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The Familiars Reader Reviews

The Familiars

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.

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!

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!


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.

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, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Relationship Stories, Sci-Fi and Fantasy,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Historical fiction,