or coy – didn’t always strike me as right for the time period (e.g. “Hot and bothered, I went downstairs” and “They burn witches, don’t they?”). In any case, it’s a more accessible take on the Pendle witches history than Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, with the added interest of a look at a young woman’s real life – four pregnanci Solid historical fiction for readers of Jane Harris and especially Martine Bailey. The language – especially the dialogue, even when trying to be relatable and/or coy – didn’t always strike me as right for the time period (e.g. “Hot and bothered, I went downstairs” and “They burn witches, don’t they?”). In any case, it’s a more accessible take on the Pendle witches history than Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, with the added interest of a look at a young woman’s real life – four pregnancies by age 17 – in the seventeenth century.(Out on February 7, 2019. I read an advanced proof copy from Bonnier Zaffre. [Full disclosure: I was a volunteer reviewer for Stacey when she ran the We Love This Book web magazine.])
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  • Olivia-Savannah Roach
    January 1, 1970
    I was quite excited to read The Familiars because the more I heard about it, the more it sounded like my kind of book. And it was a good read in the end, which made me so happy!What I loved most about this book was the atmosphere. The author definitely managed to create the mysterious, nature-filled and dark feel to the setting which worked so perfectly alongside the witch-y, haunting storyline. I felt like I slowly being immersed in the time period and the situation. The house Fleetwood, the ma I was quite excited to read The Familiars because the more I heard about it, the more it sounded like my kind of book. And it was a good read in the end, which made me so happy!What I loved most about this book was the atmosphere. The author definitely managed to create the mysterious, nature-filled and dark feel to the setting which worked so perfectly alongside the witch-y, haunting storyline. I felt like I slowly being immersed in the time period and the situation. The house Fleetwood, the main character, lives in is surrounded by forest too, which only helped give me the autumn-y, creepy vibe. If you’re a seasonal reader you will not regret picking this one up in the month of October.I also really loved the concept of familiars. There are animals scattered throughout this book, hiding between the pages. I think the idea of them is a really cool one – animals who are linked or connected to their witches. I loved the imagery that the author uses and how it tied in with the themes of the story. I had fun wondering what my familiar would be. And as the reality of witches truly existing becomes questioned, whether the familiars are real or not.This book is so feminist, and it made me really happy. Of course, it’s set in 1612 so there isn’t any modern feminism in it. But Fleetwood is not happy with men declaring women to be witches left right and center. And of course, the women being penalised at the time were often practitioners of medicine and midwifery – so they weren’t happy either. There were many times when I was rooting for Fleetwood and was SO happy when she wasn’t taking any nonsense from anyone. I cheered her along and was so proud for how she stuck up for herself and her fellow women.At the root of this story is a very strong friendship. Alice, who is Fleetwood’s nurse, becomes quite close to her. Although there are a lot of difficulties to their friendship which has to do with trusting each other and the outward influences of the situation they end up in, their friendship is key and strong. I loved seeing such a great female friendship at the heart of the story.The theme of motherhood, infertility and the impact it can have on a relationship is also central to the story. I really liked how it was handled. I may be a 20-year-old woman who is not married and not thinking about having her own children at the moment, but it made me really care about the pregnancy storyline. Especially as the main character had miscarried so many times before this pregnancy.I want to mention that the beginning is a bit slow. It takes time to immerse yourself in Fleetwood’s story and properly fall in love with it. So, if the beginning is a bit slow to you, I would recommend waiting it out. It does get better!I was not entirely convinced by the ending either. I didn’t think all characters needed to be excused for their actions… and I didn’t think certain admittances excused some characters behaviours… Which meant that I felt some people were forgiven too easily for what they did, and that didn’t quite sit right with me. I was satisfied with the end in some ways, and in some ways, I wanted to change it.All in all, this was a very strong debut and it completely consumed me and took me to a different time and place. I will definitely be reading whatever Halls writes next!This review and others can be found on Olivia's Catastrophe: https://oliviascatastrophe.com/2019/0...
