The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

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

Leigh Bardugo’s “The Familiar” is an enchanting historical fantasy set during the Spanish Golden Age, a period marked by cultural flourishing and political intrigue. The novel follows Luzia Cotado, a scullery maid in Madrid with latent magical abilities. Her life changes unexpectedly when her mistress discovers her magical powers and thrust her into the public eye and a hazardous contest to find a holy magic user for the king.

Bardugo’s narrative is rich with elements of fairy tales, political thrillers, and romance, all set against the ominous backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. The story is saturated with dark secrets, psychics, and fraudsters, creating an atmosphere that is both lyrical and foreboding. The intersection of magic and science within the novel reflects the era’s broader conflict between tradition and progress.

“You think you know hardship, but men have a gift for finding new ways to make women suffer.”

The heart of the story lies in Luzia’s bond with Guillén Santangel, an embittered immortal familiar bound to the de Paredes family. Their relationship evolves from curiosity to a deep, heart-aching romance, fraught with obstacles due to Santangel’s immortality and Luzia’s vulnerable position. The novel’s tragic elements add depth and emotional resonance to their journey.

“His belief in her was wine on an empty stomach and it left her light-headed.”

Bardugo’s writing is meticulous and atmospheric, drawing readers into a world where every detail feels authentic. While the story may start slowly, it gradually builds tension and delivers surprises that kept me engaged.  I found the ending is satisfying and well-executed, providing closure without sacrificing the narrative’s complexity.

“Language creates possibility. Sometimes by being used. Sometimes by being kept secret.”

“The Familiar” stands out as a testament to Bardugo’s versatility as an author. It differs from her Grishaverse series (which I haven’t read yet) but showcases her ability to craft compelling stories across genres. Fans of historical fantasy will find “The Familiar” to be a lush blend of history, magic, and romance that is both immersive and thought-provoking.

“Maybe there really was a demon inside her. One that craved feather beds and fine food and applause.”

Leigh Bardugo has created a world that is as enchanting as it is dangerous. “The Familiar” is a must-read for anyone who appreciates well-researched historical settings, intricate plots, and emotionally charged relationships.

“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.”

Thank you to Exclusive Books for this gifted copy. “The Familiar” is published locally (South Africa) by Penguin Random House SA. 

About this book: The Familiar – Exclusive Books Online

About the author: Leigh Bardugo – #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

@roelia_reads #CurrentlyReading The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo One of my most anticipated books of the year! ✨ It also features on @Exclusive Books #EBRecommends list! ❤️ Is this book on your reading list? What are you currently reading? #RoeliaReads #TheFamiliar #LeighBardugo #leighbardugobooks ♬ Black Magic – Foreign Talks

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