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The Familiars

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  12,817 ratings  ·  1,712 reviews
The most spellbinding debut novel of 2019

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 isnt supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing
ebook, UK edition, 432 pages
Published February 7th 2019 by Bonnier Zaffre
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Kathryn Scott Its historical fiction based on real events. There are women accused of being witches but of course they are in fact more like herbalists.
Kathy Allard Thanks for asking this, I always want to know this too, esp with witchcraft-themed books. "Trigger warning."

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The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a 2019 Mira publication.

Very impressive debut novel!!

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is once more with child, hoping this time she will be able to give her husband, Richard, the heir he is so desirous of. But, when she stumbles across a letter, written to her husband from a physician, warning him that if Fleetwood should once more find herself in childbed, she would not survive.

To keep herself and unborn child from certain death, Fleetwood hires the midwife of her
Nilufer Ozmekik
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four surprising witchy gothic also frustrating stars!

I cannot really believe in this is a debut novel because the story is so well crafted, detailed and smartly written. Well if its just first work of this writer, I voluntarily like to read her future works.

So this is two womens amazing fight and friendship story against all ignorance, superstition, judgmental and biased minds! Fleetwood is afraid of losing her baby after three miscarriages at young age, she is only 17! She reads physician
Amalia Gavea
Justice means fairness. Luck of prejudice.

Ive always loved Pendle Hill and the stories of the women who were accused of witchcraft during one of the darkest moments in the history of Europe. The fascinating legends found a perfect home in Jeanette Wintersons The Daylight Gate, a novel full of darkness, raw beauty and folklore. Stacey Halls The Familiars is not as vicious as Wintersons masterpiece but it is no less poignant, atmospheric and an absolutely beautiful novel, fully doing justice to
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is based on true events, Pendle Hill Witch Trials, and most of the characters did exist, although it was the Author's imagination that directed their actions. The story revolves around a noblewoman, Fleetwood Shutterworth who is expected to provide her husband with an heir. She miscarages several times, and one day, when pregnant again, she meets a local woman, Alice Grey, who has a knowledge of the herbs and skills which may help Fleetwood during her pregnancy. The story seems simple, ...more
There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that Ive just finished, so much so that I start babbling to my neighbors, call up family members, talk about it to strangers in stores despite their strange looks as though Ive lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.

Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. Im part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is an
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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I requested this book because I was in a witchy mood and the concept of feminism and girl power set against the backdrop of the witch trials during the rule of King James appealed to me. In case you didn't know, King James was all about that witch-hunting life. He wrote a book called the Demonology, and Shakespeare actually wrote Macbeth with witches to appeal to his audience (i.e. King James). The witch trials in the United States were
Whispering Stories
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book Reviewed by Stacey on

The Year 1612, Pendle, Lancashire. Seventeen-Year-Old Fleetwood Shuttleworth has been married for four years and in that time she has been pregnant three times too, losing each child before their birth dates. Fleetwood is once again pregnant and hoping to make it to full term with her child so she can give her husband an heir to carry on the Shuttleworth name. Unfortunately, she comes across a letter from the local physician which was written
Dash fan
5☆ Spellbinding, Superbly Written, It Pulled Me In, A Book that Will Stay with Me for a very long time!

There is only one word to really sum up THE FAMILIARS..... and that is..... Spellbinding!

Fleetwood has tried so very hard to have a child but nature has been cruel and she has never carried a baby to full term.
Well that is until now.
Fleetwood is pregnant again and is determined that this time round she will do everything she can to protect her baby.

She discovers a letter sent to her husband
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly charged provocative that centres around the daily challenges faced by women in the 17th century, this gripping historical fiction felt so real as Halls explores what life was like for these real life characters during the backdrop of the Pendle Witch Trials.

The fact that this novel was originally published soon after Doctor Who explored this time period last series seems like a happy coincidence, but this was the main reason why I wanted to read this debut novel.

The story focuses on 17
I so enjoy when an author can take piece of history, the unknown about a real person in history, and weave a story around those events. In the book The Familiars, Stacey Halls has done just that.

In seventeenth century England, things and happenings not understood were often attributed to the realm of witches. It was a time with an eerie fascination with the people thought to be witches and this thinking led to many executions of those tried and convicted. Even King James of that time had a
What a fascinating time period for this intriguing historical fiction tale. Rife with political and theological goings on, 1612 was a hotbed of science and superstition. Work on the translation of The King James Bible began in 1604 and was completed by 1611. Not to mention a treatise, Daemonologie, published in 1597, on the study of demonology and uses of witchcraft and magic, authored by King James himself. His stature gave added authority to attempts to weed out witches and sorcerers and he ...more
Trading horses, time of DNF: 20%

From the blurb about a young gentlewoman in England during the 17th century witch scares, this should have been a strong contender for me. I like the narrative of mass hysteria, scapegoating, and women burning for fear. Alas, not so much.

I was not a fan of the first person point of view. It was intimate, but it trapped me inside a boring person. Uneducated, meek, and unguided in life makes Fleetwood Shuttleworth rather tedious, like being stuck in an airplane seat
Umut Rados
It started well and exciting, but didn't follow through with a solid story and plot. So, it's not for me.
Miriam Smith
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
4.5 stars
The Familiars is a historical re-imagining of the famous events surrounding the Pendle Witch Trials, which took place in 1612, under the reign of King James I. Delicately embroidered within this historical recreation, is the story of a friendship between two women from contrasting backgrounds, in an age where women were simply seen as child rearing commodities. With touches of magic, a dash of mystery and an enigmatic lead, The Familiars will lure
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Arc provided in exchange for a review.