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  • Vivian
    January 1, 1970
    Trading horses, time of DNF: 20%From the blurb about a young gentlewoman in England during the 17th century witch scares, this should have been a strong contender for me. I like the narrative of mass hysteria, scapegoating, and women burning for fear. Alas, not so much.I was not a fan of the first person point of view. It was intimate, but it trapped me inside a boring person. Uneducated, meek, and unguided in life makes Fleetwood Shuttleworth rather tedious, like being stuck in an airplane seat Trading horses, time of DNF: 20%From the blurb about a young gentlewoman in England during the 17th century witch scares, this should have been a strong contender for me. I like the narrative of mass hysteria, scapegoating, and women burning for fear. Alas, not so much.I was not a fan of the first person point of view. It was intimate, but it trapped me inside a boring person. Uneducated, meek, and unguided in life makes Fleetwood Shuttleworth rather tedious, like being stuck in an airplane seat with a person describing the minutia of their life, loudly, on their cell phone and your noise-cancelling headset is dead. Your whole mind is screaming, 'Can we go?!'The atmospheric descriptions of the woods, clothing, and furnishings were nice.
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  • Katie.dorny
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this. Please spread the word about this book I don’t want it going under the radar!!The history background, the sweeping narrative, the character progression and unearthing of secrets - the whole thing was a magical journey I was swept away in.Also, the characters are real, admittedly their stories are embellished but they overall arc is true.We meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth as a newly married 17 year old pregnant for the fourth time. We explore her marriage, her past and her community all I loved this. Please spread the word about this book I don’t want it going under the radar!!The history background, the sweeping narrative, the character progression and unearthing of secrets - the whole thing was a magical journey I was swept away in.Also, the characters are real, admittedly their stories are embellished but they overall arc is true.We meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth as a newly married 17 year old pregnant for the fourth time. We explore her marriage, her past and her community all whilst the scandal of the pendal witches plagued the countryside.We also meet Alice, who I love unabashedly but I can’t say much as we don’t learn much and don’t wish to spoil the surprise.This was fantastic historical fiction.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    As soon as I met Fleetwood Shuttleworth, I fell for her. She's based on a true person - this isn't a name you'd easily think up - but this is her fictional story. Fleetwood was mistress at the grand house of Gawthorpe in 1612, the time and (nearby) place of the infamous Pendle witch trials. The so-called witches do feature here but the glory of The Familiars is its portrayal of this 17-year-old girl, already on her second marriage and already pregnant for the fourth time, the previous pregnancie As soon as I met Fleetwood Shuttleworth, I fell for her. She's based on a true person - this isn't a name you'd easily think up - but this is her fictional story. Fleetwood was mistress at the grand house of Gawthorpe in 1612, the time and (nearby) place of the infamous Pendle witch trials. The so-called witches do feature here but the glory of The Familiars is its portrayal of this 17-year-old girl, already on her second marriage and already pregnant for the fourth time, the previous pregnancies having ended in loss. Her midwife is one of the accused women and there is nothing Fleetwood won't do to save her, her only hope of a safe delivery. It's beautifully written, hugely atmospheric and so hard to put down. As for that cover - it's a thing of beauty. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.
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  • Tati
    January 1, 1970
    If this is going to be the most spellbinding debut of 2019, I fear for the next year.Fleetwood was too weak a character, I felt. She wasn't interesting enough to keep the story going. I do realize that those were different times, and that women were supposed to be meek and obey their husbands. But even in her thoughts she was a pushover. And for someone who keeps riding all over the place to be this meek didn't sit right with me to be honest.The most interesting element of this was the witch hun If this is going to be the most spellbinding debut of 2019, I fear for the next year.Fleetwood was too weak a character, I felt. She wasn't interesting enough to keep the story going. I do realize that those were different times, and that women were supposed to be meek and obey their husbands. But even in her thoughts she was a pushover. And for someone who keeps riding all over the place to be this meek didn't sit right with me to be honest.The most interesting element of this was the witch hunt. And even that was not that interesting. There were a few twists, and while they were twisty, they didn't make up for the overall blandness of the story.
