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Ratings and Book Reviews (7 47 star ratings
7 reviews
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4.2 out of 5
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    Beautifully written

    The Year 1612, Pendle, Lancashire. Seventeen-Year-Old Fleetwood Shuttleworth has been married for four years and in that time she has been pregnant three times too, losing each child before their birth dates. Fleetwood is once again pregnant and hoping to make it to full term with her child so she can give her husband an heir to carry on the Shuttleworth name. Unfortunately, she comes across a letter from the local physician which was written after she lost her third child which states that if she would be to fall pregnant again it is unlikely that she will survive. Fleetwood is distressed by the letter and wants to confront her husband about it but doesn’t know how. She decides to go a different route and hire a local woman to be her midwife, a woman that knows all about potions and herbs and promises to deliver a healthy baby – Alice Grey. There is talk amongst the local people of witches in the area and her new midwife is soon finding her name bought into the accusations of witchcraft. Fleetwood is sure Alice is innocent and with the trial looming close and if found guilty Alice will be hung, Fleetwood will do anything to save her new friend, even going against her husband for the young woman. The Familiars is a historical novel set in the era when people who were a little different were accused of being witches and killed, not only in the UK but across the world too. One of the most famous and best-recorded witch trials in the UK was in Pendle, Lancashire, now dubbed the home of the ‘Pendle Witches’, where twelve people went on trial and ten found guilty. Ms. Halls has weaved her superior tale around the events from 1612 and brought into her fictional novel some famous names from the trials, including Alizon Device and Alice Grey. The Shuttleworth family are also a well-known real family from the area too. Fleetwood although only seventeen has been through some hard times. Not only is it illegal to get married at the age she did these days, but you just couldn’t comprehend a young girl of seventeen having been married for four years and not only being pregnant four times but losing three of her children before birth too. I found her character although a little weak minded at times, yet she was intriguing and I enjoyed watching her evolve as the plot progressed. Whilst the book is set during the Pendle Witch trials, for my liking, there wasn’t enough about them in the book, mainly because I love a good book featuring witches and this is what made me choose to read the story in the first place. What information there is, is historically accurate and you can tell that the author has a keen interest in the past and has done lots of research. Overall the book left me satisfied and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It left me feeling enthralled with parts and spellbound by others. The pace felt a little slow to at times but in my personal opinion slowness works in historical fiction as it allows you to really grasp the past and understand it. The pace does pick up as you near the end. This is a book that I feel is going to be a bit like Marmite in that if you have an interest in historical fiction or indeed the witch trials or Pendle, you will love it. If you have no interest in these subject then I can’t see it being of interest to you.
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    Mediocre

    Disappointing read after the hype. Entertaining to a point but no depth or beautiful writing. Rather simplistic & forgettable
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    The Familiars Thought Provoking & Well Researched

    I did enjoy this historical story which was based on the plight of the Pendal witches. This story is moving and highlights the power and corruption that put women down and kept them in their place. I did find the middle of the story a bit slow moving but overall I did enjoy this very informative story.
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    excellent

    good read. Ended without intrigue. Would have liked a second book about fleetwood and alice
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    Something Wicked

    Despite the length of this book I read it in one day and, more or less, one sitting. Maybe it helps that Gawthorpe Hall (where the majority of the book is set) is about 6 miles from my home so I was brought up on the legends of Pendle. Somehow I think that is far less important than how immersive the setting is and how real the characters are. Set in the 1620s when Gloriana has handed her throne to the Scottish King who has brought his twin paranoias of witchcraft and popery to England, any woman is not safe. For centuries wise woman have practised using herbs and plants to treat all manner of ailments suddenly they are at risk of being branded a witch, especially if they have a "falling out" with a neighbour. Couple this with the prevailing ideals of womanhood at the time it is a precarious time to be a strong, free spirited woman and, despite only being 17, this is definitely what Fleetwood Shuttleworth is. When she is pregnant for the fourth time and in fear of both her life and the child's she turns to a local midwife to help her and finds her self subsumed in to the witch trials. Told entirely from Fleetwood's perspective it portrays the events surrounding the arrest and trial of the Nutter and Devizes families with no holds barred. Being a pragmatic woman Fleetwood is convinced that the hysteria is nothing more than the ambition of an ageing man who wants to gain favour with the king and when her midwife is arrested on charges of associating with these families and being a witch herself she steps from the shadows of the solar to try and disprove the charges. The book gives you not only an insight in to the legal processes of the time but also the daily lives of a young, wealthy family in a post-Elizabethan England. From Fleetwood and Richard's interests in the Playhouses to the way in which the household operates. It covers the importance of appearances but also how machiavellian even the simple act of greeting a fellow land owner on a hunt can be. The level of research by the author is clear and not only are Fleetwood's surroundings brought to life but you get a real sense of the times and the huge gulf between the haves and the have-nots. There are also recognisably modern themes of manipulation and misunderstanding - never more clearly than those shown between Fleetwood and her own mother. Even if Historical Fiction is not usually a genre you enjoy this book really does transcend the genre. So fresh and alive are the people you can almost see them in the shadows living out their tale. THIS IS AN HONEST REVIEW OF A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK RECEIVED VIA READERS FIRST.
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