The Familiars is a moving tale in a time and place where women were value by their ability to give birth.
Fleetwood is 17th century woman who has lost her last few pregnancies. Pregnant again, Fleetwood finds a letter her husband hid from the doctor: she will surely not live through childbirth. Fleetwood fears for her life as well as the life of her unborn babe. In one of her emotional walks through the grounds, she meets Alice Grey a young girl who has delivered many a baby. She hires Alice who immediately gives her herbs to help with her nausea and strength. Things seem like everything will work out well, local cities are putting witches on trial and then to death. When Alice’s name comes up, Fleetwood knows there is no wickedness in the girl. But what can either of them do to change their fates?
The Familiars look at women’s rights which during this period were pretty much nonexistent. Women could be tried as witches and very rarely, if ever survive. Fleetwood was treated with massive disrespect because all the rich people of the time could only think about a male heir. While life isn’t perfect for women today, this was a reminder of how far we have come and reminded me to be grateful that many strides had been made.
I fell in love with the characters as well. Fleetwood was not going to just sit back and let everything happen around her. She took steps to take control of her destiny speaking out and making choices others didn’t approve of. Alice was guarded and it was easy to see why and was in stark contrast to the women who worked at the estate as servants. Alice showed what life was like without privilege. Regardless, she tried to help people whenever she could.
The settings were lush and Stacey Halls paints a beautiful picture of the manor and other locales in the book. I felt very much like I was visiting the time period. I especially loved the forest scenes with the lush greenery and the variety of animals.
Overall, I really enjoyed the familiars and its pacing urged me to keep reading I loved being transported to another time and place even though I was unhappy with the way women were treated.
Publication Date: February 7
I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.