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  • Anne ✨
    January 1, 1970
    (3.5) The backdrop for this debut historical fiction novel is 1612 Pendle, Lancashire, and the "Pendle Hill Witch Trials" , where twelve women were accused of being witches, put on trial, and ten found guilty. The author includes some of the real historical figures in the story.In the story, a young bride, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, is pregnant, and seeks out a midwife, Alice Grey, to assist her in trying to keep her baby to term after suffering multiple miscarriages previously. The story focuses o (3.5) The backdrop for this debut historical fiction novel is 1612 Pendle, Lancashire, and the "Pendle Hill Witch Trials" , where twelve women were accused of being witches, put on trial, and ten found guilty. The author includes some of the real historical figures in the story.In the story, a young bride, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, is pregnant, and seeks out a midwife, Alice Grey, to assist her in trying to keep her baby to term after suffering multiple miscarriages previously. The story focuses on the friendship that forms between them, and Fleetwood's desire to help her friend when Alice becomes caught up in the frenzy as one of those accused of being a witch. For me the story was a bit of a slow-burn, and there wasn't as much on the witches/trials as I had imagined there would be. But it was an interesting look at how women were seen and treated in those days. I liked the second half of the book more, when Fleetwood breaks free of some of the norms/expectations for women, and takes more control of her life as she tries to help Alice.
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  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    Visit the locations in the novelI do love a historical read when there’s a potent mix of fact and fiction. The Familiars immersed me right at the heart of the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 and explored the people, the feelings, the social mores and the ‘justice system’ of the time. That cover caught my attention from the start, but the novel didn’t disappoint.Many of the characters in the novel are real-life figures,. The main one is the very real Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a 17-year-old noblewoman w Visit the locations in the novelI do love a historical read when there’s a potent mix of fact and fiction. The Familiars immersed me right at the heart of the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 and explored the people, the feelings, the social mores and the ‘justice system’ of the time. That cover caught my attention from the start, but the novel didn’t disappoint.Many of the characters in the novel are real-life figures,. The main one is the very real Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a 17-year-old noblewoman who finds herself caught up in the trials and risks everything when her friend and midwife Alice Grey is implicated. The author is originally from the area and her fascination with the subject and legend attached it to shines through. Why should a group of women be persecuted for apparently being involved in witchcraft? Fleetwood rushes around the countryside on horseback in a desperate attempt to free Alice and you can’t help but cheer her on.“Neighbours denouncing neighbours—it was the most reliable trait of humanity, and was how the dungeon was filled in the first place. Rumour could spread faster than disease, and could be just as destructive.”The book isn’t primarily about the famous trials as it goes on, but more about the women who suffered and the treatment of women at the time in general. There are no spells or creepy rituals as you might imagine. The witchcraft practices they were accused of where nothing more than using herbs as medicines and the many techniques the midwives used at the time. You might think these women were accused of dark magic or worse, but no.That’s what makes this story all the more tragic. However, the Pendle theme lingers throughout. This is a slow build read, but a satisfying one at that.
