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Reviews of The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo

The Familiar

A Novel

by Leigh Bardugo

The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo X
The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo
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  • Published:
    Apr 2024, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Book Summary

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo comes a spellbinding novel set in the Spanish Golden Age.

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2024 by The Washington Post, NPR, Goodreads, LitHub, The Nerd Daily, Paste Magazine, Today.com, and so much more!

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 improve the family's social position.

What begins as simple amusement for the 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 lines between magic, science, and fraud are 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 Santángel, an embittered immortal familiar whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both.

Chapter One

If the bread hadn't burned, this would be a very different story.

If the cook's son hadn't come home late the night before, if the cook hadn't known he was hanging around that lady playwright, if she hadn't lain awake fretting for his immortal soul and weeping over the future fates of possible grandchildren, if she hadn't been so tired and distracted, then the bread would not have burned and the calamities that followed might have belonged to some other house than Casa Ordoño, on some other street than Calle de Dos Santos.

If, on that morning, Don Marius had bent to kiss his wife's cheek before he went about the day's business, this would be a happier story. If he had called her my darling, my dove, my beauty, if he had noted the blue lapis in her ears, or the flowers she had placed in the hall, if Don Marius hadn't ignored his wife so that he could ride out to Hernán Saravia's stables to look over horses he could never afford to buy, maybe Doña Valentina ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Familiar.
You can see the full discussion here.


Are there any quotes you found particularly memorable, and if so, what about them rang true for you?
Luiza: "How you must hate him. The words slipped free, and they felt so good Luzia let herself go on. He's stolen any chance for you to know what kind of man you might be without him." One of my favorites ... - lindao

Did the language used by the characters seem appropriate to the time period of the novel?
Glad you did the research! Interesting! While in use, I think it was overused in this case, and would have imagined a more diverse description for sex! Thank you for doing the research on this. - smallino

Do you think each of the characters deserved their fate? Who, in your opinion, deserved better, who deserved worse, and why?
Actually, I think each of the fates of the main characters were exactly as they deserved. Maybe Huitt/The Widow was a little rushed and unfair. However, I would have preferred a slow progression on each's fate, when in fact, their endings... - smallino

Do you think Santángel was a good man? Do you think Luzia loves him because he’s good in some respects, or in spite of it?
Santangel was a good, or at least a decent, man, but one with flaws like other human beings. In his youth he enjoyed learning, debating philosophy and science, but the death of his father left him obsessed with the idea of immorality. He traveled far... - lindao

How much control do you think Luzia has over her circumstances?
From the very beginning, Luizia was a risk taker. She needed to get out of the scullion role. because of her magic and "talent", she had more control over her situations than other scullions who wanted to improve their situations. &#... - Jessica F

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Although she appears to be just an ordinary servant, Luzia can perform simple magic — unburning a loaf of bread, fixing torn clothing, turning six eggs into a dozen. She does her best to keep this talent hidden; it's the age of the Spanish Inquisition, and she fears coming to the institution's attention, well aware that her gift would be viewed with mistrust. Bardugo's prose is lovely throughout, with lush descriptions that bring each scene to life. She brilliantly conjures up a sense of magical wonder while casting it against the menacing shadow of the Inquisition. It's this tension that drives the plot and keeps the pages turning...continued

Full Review Members Only (540 words)

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
The Familiar highlights all of the things that make Bardugo so well loved: a romance with maddening chemistry, an artfully built world, side characters with their own deep backstories, and a plot full of dark twists and spiderweb connections.

BookPage (starred review)
Full of hidden perils and twisting machinations, The Familiar is Bardugo's most assured and mature work yet, a remarkable portrait of the magic of exiles and the traumatic echoes of the Spanish Inquisition.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lush, gorgeous, precise language and propulsive plotting sweep readers into a story as intelligent as it is atmospheric.

Library Journal (starred review)
Bardugo masterfully weaves magical realism with historical fiction and romance, which makes this book impossible to put down.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The sharp realism mixes with a genuine feeling of enchantment to create a top tier historical fantasy.

Author Blurb Deborah Harkness, #1 bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches
A richly imagined, intricate tale... I loved every word of this novel, and it's a must-read for those who are seeking a little magic in their lives.

Author Blurb Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander
Riveting... Leigh Bardugo's characters are so three-dimensional you want to reach through the page.

Author Blurb Katherine Arden, author of The Warm Hands of Ghosts
A wonderful, transporting ride through a moment in history, where you can see the height of Spanish power but also sense the rot underneath. I really enjoyed it, it definitely made me think, and, of course, it's deeply romantic.

Reader Reviews

Gloria M

Captivating Tale
I LOVE reading books! However, I usually first borrow books from the library (occasionally from family/friends) and then if I feel the novel deserves five stars AND I would happily re-read it, I will purchase it for my own collection.  This is ...   Read More
Jill

An Entertaining Read
THE FAMILIAR By Leigh Bardugo Thank you to BookBrowse for the ARC of The Familiar read An entertaining read of speculative fiction, historical fiction and doses of magical fantasy, set in late 16th century Madrid at the height of the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Lucrecia the Dreamer

Elaborate black-and-white illustration of an auto-da-fé in Madrid, showing audience, council and platforms in a public square The fictional heroine of Leigh Bardugo's novel The Familiar interacts with several characters based on people who really did live in Spain during the 16th century. One of these is a young woman based on the figure Lucrecia de León, also known as "Lucrecia the Dreamer." Like the main character Luzia, Lucrecia comes under government suspicion for having certain abilities that are not easily explained, a detail that is consistent with the facts of De León's life.

Spain's ruler, Philip II, moved his court and imperial residence to Madrid in 1561, and by the end of the decade the city had become a hotbed of political intrigue. Conspiracies and rumors ran rampant and talk against the king was common. Many felt the monarchy had ...

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