The Familiars

Audiobook edition released 07/02/2019

by Stacey Halls

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LoveReading Expert Review of The Familiars

A powerful yet stunningly beautiful listen set at the times of the Pendle witchcraft trials.

A stunningly beautiful, courageous story, 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. Mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started to 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 has created a beautifully eloquent tale. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.

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. 

About This Edition

ISBN: B07L5VFKPY
Publication date: 7th February 2019
Author: Stacey Halls
Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Audio
Format: Audiobook
Primary Genre Historical fiction
Other Genres:
Recommendations:
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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.

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.

The Familiars written by Stacey Halls is a story based on a true historical timeline and real-life people, namely Fleetwood Shuttleworth born in 1595, who was a woman of gentry and mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. It is a work of fiction based on the premise of the Pendle witch trial in Lancaster 1612 and sadly highlights the plight of women disproportionately targeted as part of witch hunts during the time period set.

I'm generally not drawn to the 1600's as a story setting but I do have to admit that the inclusion of witches and the infamous trial did spark my curiosity as I've always been intrigued by witchcraft. I did overall enjoy the story, if a little lightweight, and I would have possibly enjoyed reading some chapters from Alice's point of view as she stood accused but generally the slow pace and atmospheric setting did provide a feeling of being transported to the setting of the story. The ordeals and suspicions that fell upon women who were probably no more than 'wise women' who used nature to help cure ails and treat pregnant ladies was very sad to read and the author covered these tragic events professionally.

With a truly gorgeously printed hardback cover to the book, 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.

Miriam Smith

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.

The Familiars written by Stacey Halls is a story based on a true historical timeline and real-life people, namely Fleetwood Shuttleworth born in 1595, who was a woman of gentry and mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. It is a work of fiction based on the premise of the Pendle witch trial in Lancaster 1612 and sadly highlights the plight of women disproportionately targeted as part of witch hunts during the time period set.

I'm generally not drawn to the 1600's as a story setting but I do have to admit that the inclusion of witches and the infamous trial did spark my curiosity as I've always been intrigued by witchcraft. I did overall enjoy the story, if a little lightweight, and I would have possibly enjoyed reading some chapters from Alice's point of view as she stood accused but generally the slow pace and atmospheric setting did provide a feeling of being transported to the setting of the story. The ordeals and suspicions that fell upon women who were probably no more than 'wise women' who used nature to help cure ails and treat pregnant ladies was very sad to read and the author covered these tragic events professionally.

With a truly gorgeously printed hardback cover to the book, 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.

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!

This excellent work of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Britain and gives some good insights into how both rich & poor existed and the relationship between the two. The heroine is a very young mistress of a large house, pregnant and desperate for a living child after 3 lost pregnancies. The story is woven very well and involves the witchcraft accusations sweeping the country then. It was a dangerous time to be a woman. So little evidence needed to be found guilty. So much kudos to be earned by men of power or those who wanted it, simply by claiming to have saved their community from the devil.

Not an age in which women had much of a say in their lives, but this heroine, although slight of body has the determination to stand up for what is right not just for herself and her unborn child but for a young woman she knows to be innocent.
There are many twists and turns in the plot, very clearly but cleverly written. The characters are well drawn and one becomes very involved in the story and longs for a happy ending! Is there one? You’ll have to read it to find out - but believe me, if you like historical fiction you won’t regret it!

Gill Wilmott

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!

This excellent work of historical fiction is set in early 17th century Britain and gives some good insights into how both rich & poor existed and the relationship between the two. The heroine is a very young mistress of a large house, pregnant and desperate for a living child after 3 lost pregnancies. The story is woven very well and involves the witchcraft accusations sweeping the country then. It was a dangerous time to be a woman. So little evidence needed to be found guilty. So much kudos to be earned by men of power or those who wanted it, simply by claiming to have saved their community from the devil.

Not an age in which women had much of a say in their lives, but this heroine, although slight of body has the determination to stand up for what is right not just for herself and her unborn child but for a young woman she knows to be innocent. 
There are many twists and turns in the plot, very clearly but cleverly written. The characters are well drawn and one becomes very involved in the story and longs for a happy ending! Is there one? You’ll have to read it to find out - but believe me, if you like historical fiction you won’t regret it!

Gill Wilmott

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

Well, what can I say? I was looking forward to this book and it didn’t disappoint!