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  • Theresa Smith
    January 1, 1970
    ‘“Fleetwood have you knowledge of familiar spirits?” I shook my head. “Then I will direct you to the book of Leviticus. In short, it’s the Devil in disguise. An instrument, if you will, to enlarge his kingdom…they can appear as anything: an animal, a child. It appears to her when she needs it to do her bidding. A familiar is the surest sign of a witch.”’The legend of the Pendle witches is the most notorious witch trial of the 17th century. Just over three centuries saw witch trials held in Engla ‘“Fleetwood have you knowledge of familiar spirits?” I shook my head. “Then I will direct you to the book of Leviticus. In short, it’s the Devil in disguise. An instrument, if you will, to enlarge his kingdom…they can appear as anything: an animal, a child. It appears to her when she needs it to do her bidding. A familiar is the surest sign of a witch.”’The legend of the Pendle witches is the most notorious witch trial of the 17th century. Just over three centuries saw witch trials held in England but fewer than 500 people were executed for this crime. This one series of trials in the summer of 1612 therefore accounts for 2% of all witches executed. – Historic UKI have to say, I am fascinated by this period of English history. Generally, the 17th and 18th centuries are my favourite historical fiction eras, but the whole area of witches is of particular interest to me. The Familiars takes place over the year 1612, when King James I was on the throne.‘He has driven them into the shadows. The king has muddled wise women with witchcraft.’The term witch hunt has never been more accurately applied than in this case. Twelve people were arrested, the majority of these belonging to two disputing families who were supposedly using witchcraft against each other. The exception to this is Alice Gray, the young midwife who Fleetwood Shuttleworth employs in her hopes of finally birthing a live child and surviving to be its mother. Alice is caught up in the witch hunt as a ‘fall guy’, for want of a better expression. Fleetwood becomes very invested in saving Alice’s life, she believes in her innocence fully, but also resents the investigation process of the witch trials, which essentially rest on the finger pointing and testimony of a nine year old girl. The law differed in the instance of witch trials in that a child could testify in a case. Jennet Device was the youngest member of the accused Device family and sent several of her immediate family members to the noose. It’s rather incredible and extremely chilling to contemplate.‘Jennet Device did not look away, and her gaze was full of judgement beyond her years. I knew it was ridiculous to be frightened by a child, but there was something very strange about her.Because of this child, my friend was rotting in a place that light never reached, and was facing her death at the rope. Because of this child, so many others were in there with her. I could barely look at her.’The Familiars is told in the voice of Fleetwood Shuttlewood, the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, seventeen years old and pregnant for the fourth time. Pregnancy has not been kind to her in the past and this current one is no exception. Fleetwood is frightened, by past events that have seen her suffer two miscarriages and one still birth, and also by some correspondence she accidentally happens across written by a doctor which indicates she will die if she attempts to birth another child. Fleetwood develops an instant rapport with Alice and hires her as her midwife on the first day of meeting her. Alice assures Fleetwood that she can help her keep her baby alive and guide her successfully through its birth. Very quickly, Fleetwood begins to regard Alice as a friend. When Alice is suspected of witchcraft and a warrant is released for her arrest, Fleetwood goes to great lengths to protect her friend, and before long, this need to protect Alice becomes thickly connected with Fleetwood’s impressions of her own fate. She begins to believe that if Alice dies, then she and her child will too.‘Even in life I had been the little ghost, and now I was consigned to death. I held my stomach, and imagined disappearing. It would come soon, no doubt, but it would not be gentle, like the light leaving the sky. It would be painful, and terrifying, and lonely, with no cool hand on my head, no amber eyes willing me calm. There would be a trial, and Alice would die, then I would die, both of us killed in an outbreak of misfortune.’After Alice is arrested, Fleetwood risks both her reputation and her life, as well as that of her unborn child, to investigate Alice’s story, to piece together the truth of the accusations levelled against her. She is so sure that if she can save Alice, she will in turn save herself and her child. I really enjoyed her journey into Alice’s world, the contrasts between her own giving Fleetwood a whole new appreciation, not just for Alice, but for what the other Pendle witches had endured as their everyday life. From this, she was able to gain a measure of understanding on why Jennet had so readily pointed the finger at her family, as in doing so, she was allowed to live in luxury in the magistrate’s house. Who would give that up for what she came from? There was very little love lost between the members of these witch families and loyalty was thin on the ground.