by Stacey Halls
If you’d like to learn more about this book, check out the other blogs on the tour, see what people have to say on Goodreads and head over to the author’s website. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll find the book on Kindle and paperback on Amazon UK.
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.
It’s 1612 and Fleetwood Shuttleworth is a seventeen year old wife who has been warned that she’ll not survive the birth of her unborn child. Fleetwood’s husband, Richard is an older man, desperate for an heir.
Doing her best to keep the child, and her own life, Fleetwood hires a young midwife named Alice Grey who promises she can help her give birth to a healthy child.
This would all be fine had King James not been on a witch hunt and if those working for him hadn’t been so desperate to stay in his good books that they’ll do anything to bring in the witches, including accusing and trialing innocent women.
The background of this story is truth. Fleetwood Shuttleworth was a real person and she really was a young Mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. Witch Trials are something everyone knows about too, but until now I’ve never really thought much of them, pushing them to the back of my mind as something more mythical than reality. So reading “The Familiars” has really made me think about these women, and some men, and what they went through at the time.
I really enjoyed this spellbinding piece of Gothic historical fiction. I felt that this touched on some similar themes to a couple of my recent reads, “The Miniaturist” and “The Illumination of Ursula Flight“, and I couldn’t help but feel for the women involved in this terrible story.
The book is well paced, creating plenty suspense to keep you interested and wanting to come back to this story of courage, hope and determination. Debut author Stacey Halls explores themes of female friendship, marital love and gender norms. She looks at how women were thought of and treated at this time dependent on wealth and class, and also explores how quickly and without question, poor, often illiterate women were accused of being witches.
On top of all of this, the cover is beautiful so I’d definitely recommend you pick this one up!
Overall rating: “The Familiars” is a historical story set during the time of the Pendle Witch Trials. I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it for fans of Gothic fiction. Fleetwood Shuttleworth is a likeable character who I appreciated even more when I found out she was based on a real young woman. It’s 5 stars from me!
Don’t forget to check out the reviews of other blogs on the tour and if this sounds like your kind of book, support the author by picking up a copy on Amazon UK.