Review: The Familiars

Stats:

Title – The Familiars
Author – Stacey Halls
Genre – Adult Historical Fiction
Format – Hardback
Style – Prose
Standalone/series – Standalone
Page count – 416 pages
Date of Publication – 7th February 2019


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Warning – there is the possibility of minor spoilers regarding the history of The Pendle Witch Trials.

It is 1612 and society is all ablaze with fear. All across Pendle in Lancashire, women are accused and arrested for witchcraft. People don’t know where to turn, especially Fleetwood Shuttleworth, the young mistress of Gawthorpe Hall who is fearing for her life and that of her unborn child. She has miscarried two or three times so this time, she and her baby have to live for the sake of herself and her husband Richard who wants an heir. One day whilst roaming around the grounds, she comes across Alice Grey, a local woman scrounging for food and as she seems well informed about herbs and midwifery Fleetwood appoints Alice as her midwife and companion. However it is not straightforward. They find themselves caught up in the witch scare and assizes at Lancaster Castle. Destined to know more, Fleetwood takes it upon herself to question why this is happening and what makes certain women be considered witches.

They burn witches, don’t they?

Often, where we live leaves its mark on us and I know for a fact that Lancaster left its mark on me. As a history student I had to know the history of where I lived and I couldn’t take one step in the city centre without knowing about the Pendle Witch Trials and the 10 or so women who hung in Lancaster Castle. Its legacy is everywhere! Of course knowing me and my interest in all things supernatural and witchy, I had to know more and I constantly dove into books and documentaries about the women who stood trial. So when I heard about The Familiars last year before YALC and its focus on Alice Grey (one of the women caught up in the trials), I had to read it. This book became one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 and I’m very glad to say that it delivered!

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

“The surest sign of a witch,” Roger said with confidence.

What I very much enjoy about this novel and insight into the Pendle Witch Trials is the female perspective and how the characters of Fleetwood and Alice react to the arrests and fear of witchcraft. Fleetwood especially constantly questions why this is happening and I really like that she decides to take it upon herself to understand what makes these women witches and call out Roger Nowell and his friends for singling them out. It might be a little reckless at times, especially in parts of the novel where she’s heavily pregnant, but she is determined to not see other women sullied for having that amazing knowledge of midwifery, herbs, caring for people and living from the earth. Personally I’ve always surmised that women at this time were deemed to be witches if they didn’t fit in or match up to King James 1st’s ideals, didn’t practise catholicism, and were educated by their elder female family members, and that was certainly captured within Fleetwood’s questioning and her need to prove Alice is more than what society deems her to be. However Fleetwood isn’t perfect, and is very quick to judge and assume the worst about Richard and her mother. As much as I can understand this behaviour, I think she can come across a bit like a whiny YA protagonist and not rationalise what she thinks, does and says before it happens. Nonetheless, I still like her a lot and she’s someone to rally behind and support.

I bet you are not afraid of anything’, I said.
‘Of course I am,’ she said, and she pulled at a loose thread in her apron. ‘I am afraid of lies.’ 

On the subject of Fleetwood sounding like a YA protagonist, the prose has a rather similar kind of style. I don’t see it as a criticism in any way, just that the prose is very fluid, easy to understand and read, and it doesn’t drag like a lot of other Adult Historical Fiction can do. I flew through this book within a maximum of two days which very rarely happens with historical fiction. Often they’re rather slow paced and it can take a while for the story to gather momentum but this wasn’t the case. In fact I think it makes The Familiars very readable and accessible to a wider audience, which is always great, especially for a novel that touches on fact and real people.

In terms of that history within the main story, Stacey Halls does a good job of balancing that with the fiction, so much so I was totally convinced Fleetwood Shuttleworth was fictional. SHE WAS A REAL PERSON!! My mind = blown! It doesn’t change anything, but it is still interesting to me nonetheless. I am also relatively satisfied in how she fictionally deals with a certain detail of Alice’s arc. It still doesn’t answer my questions, and I honestly think I will never get any answers, but it’s good enough that it fits and works within the story and fuels the characters to recognise the morally grey reality of witchcraft and the trials.

I think that’s everything.

My rating – 5★

Now I want to go away and read even more in depth about the real people in this book!


