Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

Title: The Familiar
Series: n/a
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Source/Format: Purchased; Hardcover
More Details: Fantasy; Historical Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Flatiorn Books; April 9, 2024

Synopsis from Goodreads...
From the New York Times bestselling author of Ninth House, Hell 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.

It’s no secret: I love a good standalone. And one of my most highly anticipated book releases of the year was Leigh Bargugo’s new historical fantasy novel, The Familiar. Set in Madrid during the “Spanish Golden Age,” this was a story of curses, magic, and ambition; part tragedy and part romance. And I loved every second of it.

Luzia Cotado was ambitious and hungry and wanted more than her life as a scullion: the ability to freely express her intelligence, and most of all comforts and ease unlike what her life had been to that point. While Luzia would admit that her position made her a good actress—able to hide her true self behind a façade—she was kind of resentful toward it. The family she worked for, the Ordõnos, didn’t help with her pessimism, particularly (and especially in the beginning of the novel) Doña Valentina’s habit of taking out her discontent—with her married life and with her social prospects—on the people who worked for her. As the first sentence of chapter one states: “If the bread hadn’t burned, this would be a very different story.” But I’m so glad it wasn’t, because without the circumstances, there would’ve been no story. And without (even the tragic aspects later on) there would’ve been no romance and none of the the interpersonal dramas happening alongside the high stakes schemes. And those were among the most notable highlights of The Familiar.

If you can’t tell, I adored the characters.

Luzia could be witty, but she was also in a situation involving political machinations, which left her as a fish-out-of-water, if not right out trapped and (again) subservient. Some of what occurred was due to her ambition, though. She wanted to win to change her life, regardless of the consequences. Her “little miracles” were dangerous to perform; she lived in a time of strong adherence to religion as well as under the threat of attracting the notice of the Inquisition.

Guillén Santángel was brooding, enigmatic, and dangerous. He was the familiar the title referred to and was compelled to do the bidding of an ambitious, cunning, arrogant, and cruel man. He and Luzia were a little alike, in that they desired freedom from their circumstances.

The question was what had to be given up to achieve those aims.

Valentina was the most surprising for me. I didn’t expect to like her character as much as I did. She was an instigator, but she was also sympathetic. She, like Luzia and Santángel, hungered for more. And a pivotal part of her story was discovering if what she always insisted she wanted would still hold true by the end of The Familiar.

The tournament was fairly standard and involved some intrigue, particularly between the competitors and their patrons. There was genuine talent and fraud mixed together, and alliances were murky and never what they first appeared to be. And with the large personalities of the characters, it made it interesting.  

All in all, The Familiar was everything I was hoping it would be, and it’s easily one of my favorite books of 2024 so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are appreciated and always welcome. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...