Title/Author: The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira
In a nutshell (Publisher): IN 1612 IN LANCASTER, ENGLAND, THE HUNT FOR WITCHES IS RAMPANT…
BUT IN A TIME OF SUSPICION AND ACCUSATION, TO BE A WOMAN IS THE GREATEST RISK OF ALL
1612 Pendle Hill
Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is with child again. As the mistress of Gawthorpe Hall, she is anxious to provide her husband with an heir. But none of her previous pregnancies have come to term. Then she discovers a hidden letter from her physician that warns her husband that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Distraught over the frightening revelation, Fleetwood wanders the woods of Pendle Hill, where she meets a young local woman named Alice Gray. A midwife, Alice promises Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy baby. But soon Alice is drawn into the frenzied accusations of witchcraft sweeping the countryside. Even the woodland creatures, the “familiars,” are suspected of practicing the dark arts. Can Fleetwood trust that Alice is really who she says she is?
As the two women’s lives become intertwined, Fleetwood must risk everything to prove Alice’s innocence in order to save her own unborn child. The hunt for witches reaches fever pitch. Time is running out. The trials are about to begin. Both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.
Set against the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, this rich and compelling novel draws its characters from historical figures as it explores the lives and rights of 17th-century women, ultimately raising the question, is witch-hunting really just women-hunting?
We are taken back to 1612, Pendle, England, a time where one of the most famous trials took place – the Pendle Witch Trials. Those who believed to be practicing witchcraft were to be prosecuted.
Fleetwood, a 17 year old girl who is pregnant for the fourth time, befriends a local poor woman named Alice. After 3 miscarriages, Fleetwood is desperate to have her 4th time a successful one. She turns to Alice who claims to be a midwife, and begs her to help her deliver a full term baby. Under Alice’s administration and supervision, Fleetwood begins to feel better during her pregnancy, hence gives Alice her full trust.
But chaos ensues when women healers who are believed to be witches, are hunted down and hanged and Alice is believed to be one of them. Fleetwood who believes in her innocence tries all ways to save her from her impending fate.
Is Fleetwood right about Alice’s innocence? Is Alice really who she claims to be? If not, what to make of the sudden disappearance of blood and hair that Fleetwood noticed when Alice was administering her? And what about the red fox whose eyes resemble Alice’s? Is it just a fox or is it Alice’s familiar? Fleetwood is putting 2 lives in Alice’s hands. Can Alice really be trusted?
This was a swift and easy read for me. The story flowed quite seamlessly. The novel had me guessing if Alice was a witch or not. Was she really going to save Fleetwood or was she serving her own agenda? It was Alice whom I was more drawn to. Her mysterious character had me intrigued. Fleetwood was quite an interesting character too – wise and intelligent beyond her age. I also enjoyed watching their friendship grow, although it was Fleetwood who was making most of the effort.
The plot definitely drove the story. I was intrigued by Alice’s especially. She seemed to be hiding a thousand secrets. And what was Fleetwood’s husband hiding? He and Roger looked like they were in cahoots. And I itched to find out if I were right. There weren’t any character that I was particularly fond of, except maybe Alice, but hers was more of her story that I was interested in. Roger and Richard were so similar I found it difficult sometimes to differentiate the two when they were both present. As for Fleetwood, the author managed to capture her voice and thoughts perfectly, as she matures in a short span of time.
Overall, a worthy read!
*Quotes included here are from an advanced readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.
Thank you Netgalley and Harlequin for providing me a free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.
Have you read this? What did you think? If not, do you intend to read it? Does history of witchcraft intrigue you?
Till then, HAPPY READING!