The Familiars @stacey_halls @HarperCollins #pendlewitches #friendship #gothicfiction #historicalfiction @absltmom

I so enjoy when an author can take piece of history, the unknown about a real person in history, and weave a story around those events. In the book The Familiars, Stacey Halls has done just that.

The Familiars
‘I bet you are not afraid of anything,’ I said.
‘Of course I am,’ she said, and she pulled at a loose thread in her apron, ‘I am afraid of lies.”

In seventeenth century England, things and happenings not understood were often attributed to the realm of witches. It was a time with an eerie fascination with the people thought to be witches and this thinking led to many executions of those tried and convicted. Even King James of that time had a certain fascination with witchcraft. The Pendle witch trials held at Lancaster, were one of many trials held. Twelve people were accused, one died while in Lancaster prison, while eleven went to trial. Ten were found guilty and executed by hanging and one was found not guilty.

Photograph courtesy of the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board
Lancaster Prison

Using this time as a backdrop in this story, we meet Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, who is ever so anxious to have a child. Fleetwwood has lost babies before and as her husband, Richard, grows ever more anxious for an heir, Fleetwood fears another lost child. Fleetwood meets the strange and elusive Alice Grey, a midwife, who vows to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy child. However, in the turmoil of the witchcraft times, Alice is accused of being a witch.

Alice and Fleetwood form a friendship, one vowing to help the other and as Fleetwood battles for Alice, Alice is determined to give Fleewood her desire. In this story we see the times of the seventeenth century. Women were chattel, considered owned by the men of the times. Their purpose was to provide pleasure, and in the case of the nobles, it was to provide a male heir. Witches were mostly women, so the conclusion that can often be drawn was that these times were actually not witch hunting, but the hunting of women. These women were poor, they couldn’t read, and oftentimes, because they offered help to the sick who happened to get better, they were considered witches. Will Fleetwood be able to save Alice and will she ultimately be able to deliver a child she so desperately wants and needs?

Lancaster Castle where the trials were held.

I so enjoyed this story. It was my second time listening to an audiobook. As I investigated this time further, I found that both Fleetwood Shuttleworth and Alice Grey were real people who lived at this time. This was a fascinating story portrayed so well and made one ever so aware of the way in which women were treated and thought of in times of long ago. It was a terrific blend of fact and fiction which made for a terrific informative and well researched story. Definitely recommend this one to those who love a well constructed historical fiction story.

Pendle witches: following the trail in Lancaster - TNT ...
The Pendle Witches: A Local Phenomena and A Symbol of ...

and here’s the author:

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 is her first novel.

8 thoughts on “The Familiars @stacey_halls @HarperCollins #pendlewitches #friendship #gothicfiction #historicalfiction @absltmom

  1. Great review Marialyce and I am so glad you enjoyed this in audiobook format. This is a period of history that does interest me, so I think I will also watch for this one to arrive at my library. I love your graphics.

    Liked by 1 person

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