Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
7th February 2019
My rating: ★★
Goodreads rating: 3.93
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Witchcraft
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn¹t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
When she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife, Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
When Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood¹s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Overall opinion of their book:
Before I begin my review, I wanted to write a quick disclaimer to state that these views are my own and you may have a completely different opinion of this book to me. While some of the comments I make in this review are constructive, please don’t feel put off by this book, you may absolutely love it just as so many other people have!
I wanted to love The Familiars so much and it was a book I was eagerly anticipating reading. There was and still is a lot of hype surrounding it and it sounded right up my street, Witches and historical fiction? Yes please! The overriding plot as a whole fell a little flat for me however, and I thought it would have focused more heavily on the witches accused and the actual Pendle Witch Trials which instead were briefly skimmed over at the end of the novel.
I found the first 100 or so pages quite difficult to read in the sense that there was a lot of repetition regarding miscarriages and I felt that it was overstated. While I understand that it’s a pivotal aspect to the plot, I didn’t feel as though it needed to be mentioned quite as much as it did. It consumes the first third of the book and given that I thought it would be based more on Witches and witchcraft it was a bit of a slow beginning. If this aspect of the book was toned down a little, I think it would have been a more powerful story arc. For me, sometimes less is more, especially when dealing with a sensitive topic such as multiple miscarriages. This is the main reason why I haven’t given this book a three star rating and I also struggled to connect with the main character, Fleetwood, until over halfway through the novel.
The language used in the book was great and completely suits the time period in which The Familiars is set. It stays true to the colloquialism and tone of voice that would have been used, and Stacey is fantastic at creating a clear picture of the setting and place. Her descriptive language was excellent and really helped to place the reader in this particular time period. It’s clear that Stacey has carried out extensive research around this time period and has a great knowledge of it, especially when discussing the role of women and the treatment of prisoners.
Can we also talk about how visually pleasing this book is please? The cover is absolutely gorgeous and I love the inclusion of the map. The inside of the book is just as lovely as the front too.
The parts of the story mentioning the Pendle Witch Trials were particularly interesting and enjoyable. It was also interesting to read about the witches’ Familiars. I just longed for there to be more content surrounding this as there didn’t seem to be enough considering the book is called The Familiars. In addition to this, the actual trial was skimmed over and I was looking forward to reading more about it, which was a little disappointing.
I was intrigued by Fleetwood’s mission to find out more regarding her midwife Alice Grey and her husbands second life. The secrets surrounding her husband were interesting and left me shocked! My favourite character was definitely Fleetwood’s dog. He was so loyal, especially at the end of the book.
Overall, The Familiars didn’t quite live up to the expectations I had for it and I was left feeling a little disheartened. I thought the story would have been more action packed and focused on witches and I felt it became a little repetitive on occasion.
There were parts of the story that I loved however and Stacey certainly is a talented writer. She’s brilliant at creating an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere, and The Familiars really does transport you back to this point in history.
I would still recommend this book to fans of historical fiction and witchcraft as you may well love this book and its content!
If you would like to purchase this book, you can do so here: