ARC REVIEW: The Familiars – by Stacey Halls

Title: The Familiars
Author: Stacey Halls
Genre: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
First published: February 19th 2019
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: January 26th 2019 
Pages: 352

“Rumour could spread faster than disease, and could be just as destructive.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and MIRA in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction story and combine that with a gorgeous cover and I’m sold easily. There was just something about The Familiars that caught my eye immediately and I have been looking forward to finally reading it. While this story started out promising enough with a 1612 setting close to the famous witch trials, somehow my initial excitement for this story soon petered out and sadly I have to admit it failed to blow me away. The Familiars is a slow paced and character driven story where the main focus is on Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her household. Neither the witch trails, witches nor the familiars the story is named after play a big role in this story and are mostly pushed into the background as we have to read all about shallow and quite annoying Fleetwood and the things that happen to her. I was quite disappointed by this lack of focus on the supernatural; not what I was expecting with this title. As for Fleetwood: I know women in the 17th century are treated in a different way and have to be meek, humble and obey their husbands or men in general, but having such a bland main character in a very much character driven story makes it hard to stay invested. I’m not sure all actions were all that credible and the whole love triangle situation deeply annoyed me. The Familiars focuses mostly on both the relationship between Fleetwood and her husband, her widwife Alice and the fact that her unborn child might just be the death of her. The paranormal aspect could have been used to spice up this story, but instead was not developed to its potential and fell flat for me. It’s not a bad read though and fans of romantic historical fiction will probably have a better time than me.

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Young Fleetwood Shuttleworth is pregnant again after suffering three miscarriages. Her husband Richard is desperate for an heir, but so desperate he hides a terrible secret from her? Fleetwood discovers a doctor’s letter with the prediction she will not survive another birth. Not sure how to handle this situation, she finds herself relieved to meet Alice, who promises her she will help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby. Then Alice is accused of witchcraft and sent to prision, and all hope crumbles… Fleetwood will have to find a way to save Alice in order to save herself.

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What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.


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WWW Wednesdays #207 – January 30th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’ve been neglecting those poor physical copies on my shelves, so I decided to pick up noir classic The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler on a whim. I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t heard of the author before, but so far my first experience with his work has been interesting. I’m also reading one of my 2019 most anticipated releases Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus. So far I’m flying through it!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Psychology Of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (4/5 stars) REVIEW 07/02
This story is part sci-fi, part psychology, part murder mystery, part family drama and part romantic fiction. There are a lot of different elements involved in The Psychology Of Time Travel, and somehow they all manage to work together and create a very fascinating debut. The complex plot will have you on your toes as you try to fit everything together, but only in the most positive way. It was interesting to see the different characters evolve over time and the psychology behind time travel is simply intriguing. I loved the details of the time traveler’s slang as well! This book definitely left a mark and will stay with me for quite some time.

2. Exquisite by Sarah Stovell (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 09/02
Exquisite is an excellent psychological thriller that will give you all the feels and will most definitely manage to shock you before you reach the final page. Simply exquisite and absolutely worth the read if you enjoy the genre! I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to finally read it.

3. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon (4/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
It might have to do with the fact I was in the mood for a feel-good story, but I enjoyed my time with this story so much better than I thought I would. This story is cute, fluffy, quirky, geeky and has unique characters and that #ownvoices element that seems to be so popular right now. Yay for etnic diversity and interesting characters that represent a different culture in a realistic way! The characters are what made this story into a success for me and I loved reading about Dimple and Rishi’s story. The coding, the comic art, the geeky elements in general… This was just quirky heaven for me.

4. The Familiars by Stacey Halls (3/5 stars) REVIEW 05/02
What seems to be a historical paranormal fiction story about witches, turns out to be a mostly historical and romantic family drama with only a hint of the supernatural. This lack of a role of the witches, familiars and the witch trials was rather a disappointment for me and not something I expected when I picked up my copy of The Familiars. The fact that Fleetwood was rather dull and lacked a proper personality didn’t really help either, as the story evolved around her and it was hard to keep myself invested in a story when I couldn’t care about the main characters. Having cheating and a love triangle involved didn’t really help either… But if you enjoy character driven and more romantic and family focused historical fiction stories, you will probably end up enjoying it better than I did.

5. How To Experience Death For Beginners by Jessica Branton (2/5 stars) REVIEW 08/02
I can’t deny that the idea behind this story is fascinating and shows a lot of promise, but I don’t think the execution lived up to expectations. The paranormal element of How To Experience Death For Beginners, by far the most interesting aspect of this story, lacked development for me as instead we get an uncomfortable mix of different and sometimes cliche elements that fail to combine into a coherent plot. The lack of credibility, the main characters, the way difficult topics were handled… Sadly this story just didn’t work for me.

6. The Shattering by Karen Healey (3/5 stars) REVIEW 11/02
Even though The Shattering didn’t turn out to be a big hit for me, I’m still glad I finally picked it up. This probably has a lot to do with the setting, since I hardly ever seem to read books set in New Zealand. It also doubles as a negative though, because I would have loved to see more local culture and descriptions included. As it is, The Shattering feels more like a melting pot filled to the brim with different story elements and bits and pieces, making each feel superficial and underdeveloped. The story itself has a lot of potential, with the paranormal aspect, the secrets of Summerton and three different POVs to follow. But with so many different elements distracting you, the story didn’t come out as strong as I thought it would be.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m definitely picking up What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon next as she is one of my favorite authors and I’m dying to read her newest story. I’m also planning on making good to my promise to read more Agatha Christie and pick up the second Hercule Poirot book The Murder On The Links. And to further reduce my ARC pile, I’m also picking up An American Marriage by Tayari Jones soon (I’m not sure which cover I prefer…) And I have a new TBR jar pick: Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson.


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