Have you read The Familiars yet?
What are your thoughts?

As always thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!
xx

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January to April Pre-Orders.

Hello.

Welcome to what is me wincing and feeling excited all at the same time because there are too many great looking and sounding books coming out in the next few months. To say I’m hyped for all of them is quite an understatement.

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My Witch To-Be Read Pile

Hello!

I have an odd post today because it is a TBR post and I don’t usually do these! The main reason being that I am a mood reader through and through and I cannot stick to TBRs. That’s just the way it is.

However I do have a TBR the length of my arm full of books about witches and I’m hoping to smash through most of it in the next few weeks because I am in such a witch-related reading mood at the moment.

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February Reads

Does anyone else feel that February seems to pass quickly compared to quite a lot of months, and not just because it is the shortest month of the year?

It’s crazy!

I don’t think it helps that Easter is super early this year, because then mine and my sister’s birthdays will only be around the corner and I want to stay 25 for just a little bit longer. I vowed I’d be able to land a job by 26 and that’s not happening. Yikes!

Oh God.

Anyway, I’m here today with the monthly wrap up.

I managed to read quite a bit in February, thanks in part to some audiobooks, although I did have a couple of unfortunate DNFs. I’m quite happy though because all the books I finished were brilliant!

Let’s just dive right in.

DNFs

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Medieval Lives by Terry Jones:

It was interesting and I do want to know more about life in the Middle Ages but I found the writing to be dry and boring. To me it read like a text book and I wasn’t expecting that from this at all. I think I’m just a little underwhelmed with it.

Rating – 3 out of 5 stars

 

 

Image result for witchborn nicholas bowlingWitchborn by Nicholas Bowling

I was really excited to read this because it has witches and it’s historical fiction set at the time of Elizabeth 1st. It was also a cover buy because, wow, it’s gorgeous! However I felt really down by Alyce and the world building. Her constant skipping from place to place made it hard for me to get a feel for her surroundings. It’s a shame because the concept sounding like something I would truly love.

Rating 2.5 out of 5 stars

Audiobooks

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A Second Chance, Roman Holiday, A Trail Through Time, and No Time Like The Past by Jodi Taylor:

Books 3, 3.5, 4 and 5 in the Chronicles of St Mary’s series.

Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that this series is the definition of crazy and action packed. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride at the moment and one that might give you some whiplash. I certainly felt bombarded by all the feelings! Luckily No Time Like The Past ended on a laughable high so there’s no crisis to find the next book in the series for a couple of days.

Rating – 5 out of 5 stars

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Some of you might be wondering why the hell I re-read a book I wasn’t that keen on in the first place, but Obsidio is coming out and I wanted to jog my memory on what happens across both Illuminae and Gemina. All I can say is that thanks to the audiobook, all my opinions regarding the story, the multimedia format, and the characters have completely changed. The audiobook was phenomenal, and it is arguably the best one I’ve ever listened to. The use of different narrators and sound effects instantly transported me to the Hypatia and the Alexander and I was on the edge of my seat with every listen. I’m still not the biggest fan of Kady and Ezra as characters but I felt more in tune with them this time and I wasn’t as infuriated by their actions. I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I loved it!

Rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars

Books

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Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. 

I might as well direct you to my review of this crazy and twisted book because I don’t know what else to say about it at the moment. All I know is that it completely surprised me, especially in regards to the ‘revelation.’ I knew it was going to come at some point as I was already vaguely aware of it, but due to the slow buildup I didn’t expect when. It was only after it that the speed of the novel went from 0-60 in an instant and I was thrust into a whole whirlwind of occurrences that I didn’t anticipate. It’s also certainly made me very conflicted about my feelings in regards to the relationship between Maxim de Winter and the current Mrs de Winter. It’s incredibly problematic but I can’t help sympathising with their insecurities and status.

4.5 out of 5 stars

I did also start reading This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada but I don’t know if I’m going to finish it by the time this post goes live. I’m also wondering if it is worth putting it down for now because I’ve lost all motivation to pick it up, even though I’m intrigued by what I’ve already read. Hmm.


Anyway…

That is that.

What books did you read in February?

Thanks for reading and have a brazzle dazzle day!
xx