‘“People are hanged for a lot less. Do you really think they know the Devil?”I thought of Malkin Tower poking up from the moor-side like a finger from a grave. How the wind had howled there; how it would drive you mad. I thought of Alice’s home, open to the sky; the damp streaming down the walls; the child she knew as a daughter buried in the thick, wet soil. What was there for them in this life? In the shadows cast by their fire at night, perhaps they did see things they wanted to.“If the Devil is poverty, and hunger, and grief, then yes, I think they know the Devil.”’While The Familiars is a work of fiction, it is very much anchored in history. The characters were real people, the events as depicted within the novel unfolded in very much the same way in history. The author has created a fictional relationship between Fleetwood and Alice for the purposes of this story, but other than that, the story is closely aligned to the historical events. I loved experiencing this story from Fleetwood’s point of view, I feel this worked much better than if it had been from Alice’s perspective. The pairing of these two women, from such different walks of life, provided some fresh insight for both of them on the society that they lived in. Each had thought that the other had so much more freedom than what was actually the case. Alice was able to realise that Fleetwood’s privilege came with a heavy price and Fleetwood realised that women, no matter what their class, experienced universal restrictions when it came to having control over their own lives and a voice that would be heard in all forums.‘“How many children do you want to have?”I wrapped my arms around myself.“Two,” I replied. “So that they will never be on their own like I was.”“A boy and a girl?” she asked.“Two boys. I wouldn’t wish a girl’s life on anyone.”’This novel had me in its thrall from the first page until the last. It is steeped in atmosphere, with vivid gothic overtones, and the writing is just sublime. Fleetwood was such a strong and worthy character, she had her flaws, and at times she drove me crazy with the risks she took, but her heart was in the right place and she acted from a deep sense of morality that was distinctly lacking in other characters. For someone so young, she really was an old soul. As much as this novel was about the witch trials, it was also about Fleetwood, transitioning from a child bride into a woman of worth. I highly recommend this novel, it’s quite outstanding.‘What little courage I had – the kernel of hope that had embedded inside me and had got me this far – vanished, like some minuscule object being pulled into a great, powerful river. I knew it the moment it went, and I knew too that it was gone for good.’Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of The Familiars for review.
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  • Rachel Hall
    January 1, 1970
    Eminently readable historical fiction marred by a dubious heroine and lack of atmosphere.Stacey Halls debut historical novel is a fictionalised account of the Pendle witch trials in 17th-century Lancashire and with a cast of characters drawn from real-life events and a plucky young heroine in seventeen-year-old Fleetwood Shuttleworth challenging the perceptions of the era, it should have had all the ingredients for a gripping drama. 1612 and the young mistress of palatial Gawthorpe Hall that ove Eminently readable historical fiction marred by a dubious heroine and lack of atmosphere.Stacey Halls debut historical novel is a fictionalised account of the Pendle witch trials in 17th-century Lancashire and with a cast of characters drawn from real-life events and a plucky young heroine in seventeen-year-old Fleetwood Shuttleworth challenging the perceptions of the era, it should have had all the ingredients for a gripping drama. 