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.
When 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.
When 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?
As the two women’s lives become inextricably bound together, 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.
Last year I read The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown and was completely captivated by the story so when I heard about The Familiars which centres on a young woman accused of witchcraft. The story follows Fleetwood Shuttleworth a young gentlewoman who after miscarrying three children, finds a letter which suggests if she has another child she will not survive. Horrified by this she desperately seeks a midwife who can help her deliver the child that is already growing. When she stumbles upon Alice Gray a local woman with the skills she needs, the two women are caught up in the accusations of witchcraft that are spreading across Lancaster. Only Alice is capable of delivering the baby but will Fleetwood be able to save her from a guilty verdict?
This book is by no means a short book and I read it in a single day. I was completely caught up in the story of Fleetwood and Alice. The story is beautifully told with lush descriptions of the manor houses and wide open countryside that the women traverse. The plot is gripping with plenty of tension as women across the country continue to be accused of witchcraft. The story is very atmospheric, especially the scenes with more supernatural elements. I loved everything about this story from the gorgeous writing style to the magnificent setting.
The story touches on a lot of important subjects from grief, family, marriage and the witch trials but the thing that struck me most about this book is the theme of friendship. Alice and Fleetwood are nothing alike, have lived completely different lives but as the story grows so does their friendship and I particularly loved seeing that blossom as they fought to save each other.
The Familiars is in every way a spellbinding book and while it has a stunning cover the story it contains is just as brilliant. Fans of historical fiction should definitely be adding this to their wish list – The Familiars is definitely not to be missed.