It’s been some time since I shared a reading recommendation, but it’s not for lack of material. This spring I made a conscious effort to start reading more fiction— it’s not that I don’t love learning, but for my mental health, I needed a break from non-fiction, at least for a while. (And gosh, what a pleasure it has been! Literary escapism is not overrated.) Around the same time, I started the Little Free Library at Chateau, which has been an absolute delight to manage. I have shared my monthly reads through my LFL’s social media, but unsurprisingly, I’ve been reading a fair number of “witchy” novels, and some deserve a little more recognition. Plus, I imagine some folks in my hedge witch community may enjoy them as well!

So without further ado, I’m happy to share my newest #spellbooksaturday feature…

The Familiars by Stacey Halls
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

In 1612 Lancaster, England, the hunt for witches has reached a fever pitch… But in a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman may be the greatest risk of all. Fleetwood Shuttleworth, the mistress of Pendle Hill’s Gawthorpe Hall, is with child. Anxious to produce an heir, she is distraught to find a letter from her physician that warns her husband she will not survive this pregnancy. Devastated, Fleetwood wanders the estate grounds, where she catches a young woman poaching. Alice Gray claims she is a local midwife and promises to help Fleetwood deliver a healthy baby. But a witch-obsessed frenzy sweeps the countryside. Even woodland creatures or “familiars” are thought to be dark companions of the unholy. And Alice soon stands accused of witchcraft. Time is running out. The witch trials are about to begin. With both their lives at stake, Fleetwood must prove Alice’s innocence. Only they know the truth. Set against the real Pendle witch trials, this compelling novel draws its characters from historical figures as it explores the lives of seventeenth-century women. Ultimately it raises the question: Was witch hunting really just women hunting?


Halls’s writing style is perfectly adequate, and while well-researched, I was never really captured by the story. The character of Fleetwood felt a little flat to me, and I would have much preferred a narrative centered around Alice’s experience. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to all fans of historical fiction and witchy tales!



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