The Familiars - Historical Fiction Set At The Time Of The Pendle Witch Trials

The Familiars

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn’t supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.

Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. 

As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood’s stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.

Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Duffy’s Thoughts On The Familiars

Firstly, The Familiars book cover is stunning. I’ve not seen one that compares so far this year. The artwork and rose gold foil instantly drew me in along with the subject matter. The Pendle Witch Trials.

Fleetwood Shuttleworth as the young, naive, somewhat weak and sickly main character was a hard one for me to care about. She became quite draining to listen to at times and I found myself skimming paragraphs full of her thoughts to get to the conversations with other characters. I’ve read lots of historaical fiction about women who were living in a man’s world, but still had inner strength and resolve and it was disappointing to me to read Fleetwoods thoughts on her own ugliness and self esteem in a ‘no wonder he went and slept with someone, im not pretty.’

I also have a keen interest in the witch trials and the outrageous persecution of women at the time so was keen to read Stacey’s take on the Devizes women, particularly as her bio describes her as fascinated by the Pendle witches. However, I was left hanging with little information or a point of view on these women and in place, the focus was squarely on Fleetwood who was not the strongest character. The witches were kept shrouded in suspicion, fear and secrecy as they had been back in the 1600s and this left me feeling letdown. There were also a couple of sentences that didn’t fit the language of the time and jarred my reading flow which some more careful editing may have picked up.

Maybe I just expected too much of The Familiars. I was so excited to read it. I had just come off the back of reading a gripping psychological thriller and maybe this was just too big a switch of pace for me, but there was something lacking in The Familiars which left me feeling a little flat by the time I finished without any big twist, enough detail on the witches of Pendle, or conclusion to satisfy this bookworm

The Familiars. Historical fiction set int he time of the Pendle witch trials
The Familiars is out now RRP $29.99 by Allen & Unwin