"The new Hilary Mantel!"Cosmopolitan
"An intricate and sensitive portrayal of a brave, tenacious young girl carving her place in the world. A must-read novel."-Heather Morris, bestselling author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
"Assured and alluring, this beautiful tale of women, witchcraft and the fight against power is a delight."-Jessie Burton, NYT bestselling author of The Miniaturist
"A rich and atmospheric reimagining of a historical period rife with religious tensions, superstitions, misogyny and fear....Now with so many high profile men claiming to be victims of a witch hunt, it's good to understand what a real one feels like." New York Times Book Review
"Rich with intrigue and filled with details of the constraints faced by seventeenth-century women, both well born and common, The Familiars offers a look into the real-life world of the notorious Pendle witch trials that ended with 11 executions."-Booklist
"The lives of two young women intersect in a novel that imagines the story behind a famous 17th-century witch trial ... [when] acting in socially inappropriate ways could get one condemned to hanging."-Kirkus Reviews
"Spellbinding...it will suck you right into the prose and hold you there, like a witch with a powerful charm." All About Romance
"Set against the furor leading up to the Pendle Witch Trials, Halls's winning novel is a quietly powerful and richly evocative tale." Publishers Weekly
Halls’s enthralling debut opens in 1612, when lonely Fleetwood Shuttleworth, mistress of Gawthorpe Hall in England, is only 17 and pregnant for the fourth time, and, because of a letter her husband received from a physician, she has good reason to believe that she and her baby will not survive. Her failure to give her husband Richard an heir weighs on her, and with him frequently away, she relies on her loyal French mastiff Puck for companionship. Then she meets quiet, strange midwife Alice Gray, who ensures Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy, living child. Soon, Alice is arrested for murder and swept up in a vicious witch hunt. Devastated by Alice’s imprisonment and reeling from the discovery that Richard is keeping a pregnant mistress in her supposedly abandoned childhood home, Fleetwood sets out to save the life of the only woman who can save hers—and the only true friend she’s ever had. Fleetwood, who narrates, paints a portrait of her life and friendship with Alice that is often imbued with a sense of the otherworldly, depicting a pivotal bond they forged in a time when women had little agency over their lives, their bodies, or their fates. Set against the furor leading up to the Pendle witch trials, Halls’s winning novel is a quietly powerful and richly evocative tale. (Feb.)
DEBUT Halls's first novel is set against the backdrop of the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials and features 17-year-old noblewoman Fleetwood Shuttleworth, who is happily married and mistress of one of the greatest mansions in Lancashire. The only thing she lacks is an heir. After three miscarriages, Fleetwood is pregnant for the fourth time when she discovers a letter from a doctor to her husband, warning that she will not survive another pregnancy. Taking her health into her own hands, Fleetwood engages local midwife Alice Gray to help her deliver a healthy baby. But when Alice is implicated in the witch hunt sweeping the county and arrested, Fleetwood must find a way to save her friend, and by extension her own life, even if it means going against her husband and the town magistrates. VERDICT A relatable first-person narrator helps make the history of this thoroughly researched novel feel more approachable. A solid addition to all fiction collections, with teen appeal. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/18.]—Lindsay Morton, P.L. of Science, San Francisco
The lives of two young women intersect in a novel that imagines the story behind a famous 17th-century witch trial in northern England.
The narrator of journalist Halls' dramatic first novel is 17-year-old Fleetwood Shuttleworth, married at 13 to Richard Shuttleworth, lord of Gawthorpe Hall. She's pregnant for the fourth time, though each of her earlier pregnancies has resulted in a miscarriage. Desperate to produce an heir so she won't be cast aside for a more fertile wife or mistress, and even more frantic to survive the childbirth she suspects may cause her death, she seeks out the help of local midwife Alice Gray. The two have become friends, and Fleetwood's pregnancy is proceeding smoothly, when Alice is accused, along with a dozen of her friends and neighbors, of witchcraft and jailed in a dungeon by a local magistrate. Fleetwood, traveling around the countryside accompanied only by her mastiff, Puck—to her husband's chagrin—must try to find a way to free Alice before she is condemned to death. The characters, places, and some of the major events in Halls' well-researched novel are historically accurate, though the author adds some fictional embroidery: There's no evidence that Fleetwood and Alice met, let alone formed an alliance. For better or worse, this is essentially the story of aristocratic Fleetwood rather than commoner Alice, who remains a shadowy figure. Fleetwood is a plucky and determined, if not particularly complex, character. Halls, whose plot sometimes relies too heavily on information concealed for the sake of narrative convenience, adds a few hints of magic to the plot, though she resists using it to get her characters out of trouble. Her main strength lies in her depiction of the difficulties of life for women in this time and place, where pregnancy and childbirth posed a real threat to life and acting in socially inappropriate ways could get one condemned to hanging.
A solid if not entirely credible historical novel.