REVIEW: The Familiars, Stacey Halls #BLOGTOUR

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

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 there more to 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. 

The Familiars is an undoubtedly sweeping historical novel - large in its scope, sharp in its details. Enthralling, vivid and startling, it effortlessly transports its readers to the rugged Lancashire landscape of centuries long since passed and grounds them in the details of a woman’s life in a strictly male world.
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is a protagonist that is easy to love; naive, headstrong and - often woefully - innocent, she does what she thinks to be right, no matter the cost. And, when the eyes of Big Brother turn onto her midwife, Fleetwood is willing to put everything down on the line to make sure that the young woman survives the accusations that are running wild across the countryside.
That is because, at its heart, The Familiars is a tale of female oppression; of the mechanisms of society that were constantly working against the so-called fairer sex - the weight of societal expectations, the misogynistic marriage market and the very real possibility that, like the family pet, they were easily replaceable once they had given absolutely everything to bring a child into the world. A male one and a pretty grave, if they were lucky. A female one and a pile of stones if they were not so.
It is easy to see how, when the building blocks of our modern society looked like this, it evolved into the unjust chaos we inhabit today. And, that is clearly evident in the criminal justice system. Hearsay, rumours and pointed fingers run wild here. But unlike the mass hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials, there is something specifically English about it. After-all, we have always been a suspicious and gossip-y bunch.
In a time where men were assumed to be superior to women in every way and, if they were not, they got even more pissed off that they do today, suspicion fell easily upon the archetype of the wise woman. It is easier to imagine than strictly comfortable and the powerful parallels that Stacey Halls manages to draw in The Familiars means that, even more so than in the blistering Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian reality seems more fact that fiction.

Thanks to Zaffree Books and the Compulsive Readers Blogtour for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Head on over to for this book, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

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