1612 and the young mistress of palatial Gawthorpe Hall that overlooks the imposing Lancastrian landscape is expecting for the fourth time. With a healthy baby yet to come to fruition and a desire to demonstrate her gratitude to older, wealthy and widely admired husband, Richard, she longs to produce the heir he yearns for. In choosing Fleetwood to be his wife, Richard has given her an escape from the austere confines of her childhood home, a domineering mother and the harrowing memory of a first marriage at the age of four. When Fleetwood stumbles across a letter from a physician making apparent the fact that another baby would be the death of her and the prospect of survival is unlikely, she descends into a spiral of suspicion and turmoil... could her husband have kept the letter from her? Intent on bearing a healthy baby and cementing her position as Mistress Shuttleworth, a desperate Fleetwood encounters a unsettling local woman who claims to be a midwife in Alice Grey. Resourceful yet not easily drawn outside of her self-contained demeanour, Alice claims that she will ensure Fleetwood delivers a healthy baby and survives and, when early signs of her treatments are positive it convinces Fleetwood that only Alice can make certain of a safe delivery. But when Alice is caught in the crossfire of the witch trials and stands accused of witchcraft by Roger Nowell, a former sheriff and father figure to Richard, matters become personal. As Roger’s quest for power is countered by Fleetwood’s determination to ensure Alice is saved from the rope and by her side when she gives birth a fraught power struggle ensues. Believing yet having no firm knowledge that Alice is innocent of the charges made against her, a heavily pregnant Fleetwood sets out to prove it..I found plucky Fleetwood Shuttleworth a difficult lead protagonist to invest in and her rapid evolution from naive and uninformed mistress into having the wherewithal and confidence to challenge her husband, the high courts and the King of England is slightly incredulous. There is little supportive evidence to justify this transition from self absorbed young woman into pioneering precedent setter. Fleetwood lacks depth and I could not begin to care for her fate or connect with her first-person narrative. Not only was she disappointingly vapid, I could not instil belief in her actually commanding authority in what should have been a stirring denouement. Alongside her Alice Gray remains something of an enigma throughout the entire story and I felt that Stacey Halls made little of her potential for characterisation. Understanding Fleetwood’s passion when she did all the running in her relationship with somewhat surly Alice yet would have had limited exposure to witchcraft also feels dubious. Any sense of mutual friendship and commitment to each other is absent and as such, this feels like Fleetwood’s story with Alice and the witch trails a necessary sideshow.There is precious little insight into the women who stood trial as witches and their is little palpable atmosphere to what should be a tumultuous backdrop of anger and resentment. This spirit of the era feels largely absent and the supporting cast, with the exception of former magistrate and sheriff, Roger Nowell, are disappointingly lacking in character. It is ambitious of Halls to tackle the topic of the Pendle witch trials when they have been covered so extensively by recent fiction novels and the bar set so high, and whilst The Familiars makes for a solid historical fiction debut I was far from convinced and sadly underwhelmed. As it stands the story feels like a simplified and rose-tinted attempt to capture the female empowerment movement and the eventual outcome feels all too obvious from the off. Limited in substance and slightly meandering in the first half, the idea that a seventeen-year-old Fleetwood would risk her life, that of her unborn child, her marriage and liberty for a woman with a few herbs and potentially supernatural powers is hard to swallow. Likewise her eventual indifference to her husbands deceits leaves conflicting emotions and for all Fleetwood’s uncompromising behaviour in challenging the misconceptions of the era, her casual acceptance of her husbands betrayal is the very antithesis of her vocal attitude in highlighting the injustices towards women in the era. Whilst the story has a coherent plot, proves solidly entertaining and gathers pace in the second half, there in limited depth and credibility to a novel that is principally Fleetwood’s story and lacks any real sense of atmosphere.With thanks to Readers First who provided me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.
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  • Shawn Mooney
    January 1, 1970
    I read just over a fifth of it. The story was holding my interest to a certain degree, but not enough to overlook the superficial characterization and ridiculously modern atmosphere and dialogue. Nope.
  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    I stuck with this book hoping that the protagonist, Fleetwood, would find her voice. Her character did not evolve and grow as much as she could have, which left me feeling unsatisfied after I finished the book.
