Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author of Ninth HouseHell Bent, and creator of the Grishaverse series comes a highly anticipated historical fantasy set during the Spanish Golden Age

In a shabby house, on a shabby street, in the new capital of Madrid, Luzia Cotado uses scraps of magic to get through her days of endless toil as a scullion. But when her scheming mistress discovers the lump of a servant cowering in the kitchen is actually hiding a talent for little miracles, she demands Luzia use those gifts to better the family’s social position.

What begins as simple amusement for the bored nobility takes a perilous turn when Luzia garners the notice of Antonio Pérez, the disgraced secretary to Spain’s king. Still reeling from the defeat of his armada, the king is desperate for any advantage in the war against England’s heretic queen—and Pérez will stop at nothing to regain the king’s favor.

Determined to seize this one chance to better her fortunes, Luzia plunges into a world of seers and alchemists, holy men and hucksters, where the line between magic, science, and fraud is never certain. But as her notoriety grows, so does the danger that her Jewish blood will doom her to the Inquisition’s wrath. She will have to use every bit of her wit and will to survive—even if that means enlisting the help of Guillén Santangel, an embittered immortal familiar whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both.

Audiobook Review

“She would build herself a life of plenty. She would force her world to bloom as she’d made the pomegranate tree grow, and Santángel would help her do it. Even if blood watered the soil.”

5 stars

I am very impressed!

I began listening to The Familiar quite reluctantly. Not because I don’t like Leigh’s books but because I prefer reading darker or gothic books in fall/winter rather than summer. And yet it gripped me in its clutches from the very beginning and that’s a hard feat to go against my reading mood!

The familiar is gothic, atmospheric, hypnotic and eye opening.

Gothic and atmospheric because of Santangel, the mysterious familiar who is rather dark and distant, adding a layer of dread and doom to the experience.

Hypnotic because like Luzia, I slowly fell under Santangel’s spell, lured but the promise of becoming special, to raise above my station and better my poor life. I knew this was a very risky endeavor that could doom Luiza and yet I was fascinated by the possibility of more.

“Better to live in fear than in grinding discontent. Better to dare this new path than continue her slow, grim march down the road that had been chosen for her. At least the scenery would be different.”

And eye opening because that sent me back to history lessons I had forgotten about that dark “Golden” age of Spain!

The women’s condition was dire as they were deprived of freedom. They couldn’t leave the house without a husband, a father or a confessor. Not many people knew how to read if they weren’t nobles.

You married for convenience and the Inquisition was the ruling body with the pious king. After chasing the jews, the heretics, the fornicators and the witches what was left of the sinners?

The spotlight is on Jews oppression as Luzia’s parents were Jews. Even converted (forcefully) safety was never guaranteed.

“She might be a conversa or a morisca. Most of the magic that survived in Spain came from Morvedre or Zaragoza or Yepes. But who knew how long any of it would last, lost to exile and the Inquisition, magic bleeding away with the bodies of Jews and Muslims, their poetry silenced, their knowledge buried in the stones of synagogues made into churches, the arches of Mudéjar palaces. The tolerance for mysterious texts like the Picatrix would be stamped out by the Pope, and King Philip would follow.”

Luiza and her strange magic in a mixed language of  Spanish, Arabic,  Hebrew and who knew what else was a fascinating main character! Poor, rather plain and orphaned, working like a lowly scullion, it was not surprising that she soon became obsessed with the idea of winning the magic torneo.  Even if it would probably doom her.

“But let it be my ambition and not my fear that seals my fate.”

It was dark, gripping with an impending sense of doom and I listened to it in a record time thanks to Lauren Fortgang’s narration and Leigh’s beautiful prose.

Thanks for reading.

Sophie

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6 Comments

  1. Great review, Sophie! I definitely loved the vibes in this one as well. I’m not familiar with Spanish history personally, so this was an interesting read for me in that aspect. Unfortunately, I found it way too difficult to connect to the MCs, so I didn’t enjoy this one as much as you did.