Can we first please just mention the absolutely stunning cover!? Isn’t it just beautiful and so very eye-catching? I love it!
And then … the name of the main character: Fleetwood Shuttleworth!! I adore that too! It just oozes with a sense of depth and underlying richness (I don’t mean wealth, I’m talking about a sense of ‘knowing’ and self-worth) – and she was a real person!
So … the story: Fleetwood has been plucked from a life of mediocrity by the wealthy Richard Shuttleworth, but in four years of marriage has failed to produce an heir. She has miscarried three pregnancies, and now at the age of only 17 she’s pregnant again, only to discover a letter written to her husband by her doctor, saying that she will never carry a pregnancy to full term and that she will surely die before she manages to give birth to this child! She is, understandably, devastated. She wants more than anything to be able to give her husband a son, and to make them into a family. However, she lacks to maturity and courage to even confront Richard with her knowledge of the letter’s existence.
Instead, she keeps it hidden away and wanders the vast estate either on foot, with her beloved, enormous dog Puck, or on horseback. One day, she falls off her horse and encounters a strange, waif-like girl trespassing on Shuttleworth land. It is through this meeting that she finds the means she needs to deliver what she most wants into the world: a son!
But the countryside is on high alert. There is talk of witches in the area and soon, her new confidante is accused of being a witch. Fleetwood must do everything in her power to ensure that she is not found guilty.
Halls has created an absolutely fascinating story, weaving fiction around factual events and characters and making use of her obviously well-versed research. The Pendle witch trials is a subject that many find intriguing. Were those women truly witches? Or were they merely a group of women feared by men for being to wise for their liking; too clever; ahead of their time? Could they have been the early leaders of the feminist movement? Maybe we’re still trying to figure it all out. This book contributes to and supports the theory that there is nothing quite like women supporting other women. Stacey Halls has done a magnificent job of showing that and needs to be commended for it.
This is an absorbing 4-star read – not only for those who enjoy tales of witches, but for anyone who likes a deep and enthralling story that wraps itself around the reader and draws you in until you’re done.
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 Stylist.co.uk. and has also worked as a journalist for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine. TV rights have been sold to The Bureau production company.
The Familiars is her first novel and her second, The Foundling, is coming Feb 2020. Say hello @Stacey_Halls on Twitter and @StaceyHallsAuthor on Instagram.
Thank you to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on the blog tour. Take a look at what other bloggers are saying about The Familiars …