#bookreview The Familiars by Stacey Halls published by Zaffre

Synopsis via Amazon:

In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all . . . 

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. 

Then 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. 

As 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? 

Soon the two women’s lives will become inextricably bound together as 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. 

My reading experience:

Atmospheric, enchanting and beautiful; this delicately woven story of a young woman finding her path with the help of witches in a mans world at the time of witch hunts.

Fleetwood is trying to give her husband Richard an heir. Richard was keeping a letter from the doctor that said his wife could not survive another childbed as a secret but Fleetwood found it and is determined to find a way to live. By a chance encounter she finds herself a midwife. It is not until a friend of her husband mentions a well known witch by her description that Fleetwood realises she has put her trust in a witch. This doesn’t change Fleetwood’s decision to remain bound up with her midwife and it is this story that gives the reader the powerful magic of women working together for a better outcome.

An unusual tale of the power of women in an era where men rule, I highly recommend this beautifully designed book. Book jacket design by Alexandra Allden with jacket illustration by Lucy Rose Cartwright.

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