The Familiars @Stacey_Halls

There are times when I get absolutely giddy over a book that I’ve 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 I’ve lost my mind. That is exactly what I have found myself doing with Stacey Halls new book, The Familiars.

39835415Are you familiar with familiars? Yes, I know. I’m part Scottish so these things are embedded into my DNA but for many, I now realize, they are not. A familiar is an animal that is close to a witch who does certain things for the witch. They can act as protectors, spies, a type of servant or, most often, a close companion. If you see one, you most often will see the other because they rarely are separated.Β 12187815_10153804022438755_392989809902135028_nYou know, kind of like this photo. πŸ˜‰Β  Okay fine.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is the 17 years old mistress at Gawthorpe Hall. The year is 1612, and she pregnant for the fourth time. The problem, however, is that she has yet to bring a child to term, something both she and her husband are concerned about, each for very different reasons. By chance, Fleetwood encounters a woman in the forest on her property. This woman, Alice Gray, claims to be a midwife and promises Fleetwood that she can help her give birth to a healthy child. They agree on terms and Alice is brought into Gawthorpe Hall where Fleetwood almost at once begins to feel better. There are problems, however. King James, as we all should know, is on a witch hunt and his minions who wish to stay in his favor will do whatever necessary to stay in the king’s good graces, including accusing innocent women of witchcraft. Fleetwood has the misfortune of living near Pendle Hill and one of her husband’s dearest friends and benefactor’s is just the sort of man to gather up innocents to appease the king – and that is exactly what he does – including Alice Gray.

I live in a town named Pendleton settled by men originally from Pendle Hill. We actually have a place called Pendle Hill in our tiny town so I have a strange, slightly bizarre fascination with the Pendle witches of Lancashire. When I first read about The Familiars, I was led to believe that it was a witch story and somewhat cutesy. That is far from the truth. This is a story of the women in the surrounding village who eventually were charged with murder and witchcraft at Pendle Hill, specifically, Alice Gray. It is the story of Alice’s friendship with Fleetwood and the extreme measures that Fleetwood took in order to save her friend. It is a beautifully told story of women, devotion, love, motherhood, history and so much more but it is very much rooted in historically accurate research. At the heart of the tale is Fleetwood and her desire to bring her child into the world safely and alive. In order to do so, she truly believes she must have Alice by her side. It isn’t about magic or witchcraft, it is about herbs and knowledge passed down from one generation of women to the next. As we learn, these women were being rounded up far too often because of men who merely wanted them gone for reasons of cheating, anger, because the women were more knowledgeable, not unlike what is happening today when intelligent women are mocked in the public arena. They were also being hanged because their religion no longer aligned with that of King James. Then, as now, religion was a source of war. Isn’t it amazing how absolutely nothing has changed after all of this time? How we have learned nothing from the past?

I absolutely loved the transformation of Fleetwood from silly, frivolous socialite to the mature woman willing to fight for her child and her friend. Women will do that when they have the right influences to guide them and it was beautiful to see how Alice, so quiet and unassuming, could give the much needed confidence to Fleetwood, not with magic but through friendship and care. In the end, this is a novel of historical fiction and it stays true to the story. Twelve women were charged with witchcraft, some were hanged, one landed in stocks for a fortnight and one is released. This is a wonderful imagining of their story, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #Harlequin-Mira and #StacyHalls for my advanced copy of #TheFamiliars.

I’ve included this book toward the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge at Passages to the Past. Won’t you join us as we read our way through history?
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27 thoughts on “The Familiars @Stacey_Halls

    1. Thanks Shalini! This book was different from what I was expecting and in such a good way. Plus, that cover! Wow! I’ve been reading a lot of books about friendship lately. I don’t have a close friend since moving here to this town and I think my subconscious is telling me that I need to do something about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, your review is wonderful, Mackey. I absolutely love the sound of this one and the cover gets me every time I see it! I don’t read very much historical fiction, but I’ve seen really good reviews for this one. Love your pic too, and you’re only a few hours from me! πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This didn’t even read like historical fiction, which I love, but it was so fascinating and really good! I think you’ll like it. It inspired me to start a traditional medicinal garden this spring, something I’ve always wanted to do and just never have done.

      I thought we were fairly close. Pendleton is such a cute little town and the house is really lovely in the spring. Maybe you and the kids could come up then. πŸ™‚

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      1. I’d love to see your garden when you create it! That sounds so neat. We have a nice amount of herbs growing, but so far I’ve only really used them as teas mainly and some for food. I can send you some lemon balm, yarrow, and some different mints in the mail this spring if you’re interested. 😁

        We are up by Lake Michigan and not too far. Your place sounds so charming! I think that would be wonderful! πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooooohhh, maybe I need to come and see you instead. πŸ™‚ You guys get a lot more snow than I do! πŸ™‚ What is it about the Ft. Wayne boundary line that stops the snow? And then again at I-70? Indiana is so weird!! We will definitely make plans to meet up this spring and the seeds sound perfect. Thank you! I overwintered some lemon mint last year and tried to do that again this year but I think it’s been a much colder winter. I’ll see when it warms up again. I’d never heard of lemon mint until I got some seeds from Prophetstown State Park. It was so wonderful and is almost invasive it grows so well!

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      3. I have no idea, but this winter has been so crazy. We didn’t get as much lake effect this year though. Sometimes it seems like central Indiana gets more than us. πŸ˜‚ Did you guys not get much this winter?

        Lemon mint sounds like lemon balm, but I don’t think it’s the same. We’ll have to compare to see because I’m very intrigued! Do you use yours for tea?

        We grow apple, chocolate, orange, mountain, spearmint, catmint and silver mint outside. Sadly, all but the chocolate are quite invasive lol. Chocolate has to be my favorite one and it makes the best jam. I have a hard time getting the chocolate to come back, but all the others do quite well. Anyhow, I’d love to share. I can actually send you plants so you can get them right in the ground or just some dried for tea if you’d like. Some people recommend just putting in a barrier. 😁

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      4. The leaves of lemon mint and lemon balm are slightly different and mint is more minty, balm is more lemony. I have the mint and my neighbor had the balm, that’s how I know. LOL! I also have cat mint out front near the walk and it smells so wonderful when people brush by it. I do use it for tea. I’ve never tried any of the other mints, though. I’m still very new to all of this. I was a master gardener in Arkansas but the zones are so different here than there that it’s like starting fresh and new for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Gotcha! πŸ˜‰ I’ll have to remember that and look for some lemon mint because that’s one we don’t have. I see what you mean with zones. There are are so many flowers I’d love to grow, but it’s too cold here. Luckily, so far the herbs are coming back fairly well. I’m looking forward to chatting with you more about what were growing this year. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

  2. B Lostinacoulee

    Wonderful review, Mackey! Love that you get giddy about books and want to talk about them. I am a little out of control with that. Hmm maybe why I have so many groups. lol .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL – I love all of your groups and reading your blogs too! If I weren’t so silly shy I would be in more of them myself. I’m the proverbial book nerd sitting in the corner. But when I do find a good book, it’s hard to shut me up. LOL!


    1. As always, you are too sweet Christopher. Thank you. I did absolutely love The Familiars. There was just enough historical fact combined with really fine fiction to make this a terrific read. I hope you do choose to read it and enjoy it too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Sunshine in February #BookTag – Macsbooks

    1. Carla, given your reading tastes and your Scottish background, I think you would love this book. It absolutely was not what I was expecting and it exceeded every expectation that I had. It’s historical fiction, but it was so much more than that. It’s not paranormal, it’s just really good fiction done well.

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