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 with a person describing the minutia of their life, loudly, on their cell phone and your noise cancelling headset is dead Your whole mind is screaming, Can we go The atmospheric descriptions of the woods, clothing, and furnishings were nice. 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 it s just first work of this writer, I voluntarily like to read her future works So this is two women s 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 letter written to her husband and understands this is her last chance to give a heir to him.She hires Alice as midwife who has untraditional methods but Fleetwood accepts any help she may get As they unconventional friendship grows, King James minions wander around to accuse the innocent women for being witches, weeding them out from the community.Rising tension, boiling anger and atmosphere surrounded by paranoia create doubts on Fleetwood s mind for making a choice about who she could trust Some parts of book makes your blood boil with anger, question your beliefs and doubts about the people and their way of looking at the world When I search about the meaning of familiar, I found out that it meant an animal, close to the witches, acting like her servant, guardian, spy, protector, companion This brings a different kind of meaning to the story and relationship of two women.Mostly I liked Fleetwood s change and growing by taking risks, acting brave to protect her friend and baby It s well developed, informative, but still frustrating with the parts show how the ignorance affect people s minds and turned them into mentally blind.As a summary I liked it and I am happy to see upcoming works of the writer Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor s letter that carries a dire prediction she will not survive another birth By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.Is thereto Alice than meets the eye Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence As the two women s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom Time is running out both their lives are at stake Only they know the truth Only they can save each other.Rich and compelling, 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 Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside even woodland creatures, or familiars, were suspected of dark magic by capturing witches in reality mostly poor and illiterate women. 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.Are 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.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 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 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. 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 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 and I wish the author every success with this sure bestseller for 2019.4 stars Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.comThe 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 after she lost her third child which states that if she would be to fall pregnant again it is unlikely that she will survive.Fleetwood is distressed by the letter and wants to confront her husband about it but doesn t know how She decides to go a different route and hire a local woman to be her midwife, a woman that knows all about potions and herbs and promises to deliver a healthy baby Alice Grey.There is talk amongst the local people of witches in the area and her new midwife is soon finding her name bought into the accusations of witchcraft Fleetwood is sure Alice is innocent and with the trial looming close and if found guilty Alice will be hung, Fleetwood will do anything to save her new friend, even going against her husband for the young woman.The Familiars is a historical novel set in the era when people who were a little different were accused of being witches and killed, not only in the UK but across the world too One of the most famous and best recorded witch trials in the UK was in Pendle, Lancashire, now dubbed the home of the Pendle Witches , where twelve people went on trial and ten found guilty.Ms Halls has weaved her superior tale around the events from 1612 and brought into her fictional novel some famous names from the trials, including Alizon Device and Alice Grey The Shuttleworth family are also a well known real family from the area too.Fleetwood although only seventeen has been through some hard times Not only is it illegal to get married at the age she did these days, but you just couldn t comprehend a young girl of seventeen having been married for four years and not only being pregnant four times but losing three of her children before birth too I found her character although a little weak minded at times, yet she was intriguing and I enjoyed watching her evolve as the plot progressed.Whilst the book is set during the Pendle Witch trials, for my liking, there wasn t enough about them in the book, mainly because I love a good book featuring witches and this is what made me choose to read the story in the first place What information there is, is historically accurate and you can tell that the author has a keen interest in the past and has done lots of research.Overall the book left me satisfied and I thoroughly enjoyed it It left me feeling enthralled with parts and spellbound by others The pace felt a little slow to at times but in my personal opinion slowness works in historical fiction as it allows you to really grasp the past and understand it The pace does pick up as you near the end.This is a book that I feel is going to be a bit like Marmite in that if you have an interest in historical fiction or indeed the witch trials or Pendle, you will love it If you have no interest in these subject then I can t see it being of interest to you. 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 would become known as a most notorious witch hunter In The Familiars by Stacey Halls, our main character, Fleetwood, who was a young child bride, has by the age of seventeen had three miscarriages Married to Richard Shuttleworth, who has an earring and a plush closet, she s still deeply in love after four years of marriage But, if she cannot bear his heir, then as a woman, what does she bring to this coupling That s the idea of the times Women are mere possessions to be handed from father to husband along with any properties attached Fleetwood does not think she s very pretty, but it seems there is quite a bit of property that goes to Richard, a financial boon perhaps Fleetwood is pregnant again, has persistent vomiting, her hair is falling out, and her skin is pale A frequent horseback rider, even on her worst days, she manages to stumble across a woodsy girl Alice in the forest, a girl familiar with herbs and their uses When Fleetwood finds out that Alice has midwifery experience from being with her mother at deliveries, Fleetwood