Shelf Control #267: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Published: 2019
Length: 344 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a noblewoman, is with child again. None of her previous pregnancies have borne fruit, and her husband, Richard, is anxious for an heir. Then Fleetwood discovers a hidden doctor’s letter that carries a dire prediction: she will not survive another birth. By chance she meets a midwife named Alice Grey, who promises to help her deliver a healthy baby. But Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft.

Is there more to Alice than meets the eye? Fleetwood must risk everything to prove her innocence. As the two women’s lives become intertwined, the Witch Trials of 1612 loom. Time is running out; both their lives are at stake. Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

Rich and compelling, set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, this novel explores the rights of 17th-century women and raises the question: Was witch-hunting really women-hunting? Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside (even woodland creatures, or “familiars,” were suspected of dark magic) by capturing “witches”—in reality mostly poor and illiterate women. 

How and when I got it:

I bought the e-book sometime in late 2019.

Why I want to read it:

They had me at “witch trials”! I just read another book about accusations of witchcraft in the 1600s (although set in Boston in the Colonies, not in England), and the topic is just so fascinating. I love that this one is focused on real people from the period, and that it delves into the issue of witch-hunting being a facade for systemic misogyny.

I picked up a copy of The Familiars after seeing a few glowing reviews from book bloggers whose tastes tend to be in sync with my own. I’m glad I “rediscovered” this book on my dusty old virtual bookshelf — bumping it up to must-read status!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


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