  • Karen Kay
    January 1, 1970
    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Based on real history. In an era where women were to be seen and not heard, Fleetwood Shuttleworth knows the women are falsely accused of witchery and goes to great lengths, even to endanger herself and unborn baby, to prevent the deaths of innocent women.3.5 I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Based on real history. In an era where women were to be seen and not heard, Fleetwood Shuttleworth knows the women are falsely accused of witchery and goes to great lengths, even to endanger herself and unborn baby, to prevent the deaths of innocent women.3.5 rounded up to 4☆
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  • Beadyjan
    January 1, 1970
    I concur with all the great reviews I've seen for this title. It held me firmly in its grip from start to finish and never let go.It is a quite terrifying indictment of how powerless women were, and were expected to be, in an age when men held all the power and quite literally had the power of life and death over women with the capacity to dominate women and decide their fate, just because they were male and could get away with anything.I found the story all the more shocking as the heroine, wit I concur with all the great reviews I've seen for this title. It held me firmly in its grip from start to finish and never let go.It is a quite terrifying indictment of how powerless women were, and were expected to be, in an age when men held all the power and quite literally had the power of life and death over women with the capacity to dominate women and decide their fate, just because they were male and could get away with anything.I found the story all the more shocking as the heroine, with the unusual first name of Fleetwood, is just 17 years old yet is in the midst of her fourth pregnancy. She is an innocent yet proves to have an inbuilt strength she needs to survive. She has a charming but perfidious husband, a mother she despises, no friends and only her faithful rescued hound Puck as a loyal companion.Fearing she won't survive this pregnancy, it's little surprise that she is delighted when she meets another young woman, Alice who claims skills in midwifery which she promises will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby safely.She soon comes to rely on Alice and the two young women from very different backgrounds become friends. But Fleetwood is soon to discover a shocking betrayal, and Alice is to stand accused of witchcraft whilst Fleetwoods struggle for a healthy pregnancy becomes a death-defying nightmarish journey.Based on the real and notorious Pendle witchcraft trials this books weaves clever and compelling fiction around authentic characters and sweeps us through the 15th century at a gallop. An outstandingly captivating book which weaves its magic around the reader throughout.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    4.25🌟Really enjoyed this book. One or two slight quibbles, one being there wasn't enough about the Pendle Witches but to be fair I am pretty obsessed by them and James' persecution of 'witches' in general.An intresting and involving read for most of the book...another slight niggle...maybe the last quarter wasn't as strong as what went before but overall, 4 solid ⭐.
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  • Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    January 1, 1970
    This book was based on the Pendleton Witch Trials and created a fictional explanation for why one accused witch, Alice Grey, was acquitted. I found a few things in the book a little hard to swallow, though. For one, the drastic change in the main character’s personality and her outspokenness as a woman in the 1600s. For another, almost everyone was literate. Otherwise, the plot seemed plausible but wasn’t terribly exciting. Good narration on the audiobook.
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  • Cora Tea Party Princess
    January 1, 1970
    I read a sneak peek on Readers First and now I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the story.The writing is lush and descriptive and I am INTRIGUED as to where the story is going to go next. The writing style is very evocative and I could almost feel the threatening rain from the clouds.I love the beautiful wood engraving style illustration at the beginning.And the cover is stunning! It's absolutely gorgeous and I think I could stare at it all day, picking out the little details.
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  • Menna van Praag
    January 1, 1970
    It’s been a very long time since I’ve stayed up half the night to finish a book - not since my student days when I could catch up on sleep anytime I wanted. Not possible nowadays with the kiddies - sleep is a valuable commodity! Thus, it’s got to be a bloody good book if I’m swapping its story for the gold dust of sleep - after all, why not just wait & read it tomorrow? - and The Familiars was such a book.One of the things that impressed me, as a writer, was how the author managed to grip me It’s been a very long time since I’ve stayed up half the night to finish a book - not since my student days when I could catch up on sleep anytime I wanted. Not possible nowadays with the kiddies - sleep is a valuable commodity! Thus, it’s got to be a bloody good book if I’m swapping its story for the gold dust of sleep - after all, why not just wait & read it tomorrow? - and The Familiars was such a book.One of the things that impressed me, as a writer, was how the author managed to grip me while employing a relatively simple, linear plot (excepting a few fantastic twists) and not a great deal of atmospheric flourish. Don’t get me wrong, she had a lovely, often lyrical, style. But she didn’t employ as much embellishment of language as I usually enjoy in prose, yet still created a great sense of atmosphere that swallowed me whole. One scene especially will haunt me for years to come!The story is set in 1612 and focuses on the Pendle witch trials from the perspective of 17 y/o Fleetwood Shuttleworth (real name - most of the characters are based on real people) mistress of Gawthorpe Hall. She’s pregnant, following 3 terrible miscarriages, and befriends a midwife, Alice Grey, who’s soon accused of witchcraft. Fleetwood tries to save her life. It’s a very emotionally effecting journey, made all the more so because it’s based on true historical horrors.Stacey Halls can certainly tell a helluva story and I’m certainly looking forward to her next book! Also, the cover is gorgeous & the endpapers even more so... 😉
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    A solid piece of historical fiction that centers on a female friendship. I was hoping for a bit more witchcraft, but still, the story drew me in.