I loved this. Please spread the word about this book I dont want it going under the radar!!

The history background, the sweeping narrative, the character progression and unearthing of secrets - the whole thing was a magical journey I was swept away in.

Also, the characters are real, admittedly their stories are embellished but they overall arc is true.

We meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth as a newly married 17 year old pregnant for the fourth time.
We explore her
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
If this is going to be the most spellbinding debut of 2019, I fear for the next year.

Fleetwood was too weak a character, I felt. She wasn't interesting enough to keep the story going. I do realize that those were different times, and that women were supposed to be meek and obey their husbands. But even in her thoughts she was a pushover. And for someone who keeps riding all over the place to be this meek didn't sit right with me to be honest.

The most interesting element of this was the witch
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Solid historical fiction for readers of Jane Harris and especially Martine Bailey. The language especially the dialogue, even when trying to be relatable and/or coy didnt always strike me as right for the time period (e.g. Hot and bothered, I went downstairs and They burn witches, dont they?). In any case, its a more accessible take on the Pendle witches history than Jeanette Wintersons The Daylight Gate, with the added interest of a look at a young womans real life four pregnancies by age 17 ...more
Olivia-Savannah  Roach
I was quite excited to read The Familiars because the more I heard about it, the more it sounded like my kind of book. And it was a good read in the end, which made me so happy!

What I loved most about this book was the atmosphere. The author definitely managed to create the mysterious, nature-filled and dark feel to the setting which worked so perfectly alongside the witch-y, haunting storyline. I felt like I slowly being immersed in the time period and the situation. The house Fleetwood, the
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Lancashire and indeed most of the North west of the country in 1612 it wasn't a great time to be a woman. Poor women and gentry alike, wise women, healers, midwives were being accused of being witches because they knew the properties of various herbs and plants and healed the sick and dying, delivered babies and so on.
This book uses the backdrop of those awful times to tell a fictional account of the lives of some of the actual people who lived and died during them

Fleetwood Shuttleworth (real
Anne ✨
(3.5) The backdrop for this debut historical fiction novel is 1612 Pendle, Lancashire, and the "Pendle Hill Witch Trials" , where twelve women were accused of being witches, put on trial, and ten found guilty. The author includes some of the real historical figures in the story.

In the story, a young bride, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, is pregnant, and seeks out a midwife, Alice Grey, to assist her in trying to keep her baby to term after suffering multiple miscarriages previously. The story focuses
As soon as I met Fleetwood Shuttleworth, I fell for her. She's based on a true person - this isn't a name you'd easily think up - but this is her fictional story. Fleetwood was mistress at the grand house of Gawthorpe in 1612, the time and (nearby) place of the infamous Pendle witch trials. The so-called witches do feature here but the glory of The Familiars is its portrayal of this 17-year-old girl, already on her second marriage and already pregnant for the fourth time, the previous ...more
Rachel Hall
Eminently readable historical fiction marred by a dubious heroine and lack of atmosphere.

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
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elegant, immersive, satisfying storytelling. I'm a nerd for anything witch-related at the moment, and this ticked so many boxes. The ending was perhaps a little neat for my taste, but I know most folk prefer to have all the ends tied up so fair enough. I'll definitely read more from this author.
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
I read just over a fifth of it. The story was holding my interest to a certain degree, but not enough to overlook the superficial characterization and ridiculously modern atmosphere and dialogue. Nope.
Karen Kay
I received this from in exchange for a review.

Set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting?

Based on real history. In an era where women were to be seen and not heard, Fleetwood Shuttleworth knows the women are falsely accused of witchery and goes to great lengths, even to endanger herself and unborn baby, to prevent the deaths of innocent women.

The Familiars is a tale of superstition, ignorance and misogyny that sees 'wise women' skilled in herbal medicine and midwifery accused of witchcraft for political gain and royal favour, or because they are a convenient target to blame for natural events such as crop failures or for unexpected deaths. As the book's heroine, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, observes about local magistrate, Roger Nowell, the chief instigator of the accusations, "Roger is on a witch hunt. He is collecting women like cards ...more
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction is a genre that I don't read all that often, but when I do, it's something I really do enjoy! Okay so I'm not a fan of all the purely lovey dovey stuff/classics you might think of, but The Familiars? THAT'S my kind of read! It was utterly enchanting, gripping and elegant. The topic of witchcraft is of particular interest to me as well which was a definite added bonus. A brilliant debut for sure.

And although it's not a comment on the book itself, my copy has the most GORGEOUS

Visit the locations in the novel

I do love a historical read when theres a potent mix of fact and fiction. The Familiars immersed me right at the heart of the Pendle Witch trials of 1612 and explored the people, the feelings, the social mores and the justice system of the time. That cover caught my attention from the start, but the novel didnt disappoint.

Many of the characters in the novel are real-life figures,. The main one is the very real Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a 17-year-old noblewoman who
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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 ...more

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“- '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.'-”
“Alice Gray saved my life, not just once but many times. When I itched, she brought me plants to rub on my skin. When I was sick, she made me tinctures. She kept me company when I was at my lowest. She planted a garden for my health.'
'Sounds like a witch to me, Richard said bitterly. 'How else would she know those things?'
'She is a midwife, like her mother before her. Are you like the king now, thinking all wise women and poor women and midwives are carrying out the Devil's work? Why, he must be the largest employer in Lancashire.”
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