Blurb (as on 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.
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is in need of a midwife, and after 2 miscarriages, she needs someone who can pull a rabbit out an ordinary hat. When she meets Alice- a young girl in the middle of the woods collecting two dead rabbits, she is repulsed by her intrusion. But later, Alice is the only midwife Fleetwood wants.
Alice is mysterious, and we don’t get to hear her story until the latter part of the story. When Alice is arrested for witchcraft and murder, Fleetwood is the only one who believes that she is innocent. But Fleetwood had her own pains and betrayals, and a cruel world which wouldn’t let achieve the kind of justice she wants for Alice.
‘The Familiars’ stands for something called ‘familiar spirits’ who are sort of a constant companion, visible only to one particular person. Fleetwood needs that kind of a companion- a comfort without responsibilities.
The year this story is set in is 1612, where the King is on a witch hunt, literally. and Gawthrope and Lancaster seem to be the hub of it. There are gossips, accusations, and arrests, but Fleetwood is looking for a tiny shred of normalcy.
Fleetwood is strong and outspoken, and she puts up a strong fight for Alice. The other characters are mysterious, full of secret propaganda, and oblivious to the huge injustice happening to certain sections of the society.
The mystery is chilling and indulging, but falls flat toward the end (you might like it if you like happy endings :P) A few threads were left loose and I found myself looking for answers.
‘The Familiars’ is mostly deceit, betrayal and murder mystery, but it lacks a certain feeling that is commonly associated with bone-chilling revelations. A bit disappointing and a bit entertaining.