Historic fiction that does justice to women

Book: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Publisher: Zaffre
Pages: 432; Price: Rs 319

The Familiars by Stacey Halls is a book about love, trust and loyalty in times when life a woman was no more than an object to admire or throw away, whether a noblewoman or a tavern worker. Fleetwood Shuttleworth, a 17-year-old noblewoman with a child, faces possible death when a letter by a doctor tells her it could be her last child birth. As someone who has failed to birth an heir in four years of marriage and two miscarriages, Fleetwood is desperate and Alice Grey is her only hope.

Alice Grey a tavern worker who is working to make ends meet finds herself interviewed in Witch Trials when a town Sheriff wishes to make his way into the King’s hall over the bodies of dead women presented as witches to gain the King’s support.
The Familiars is a Young Adult book set back in 1600 making it a very interesting read that presents different trends than current YA. She faces issues from family expectations, childbirth, mistresses to winning over her house maids. Based on the real events in Pendle Hill Witch Trials, Stacey does make use of actual people that existed while adding her take to it.

The theme of the book talks about how women were treated different, whether rich or poor, and the similarities of their fate. But at the same time Stacey does not let it take over the characters and their story. She manages to maintain the delicate balance of presenting her theme and the story-line beautifully. While you do see Fleetwood being treated wrong, for her it is her honour and right to birth an heir to the lord of Lancaster.

The start even though hints at magical creatures, its absence does not disappoint you at all. Halls builds on to the characters and gives it a satisfying end with a happy ending for Fleetwood Shuttleworth with a loving husband and Alice possibly alive somewhere.

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