The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Ah. The very best feeling, when you’re only a few pages into a book and already know you’ve found another author to add to THE LIST.

Right from the start I knew this was going to be a story I’d enjoy, Fleetwood is a strong and engaging character and I loved her instantly. Fleetwood is trying to come to terms with a letter addressed to her husband; Richard, that she’d never seen before. It’s from a doctor and it’s telling Richard that his wife will not live is she bares another child. Fleetwood is in shock, after three stillbirths, this is terrifying news as she’s yet to give Richard an heir to Gawthorpe Hall, and even worse, she’s already pregnant.

And then she meets Alice in the woods. When Alice says she can help Fleetwood deliver the baby safely, the fact her methods seem less than traditional is not something that Fleetwood concerns herself with. She wants to have this baby and live.

Meanwhile, rumours are rising about witchcraft in the county. With the King thinking the North is full of unruly people, Roger sees an opportunity to climb higher up the ranks and please the King. As a justice of the peace, he takes it upon himself to round up the ‘witches’ in the area and make them face their crimes in court, most usually ending in the suspect being hanged.

A young ally feeds Roger information on a witches’ meeting which could see many women falsely hanged, as the ally’s memory is manipulated by temptation and greed…

As I read of the captures and, followed Alice and her unusual treatments for Fleetwood, I was filled with dread. Would the storylines crossover and if they did, how dangerous would the outcome be?

Stacey has created a mesmerising effect with her writing; the period setting, the bubbling tension of the witches’ trial and the strength of Fleetwood, created a highly atmospheric vibe and made the story even more engaging.

I loved discovering the inspiration of the book in the author’s letter at the back, I’m a big fan of books that weave fiction into factual places, for me it makes the story come to life even more!

Like Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, Stacey’s characters were mysterious and complex, and the plot continued to provide surprises! Riveting, well written and atmospheric, if it doesn’t transport you to the 1600s I don’t know what will!

Stacey Halls is one to watch!

The Familiars is out now in hardback and eBook versions from Zaffre.

Until next time, Chloé x

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