cover image The Familiar

The Familiar

Leigh Bardugo. Flatiron, $29.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-88425-1

Two people with magical powers and sketchy pasts plot their escape from the Spanish Inquisition in this poignant romantic fantasy from bestseller Bardugo (Hell Bent). After Luzia Cotado, a housemaid hiding her Jewish heritage, allows her ambitious employer a glimpse of her ability to cast spells using “refranes” (Hebrew-Spanish proverbs), he enters her into a competition for royal miracle workers. Sponsored by Víctor de Paredes, a wealthy social climber, Luzia is trained by his “familiar,” Guillén Santángel, an undying retainer who long ago traded away his luck and freedom for immortality. Despite being initially suspicious of each other, Luzia and Santángel find that among the competition’s fake psychics, dangerous real magicians, and even more deadly patrons, they can only rely on their own powers and their growing mutual attraction. Bardugo puts an earthy spin on heavenly miracles, with much attention given to the mundane drudgery of daily life that is not erased—even with magic that can unburn bread. Luzia’s pursuit of her powers, even at risk of burning at the stake, comes across as both empowering and practical compared to a life of unrewarding toil, making it easy to root for her through the competition. The sharp realism mixes with a genuine feeling of enchantment to create a top tier historical fantasy. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Apr.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled the name of one of the characters.