Adult book reviews, Book Reviews

The Familiars by Stacey Halls


My Rating ~ Four Stars

RELEASE DATE:  4 February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 420

Publisher: Allen & Unwin



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.





Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of The Familiars in exchange for an honest review!


After losing several babies, and becoming pregnant again, Fleetwood discovers a doctor’s letter, advising her husband she won’t survive another pregnancy.  She doesn’t know why her husband has kept the letter from her, but she is desperate to keep this baby and hopes to spare her own life in the process.  When she meets Alice by chance, and it turns out Alice is a skilled midwife, Fleetwood thinks her prayers have been answered, especially when Alice’s care has her feeling better than she has for any other pregnancy.  But when Alice is accused of witchcraft, Fleetwood will go to any lengths to save her midwife, who has become an unlikely friend.

Set against the true stories of the Pendle Witch Trials, The Familiars is an atmospheric tale of the fear and prejudice held by the high born people and villagers.  Fleetwood’s frustration and helplessness at being unable to do what she needed to do, because she was a wife who belonged to her husband, seeped through the pages and I felt infuriated alongside her.  In a time of deep superstition, where women were accused of witchcraft for knowing about herbs or being suspected of having a Familiar, Fleetwood needed to tread carefully – since she was always accompanied by her very large dog, Puck.

I really enjoy books that can successfully take elements of real history and weave their own story around them and Stacey Hall has mastered it in The Familiars.  I am not usually a fan of historical fiction, but in this case I was captivated by the writing.  The characters and plot were both interesting enough to keep me up turning the pages!



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