Set in 17th century Lancashire, against a backdrop of witchcraft and witch hunts, the young mistress of Gawthrope Hall, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, discovers a hidden letter that reveals her potential fate.

Pregnant for the fourth time, the previous times ending in miscarriage or stillbirth, Fleetwood reads that this time she may not survive.

Gutted and panic-stricken, she stumbles across the path of local girl, Alice Grey, and enlists her as her midwife.

Little does she know this will bring her directly into contact with the local witch hunt, led by family friend, Roger Nowell, the local magistrate, looking to make a name for himself with the King.

As the story unfolds, Fleetwood knows she’ll do everything she can to protect her unborn child, even if it means disobeying her husband and all of the social conventions of the time.

The characters are firmly at the heart of this book, driving the plot, taking the reader along with them. Fleetwood’s journey from a timid young girl to a woman sure of her convictions and willing to put herself in danger for her beliefs, is truly inspirational.

Alice is strong, but fragile, smart and caring, and a true friend to Fleetwood.

The writing is sumptuous, the landscape and world so vivid and real, Hall’s debut novel is fabulous.

This is historical fiction at its best, with people and characters at its core.

Five stars!

Gwen McGinty

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

Well, what can I say? I was looking forward to this book and it didn’t disappoint!

Set in 17th century Lancashire, against a backdrop of witchcraft and witch hunts, the young mistress of Gawthrope Hall, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, discovers a hidden letter that reveals her potential fate.

Pregnant for the fourth time, the previous times ending in miscarriage or stillbirth, Fleetwood reads that this time she may not survive.

Gutted and panic-stricken, she stumbles across the path of local girl, Alice Grey, and enlists her as her midwife.

Little does she know this will bring her directly into contact with the local witch hunt, led by family friend, Roger Nowell, the local magistrate, looking to make a name for himself with the King.

As the story unfolds, Fleetwood knows she’ll do everything she can to protect her unborn child, even if it means disobeying her husband and all of the social conventions of the time.

The characters are firmly at the heart of this book, driving the plot, taking the reader along with them. Fleetwood’s journey from a timid young girl to a woman sure of her convictions and willing to put herself in danger for her beliefs, is truly inspirational.

Alice is strong, but fragile, smart and caring, and a true friend to Fleetwood.

The writing is sumptuous, the landscape and world so vivid and real, Hall’s debut novel is fabulous.

This is historical fiction at its best, with people and characters at its core.

Five stars!

Gwen McGinty

Eminently readable historical fiction.

Stacey Halls debut historical novel is a fictionalised account of the Pendle witch trials in 17th-century Lancashire and with a cast of characters drawn from real-life events and a plucky young heroine in seventeen-year-old Fleetwood Shuttleworth challenging the perceptions of the era, it should have had all the ingredients for a gripping drama. 1612 and the young mistress of palatial Gawthorpe Hall that overlooks the imposing Lancastrian landscape is expecting for the fourth time when she stumbles across a letter from a physician predicting a fatal outcome. When she meets a mysterious midwife that she believes can ensure mother and baby both survive and subsequently sees her accused of witchcraft it leads Fleetwood to challenge the suspicions surrounding the so-called wise women vilified as witches.

I found plucky Fleetwood Shuttleworth a difficult lead protagonist to invest in and her rapid evolution from naive and uninformed mistress into having the wherewithal and confidence to challenge her husband, the high courts and the King of England is slightly incredulous. There is little supportive evidence to justify this transition from self-absorbed young woman into pioneering precedent-setter. It is ambitious of Halls to tackle the topic of the Pendle witch trials when they have been covered so extensively by recent fiction novels and the bar set so high and whilst The Familiars makes for a solid historical fiction debut I was far from convinced and sadly underwhelmed. Limited in substance and slightly meandering in the first half, the idea that a seventeen-year-old Fleetwood would risk her life, that of her unborn child, her marriage and liberty for a woman with a few herbs and potentially supernatural powers is hard to swallow. Likewise her eventual indifference to her husbands infidelity leaves conflicting emotions and for all Fleetwood’s uncompromising behaviour in challenging the misconceptions of the era, her casual acceptance of her husbands betrayal is the very antithesis of her vocal attitude towards Alice’s potential fate. Whilst the story has a coherent plot, proves solidly entertaining and there is a second half surge in pace, the novel lacks credibility and feels principally Fleetwood’s story with very little insight or atmosphere surrounding the women who stand accused of witchcraft.

