The Familiars by Stacey Halls: A hauntingly beautiful tale of women and witchcraft

The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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Why is THE FAMILIARS more than a story about witches? | REVIEW

“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 a disease, and could be just as destructive.” 

– The Familiars by Stacey Halls

The Familiars is set during the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 and tells the story of two women – Fleetwood Shuttleworth and Alice Gray. Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 years old mistress of Gawthorpe Hall. After surviving three miscarriages, she is pregnant for the fourth time which worries both her and her husband for different reasons.

One day, Fleetwood discovers a young woman in a forest on her property and Fleetwood learns her name is Alice Gray. Alice claims to be a midwife and promises to help Fleetwood give birth to a healthy child. Soon, Fleetwood begins to better in the hands of Alice and a friendship of sorts develops between the two.

However, problems arise soon as King James is on a witch hunt. Those who are loyal to his Majesty will do anything to appease him: even accuse innocent women of witchcraft. Many women near Pendle Hill, where Fleetwood stays, have already been convicted of being a “witch” by none other than someone very close to her. It isn’t long until this witch hunt directs its attention to none other than Alice Gray.

“Her spirit was there. He could see it, I know. After his death, she was brought to my father’s corpse and it bled at her touch.”

What does the name The Familiars mean ? It was believed that 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.

The Truth is we don’t if any of the accused women were actually witches, there’s no proof of that in history or in this fiction. However, I urge you to pick up this book because the scenario is eerily similar to what women face these days. This book will fill you with rage, watching men do whatever it takes to gain power. However, I loved this historical fiction – based on a real story – where we see a woman who is willing to fight for her child and her friend. Fleetwood transforms right before our eyes and in spite of her social standing, Fleetwood goes above and beyond to help not only Alice but all the women accused of witchcraft. 

Why will I not give this 5 stars? In my opinion, I learned and saw much of Fleetwood and not enough of Alice. I think, maybe, that was the point. Alice was a quiet but constant presence at Fleetwood’s side. With her care and friendship, Fleetwood gained the confidence to stand up for herself and others. Another thing that irked me was how quick Fleetwood was to forgive a certain someone. Again, this is my opinion. It was 1612 after all and I am no one to judge.

Overall, I highly recommend this novel if you’re a fan of historical fiction, witches, and stories that celebrate friendship and women. I’ve become a fan of Stacey Hall’s writing and I can’t wait to read more of her works. If it’s anything remotely like The Familiars, then I’ll make a mad dash to my nearest bookstore or depository.

I want to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 glowing stars.

Author: Connect with Author Stacey Halls here .

  • Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre/HarperCollins IN
  • Publication Date: 07 Feb 2019
  • Paperback(ARC): 420 Pages

Have you read The Familiars yet? If you haven’t, do you think you’ll read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Author: Book Rambler

Hi! I'm Shalini. I am an avid reader, daydreamer, future scientist. In order to ramble about books with you, I created this blog. You can find me here and on any of my social media channels.

13 thoughts on “The Familiars by Stacey Halls: A hauntingly beautiful tale of women and witchcraft”

  1. My hometown is near Pendle and I grew up with the story of the witches and many a dog walk through their part of the country – what a great review to get me even more excited about this book!

    Liked by 1 person

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