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The Familiars

by Stacey Halls

Crime / Mystery Debut Books of the Month Debuts Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Modern and Contemporary Fiction Relationship Stories Sci-Fi and Fantasy

LoveReading View on The Familiars

A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.

Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Liz Robinson

The Familiars Synopsis

The most spellbinding debut novel of 2019

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . . 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 isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy. Then 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. As 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? Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's 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. 

The Familiars Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

This is worth every penny to adorn any bookshelf and I would happily recommend, it is slow but engaging, well written which leaves you asking 'was she or wasn't she. Full review

Miriam Smith

This excellent work of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Britain amid the witchcraft trials sweeping the country. It’s the sort of story that totally involves you till the end! Full review

Gill Wilmott

Witchcraft and witch hunts. Family. Friends. Betrayal. What lengths will we go to, to save those we love? Full review

Gwen McGinty

I bloody loved this book! She had me hooked from chapter one and I read the entire thing in two sittings (my children had to do without their mother for a while!) I would HIGHLY recommend this and I shall be adding the author to my ‘must read’ list. Full review

Amanda O’Dwyer

The Familiars Press Reviews

I read this in just over a day - I was completely hooked! An intriguing story about a fascinating period of history and brilliant female characters. - Libby Page, bestselling author of THE LIDO

A wonderful novel, enthralling, spellbinding, terrifying, full of twists and turns, written with heart and style - and the final chapters will have you racing to the end. A brilliant novel about a true story - and a real mystery. - Kate Williams, author of THE STORMS OF WAR

So pacy and brilliantly creepy - Juliet West, author of BEFORE THE FALL

The Familiars is an intricate and sensitive portrayal of a brave, tenacious young girl carving her place in the world. A must-read novel - Heather Morris, bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Fast-paced, twisty and immense fun - Anna Mazzola

SO SO good . . . you had me hooked - Nina Pottell, Prima

A debut to look out for, one of these books that once you start reading, you cannot put down - The Fountain

I see it becoming one of my favourite books of all time - Whatever Ruby

An outstandingly captivating book which weaves its magic around the reader throughout - Beady Jans Books

The new Hilary Mantel... meticulously researched, beautifully written - Cosmopolitan

Haunting and beautiful - Lia Louis, debut author of Somewhere Close to Happy

Historical fiction at its feminist best -- Cyan Turan - RED Magazine

The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a debut to look out for, one of these books that once you start reading, you cannot put down -- Galina Miteva - The Fountain

Fluent, well paced and beautifully imagined, this is a real treat for anyone who enjoys historical fiction- and also for all those who do not normally choose this genre. Highly recommend, and Halls is definitely a writer to watch - Bibliomaniac

Hugely fascinating, and riveting in the way it's written - Book Sundays

An accessible piece of historical fiction that casts a light on not just the witch trials but on women's rights, or lack thereof, during that particular era - Culturefly

Painstakingly researched, this is an enthralling debut -- Jennifer McShane - IMAGE Magazine

The novel is enriched by a visual dimension, with marvellous evocations of period clothing, the details of interiors, the food eaten and the appearance of the characters themselves. The reader is given colour, texture and light in relationship to both human activity and the landscape; descriptions which are sometimes quite lovely, and sometimes very graphic images of appalling poverty and destitution - Bridport Times

The Familiars is an accessible piece of historical fiction that casts a light on not just the witch trials but on women's rights, or lack thereof, during that particular era - Culture Fly

I've just read The Familiars by Stacey Halls and enjoyed it immensely. I don't know much about the C17th witch trials so was really gripped. I loved the bravery of the heroine and wonderful period detail - A J Pearce, author of DEAR MRS BIRD

It is captivating as it entwines with your life, yet infuriating as you realise how few rights Women had - Sh*tbookreviews

Hugely fascinating and riveting in the way it's written - Booksundays

The writing is incredibly fluid, pitch perfect with just the right amount of lyricism - The Book Family Rogerson

This book gets under your skin! So pacy and brilliantly creepy - Juliet West, author of THE FAITHFUL AND BEFORE THE FALL

This book is phenomenal. Already wanting to re-read it. Beautiful, haunting, strange and evocative. Loved every single ruddy page - Liz Hyder

magical storytelling and totally captivating - amwbooks

An outstandingly captivating book which weaves its magic around the reader throughout - Beady jans Books

I see it becoming one of my favourite books of all time - Whatever Ruby Reads

The atmosphere of the time was perfectly recreated I felt, and found this historical fiction taken from fact enjoyable reading from start to finish - Mrs Blogg's Books

It's a proper page turner that kept me engrossed throughout . . . Do expect well researched history brought to life through some serious attention to detail. Halls definitely knows her stuff and she works her factual knowledge into the text with a light touch - Shelfobsessed

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781785766145
Publication date: 19/09/2019
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781785766114
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Format: Hardback

Publication date: 07/02/2019
Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Audio
Format: Audiobook

Book Information

ISBN: 9781785766145
Publication date: 19th September 2019
Author: Stacey Halls
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 448 pages
Genres: Crime / Mystery, Debuts of the Month, Debuts, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Relationship Stories, Sci-Fi and Fantasy,
Collections: 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction - Women’s Words, 40+ Novels That Feature Friendship,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Historical fiction,

About Stacey Halls

Stacey Halls grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire, as the daughter of market traders. She has always been fascinated by the Pendle witches. She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and moved to London aged 21. She was media editor at the Bookseller and books editor at, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars is her first novel.

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