Saturday 27 April 2024

Book Review: The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo (Fantasy)

The Familiar
Leigh Bardugo
9 April 2024
Bought Copy

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.

Since I love the Grishaverse books and the new Hell Bent series, Leigh Bardugo is an auto-buy author for me. Thus, I went out and picked up The Familiar on release day. The premise of the book sounded intriguing, and overall it was an enjoyable story, but I also found it a tad disappointing. I read the first half of the book in a single night and was thinking at that stage, "It's fine, but is that it?" The next night things started to pick up between Luzia and Santangel, and I thought then, "Ah ha, now it's getting going." However, when I completed the book on the third night, I turned the final page only thinking, "Okay then." It wasn't that the book was bad: I liked the storyline and the characters, and the pacing was generally good. It was just that, for me, it was missing that extra spark from Bardugo's previous works, in particular in the relationship between Luzia and Santangel, which lacked the chemistry I was looking for. Luzia was well fleshed out, but Santangel felt a little under utilised and not so well presented. I am giving this book four stars, as it was still enjoyable on many levels, but it wasn't the five-star read I had been expecting.

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