The Familiars – Stacey Halls

To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life . . .

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.

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.

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, and has also written for Psychologies, the Independent and Fabulous magazine, where she now works as Deputy Chief Sub Editor. The Familiars was her first novel.

My Review:

I listened the audio version of The Familiars by Stacey Halls which was beautifully narrated by the extremely talented Katy Sobey.

If you follow my blog, you will know that historical, gothic or witchy books are really NOT my go-to-genre however I had heard such positive things about Stacey’s books that I thought I should have a listen to see what I’m missing, and I am so glad I did.

Set in 1612 in Pendle, Lancashire 17 year old Fleetwood Shuttleworth (I bloody love that name by the way) has been married for four years and is now pregnant again for the fourth time having miscarried her first three babies. She is terrified of losing another child, especially as she wants to give her husband an heir. When she finds a hidden letter addressed to her husband warning him that if she becomes pregnant again she will die, she is scared, confused and extremely concerned that her husband would hide something so important from her.

During this time period the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials were happening and when Fleetwood meets a midwife called Alice Grey who seems to be able to cure Fleetwood of her many pregnancy ailments in unusual ways, Fleetwood employs Alice to help her through her pregnancy.

Fleetwood is a fascinating and feisty character, brave, stubborn and determined, she was instantly likeable and I became intrigued to see where the story took her and if she would survive this fourth and potentially life threatening pregnancy.

With the backdrop of the witch trials and the insertion of many facts surrounding the events of 1612 I was transported back to a time I have no knowledge about and became gripped enough to download a few more books in this genre.

Overall The Familiars is a wonderful, spellbinding story with facts and fiction mixed together so seamlessly that it left me completely bewitched.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Find this book on Amazon