Rachel Hall

An ambitious historical novel centred around the alleged witchcraft in 17th century Pendle, Lancashire.

This debut novel tells of a young woman, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, pregnant for the fourth time but with no living child. She finds and reads a letter that wasn't meant for her eyes, telling her husband that his wife will not survive another pregnancy. Fleetwood meets Alice Gray, a young midwife, who promises to help her deliver a healthy child. Unfortunately, the chance meeting leads Fleetwood into the infamous Pendle Hill Witch Trials of 1612 as Alice is one of the accused.

It is an interesting historical novel, but at times it tries too hard. The character of Fleetwood is only semi-plausible. I would have thought it very unlikely that a young pregnant woman would be wandering about outside on her own, endangering potentially both her own and her baby's life for a midwife who she hardly knows. The use of language is a little irritating trying to be of the time period and then lapsing into a more modern vernacular. Saying this it does convey the vulnerability of women during this historical period, in particular, those who have no 'protector' or money. Moreover, it shows us, the readers, the absurdity of the Witch Trials and how easy the innocent could be found guilty, having very little means to defend themselves.

Overall, an engaging novel but one that just misses its target at times.

Rachael

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.

I was intrigued by this book from the start. The cover is bright, interesting and makes you wonder. I have not read from this author before and generally, historical fiction is not one of my genres, but I said I’d give it a go.

Thank heavens I did! I was intrigued by the cover and hooked by the end of chapter one! It is written very much in the style of the time, think Bronte, de Maurier etc. There was plenty of vocabulary in there I had to gather the meaning of through context or, if in really dire need, break from my reading and google, but this only served to send you truly back into 1612. There is plenty of historical facts and the characters were apparently real people, although the story is a work of fiction.
The story really focuses on two women; Fleetwood, a 17-year-old wife desperate for a child and Alice, her slightly older midwife. This is a story about friendship. About the truly strong bond of friendship that crosses chasms, be they beliefs, class, culture etc. The Pendle Witch Trials are also a huge part of this book and it has made me want to go and research this further.

The men in the novel are strong, dominating characters and the majority of the women, timid, weak little things who sit and sew and do as they are told. Fleetwood breaks the mould.

This reminded me how far we have come as women, how much we have achieved, but still yet have more to do.

The friendship between Fleetwood and Alice is incredibly strong. Gradually over the course of the novel they reveal more and more of themselves to each other and strengthen their bond in the process. The two women need to love and trust one another with their lives, for ultimately it is each other’s lives they need to save.

Amanda O’Dwyer

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.

I was intrigued by this book from the start. The cover is bright, interesting and makes you wonder. I have not read from this author before and generally, historical fiction is not one of my genres, but I said I’d give it a go.

Thank heavens I did! I was intrigued by the cover and hooked by the end of chapter one! It is written very much in the style of the time, think Bronte, de Maurier etc. There was plenty of vocabulary in there I had to gather the meaning of through context or, if in really dire need, break from my reading and google, but this only served to send you truly back into 1612. There is plenty of historical facts and the characters were apparently real people, although the story is a work of fiction. 
The story really focuses on two women; Fleetwood, a 17-year-old wife desperate for a child and Alice, her slightly older midwife. This is a story about friendship. About the truly strong bond of friendship that crosses chasms, be they beliefs, class, culture etc. The Pendle Witch Trials are also a huge part of this book and it has made me want to go and research this further.

The men in the novel are strong, dominating characters and the majority of the women, timid, weak little things who sit and sew and do as they are told. Fleetwood breaks the mould.

This reminded me how far we have come as women, how much we have achieved, but still yet have more to do.

The friendship between Fleetwood and Alice is incredibly strong. Gradually over the course of the novel they reveal more and more of themselves to each other and strengthen their bond in the process. The two women need to love and trust one another with their lives, for ultimately it is each other’s lives they need to save.

Amanda O’Dwyer

Stacey Halls 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

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781785766145
Publication date: 19/09/2019
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781785766114
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Format: Hardback

ISBN: B07L5VFKPY
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Format: Audiobook

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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 Stylist.co.uk, 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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