asks Alice to be her midwife Fleetwood would do just about anything to carry this pregnancy to term with a live baby to show for it A neighbor, an older friend, Roger, who is the local magistrate, albeit on the verge of retiring, is very invested in looking good to King James, and looking good to King James means being on the lookout for witches and weeding them out of your community A calamity in the community involving a man who s stricken with what sounds like the symptoms of a stroke, droopy face and an inability to talk, has been cursed A young woman admits to cursing him and her ten year old sister is standing witness against the entire family for witchcraft, and with that, there is a domino effect The animals in their lives, their familiars, are thought to do their bidding Fleetwood, herself, has a giant French mastiff, Puck, that she takes everywhere Fear leads to fear.Stacey Halls pacing is stellar, with pages flowing masterfully into a river of beautiful storytelling Fleetwood s first person POV pulled me right in Isolated and alone at Gawthorpe, the family home, her anxieties about the pregnancy are palpable She has nightmares High emotions, the life of an unborn child and others at risk, the uneasiness of not knowing who can be trusted, give the reader a heightening gothic element A young woman with high hopes for a good life, her gender would become an obstacle if she allowed it Richard has a secret that will cast everything in doubt Fleetwood s innocence may be collateral damage The vulnerability of women is a prominent theme This is Stacey Halls debut novel For me, it does not have the lyrical prose that I love, but Hall s prose suits the novel and her young main character I felt like I was in the hands of a capable and experienced author. It started well and exciting, but didn t follow through with a solid story and plot So, it s not for me. Justice means fairness Luck of prejudice I ve 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 Winterson s The Daylight Gate, a novel full of darkness, raw beauty and folklore Stacey Hall s The Familiars is not as vicious as Winterson s masterpiece but it is no less poignant, atmospheric and an absolutely beautiful novel, fully doing justice to its dark themes of prejudice, injustice and sheer violence against women Sadly, these are issues that have not been extinguished in our world Centuries later we face the same dangers, albeit wrapped in a different, civilized package.Pendle Hill and Malkin Tower are in the centre of attention in Fleetwood household She is the young wife of a noble house, her mission to produce an heir a male heir, let us not forget and things have not been going well Fleetwood is with child, one chance to do her duty Her fortune brings her to Alive, an eerie girl who seems to know nature and its gifts as well as an experienced wise woman Or as well as a witchThe witch hunt is in full swing under the reign of King James and Fleetwood has to face her husband s wrongdoings, her fear for her pregnancy and the injustice against women who know Nature better than anyone I wouldn t wish a girl s life on anyone The Familiars are the spirits in objects and animals that act as replicas of the so called witches This belief lends the name to the title of this beautiful book that seems to be perfect Indeed, I couldn t find a single feature that would have made me reconsider my rating The technical elements are brilliantly composed The era, the dialogue, the atmosphere of terror, of suspicion and prejudice will captivate your heart from the first chapters This novel is an example of how a writer can create female protagonists that do not resemble any stereotype but are fully imagined and brought to life so realistically that the readers feel as if they re watching actual people of flesh and blood fighting for the right to have a voice This is why I won t tire you over technicalities What I feel the need to focus on is the exquisite treatment of the themes that make this novel such a beautiful and frightening experience.The main theme reflected in the use of the witch hunt era as the setting is the position of women in a society that seems to take an almost orgasmic satisfaction in supporting every possible prejudice against them Men practice infidelity because it is their right Women are not even allowed to choose their own midwife Pregnancy becomes an obligation Something you must do because society tells you to And if you don t want children of your own, everyone will look at you at best with apprehension and at worst with disgust I am using the Present tense intentionally because things haven t changed much Not as long as the Trumps of the world tell us what to do with our bodies and our own choices Religion and politics have always lent themselves as culprits of irrational actions, dogmas have long been used as pretexts for absolute control over the fates of women Take the ridiculous Daemonologie, written by King James, as an example One of the most incompetent, ludicrous monarchs of Europe that led dozens of women to their death.There are men encouraged to feel superior by oppressing women because they feared their intelligence and independence Women bow to an absurd will and condemn other women because they are influenced by uneducated priests and are envious of the women who live their lives according to their rules without needing a man and a surname to sustain them or verify their existence These issues are still relevant to our world Many men cannot recognize women s right to equality Many women still need a man to verify their worth Flushing out certain parts of our anatomy on Instagram, projecting ourselves as objects does not help This is not emancipation It is outright prostitution Let us not fear the words and speak clearly.What can be better than a Historical Fiction novel that prompts you to think of how universal and relevant certain issues are, how vital in our daily experience This novel by Stacey Halls is like a heavy storm that has been brewing for hours Like the grey sky over Pendle Hill Like the fragile hope that comes with the arrival of a child in the world Do we not have eyes and ears like our husbands, and the men who will condemn them Many thanks to MIRA and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on 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, but the Author managed mastefully to create a novel which I couldn t put down There are several themes in the novel which I found interesting position and fate of woman in the early 17th centrury, prejudice against wise women which in consequence led directly to the accusations of witchcraft and then to stake, and the role children played during the so called witchhunt A very good atmospheric novel which I would recommend to FH lovers Many thanks to Stacey Halls, Harlequin Mira and Netgalley for providing me with ARC in exchange for my honest review.