  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    I did enjoy this book, however, I thought there would be more detail regarding the witch trials - I do not mean "gory" details, just more information about the people involved. Maybe I should buy a non-fiction book about that though, to be fair. I also thought that maybe there could be more background to the main characters in the story. That said, I read it in a morning...
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  • Jen (shitbookreviews.com)
    January 1, 1970
    Originally reviewed on shitbookreviews.comI got this as a preview copy from the nice people at Netgalley. I will always be honest about a book no matter if I paid for it or not 💜---TL;DR – The Familiars is a binge-worthy book which should make you mad and full of joy all at the same time. The Familiars made me use the highlight function on my Kindle. A function I’d never seen the point in using before because surely nothing would resonate with me as a few silly words in a book, right? But there’ Originally reviewed on shitbookreviews.comI got this as a preview copy from the nice people at Netgalley. I will always be honest about a book no matter if I paid for it or not 💜---TL;DR – The Familiars is a binge-worthy book which should make you mad and full of joy all at the same time. The Familiars made me use the highlight function on my Kindle. A function I’d never seen the point in using before because surely nothing would resonate with me as a few silly words in a book, right? But there’s something quite poignant about realising how shit life once was (or still is in some cases) for a lot of women. Case and point:"Fleetwood, your head is full of fancies. You speak as if we are in a play, all with a part to act. You and I have no role in the King’s justice, we support our husbands."It’s 1612. You’re 17 and on your third(!) pregnancy after failing to carry to term every other time. People are convinced every woman who is a little strange or doesn’t follow the norms is practising witchcraft. You are rich AF (servants, cooks etc) with privilege oozing out of every pore, but you befriend an unlikely character and put the life of your unborn child into Alice Grey’s hands; a young midwife with a herbal track record. Scene set, yeah?I have a lot of love for this book. I didn’t want to put it down, but the allotted 45 min bus journey to work dictated that I had to otherwise I’d have attempted to keep reading this whilst walking (not something I recommend – people get pissy when you walk into them 🤷). It’s captivating as it entwines with your life, yet infuriating as you realise how few rights women had.Fleetwood’s character is detailed and lovable with as much screw-the-patriarchy as she could probably muster during that time period without being hung. Pushing what I guess would be ‘boundaries’ back in’t day, Fleetwood didn’t resign to what was expected – she rode in hunts and had an air of independence about her. I guess you could potentially say she was adventurous for a lady of her class in the 17th century. Alice, on the other hand, lived a life of poverty, abuse and continued to be mysterious throughout. As an ‘untraditional’ midwife with a lot of survivals under her belt at a young age, suspicion was quickly cast her way.Hall doesn’t go down the whole pointy hats and bubbling cauldrons for her witches. Oh, no no no. And to say I’m glad is a massive understatement. The witches in this book are a little more true to ye olde times – peaceful yet curious and (in some cases) a little unnerving. They were after all just women helping other women to bring children into this world. Now that I’ve had a slight gushing session over the book, it did have a few flaws:- Given that the title is The Familiars, you hear very little about them. If you start reading this book and don’t have a clue what a familiar is, then don’t expect it to ever be explained. You’ll probably figure it out but I just wish a little more time had been spent on that. -Some characters felt a little weak. Perhaps this was just me being an eejit but I kept forgetting which way around Richard/Roger was meant to be and which one I should hate the most. FYI – it’s Roger. He’s a colossal prick. - This is probably the only time you’ll ever hear me say WHY ISN’T THIS BOOK LONNNNNGER?! The ending is abrupt. I get why, but I just wanted a little moreThat being said, it’s an excellent little read and the perfect curl-up-on-the-sofa-during-the-winter-and-binge-the-heck-out-of read.
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