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A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia. As a conductor on the A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other. In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads.


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A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia. As a conductor on the A compelling debut by a new voice in fantasy fiction, The Conductors features the magic and mystery of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files written with the sensibility and historical setting of Octavia Butler’s Kindred: Introducing Hetty Rhodes, a magic-user and former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now solves crimes in post–Civil War Philadelphia. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other. In this vibrant and original novel, Nicole Glover joins a roster of contemporary writers within fantasy, such as Victor LaValle and Zen Cho, who use speculative fiction to delve into important historical and cultural threads.

30 review for The Conductors

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    3.5 stars "Who are you people?" Elle stammered. "You summon birds, walk into gunfire with little pause, and make people vanish into the air." Hetty held out a hand to the girl, much as she'd done many times before, and said, "Someone here to help." The Conductors is a debut novel from Nicole Glover full of substance and emotion, and I am in awe of her creative prowess. Combining the history of the Underground Railroad with a magic system is both unique and inventive, especially due to the fact tha 3.5 stars "Who are you people?" Elle stammered. "You summon birds, walk into gunfire with little pause, and make people vanish into the air." Hetty held out a hand to the girl, much as she'd done many times before, and said, "Someone here to help." The Conductors is a debut novel from Nicole Glover full of substance and emotion, and I am in awe of her creative prowess. Combining the history of the Underground Railroad with a magic system is both unique and inventive, especially due to the fact that there are two types of magic at hand, sorcery and celestial. Married couple Hetty and Benjy are the main characters in the story, investigators or "conductors" solving disappearances and murders that the police won't seem to take an interest in. We also meet a full cast of vibrant characters that support Hetty and Benjy in their business, and I adored and felt as close to the supporting cast as I did with our leads. The beginning of the book takes place after the Emancipation Proclamation has been issued, but there are many flashbacks giving us insight into what Hetty and Benjy were doing before they began their business as magical investigators. Part of the book is the investigation into the present day murder, and part of it gives us glimpses into where the characters came from and how Hetty came to be separated and searching for her sister. I love how the author set this up for a series, and I'm eager to continue on with these characters throughout all their various ordeals. I did struggle a bit with the pacing; I love a good slow burning novel, but the story felt like it stalled a bit in the middle. Also, I did feel that the magic system was a bit confusing and not fully developed, as there was never really any explanation into exactly how celestial magic works. Aside from those two issues, I was engrossed in the story and feel like Glover's strong suit is definitely in creating lifelike and memorable characters. I'm so grateful she chose to write this book, and I cannot wait to read The Undertakers when it is released. *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    1858. Boykin Farm, South Carolina. Hetty (soon to be Hetty Rhodes) was the best seamstress in the county. Her Mistress gained favor by lending her out to neighbors. Hetty was forced to wear a collar around her neck, a sign that she could perform magic. "The night she broke and removed her collar, she escaped with Esther [her sister] using a map and song she had memorized...Going North...We follow the stars...their luck ran out...Esther was caught. Benjy was never supposed to board the transport 1858. Boykin Farm, South Carolina. Hetty (soon to be Hetty Rhodes) was the best seamstress in the county. Her Mistress gained favor by lending her out to neighbors. Hetty was forced to wear a collar around her neck, a sign that she could perform magic. "The night she broke and removed her collar, she escaped with Esther [her sister] using a map and song she had memorized...Going North...We follow the stars...their luck ran out...Esther was caught. Benjy was never supposed to board the transport to safety. Benjy didn't even know Hetty's name when they set off. Hetty and Benjy Rhodes, a marriage of convenience, Conductors of the Underground Railroad, living in Philadelphia's Seventh Ward, in the aftermath of the Civil War. Hetty, relying on herself, sending letters, telegrams, and posting newspaper advertisements trying to locate her sister Esther, missing in the chaotic South. After the Civil War, Hetty and Benjy Rhodes started to solve mysteries and murders in their community, crimes ignored by the police. They were soon to place their lives at risk to solve the murder of a friend. Do you really know your friends and neighbors? What secrets, lies or smoke screens might they erect? XIII Amendment of 1866 "All persons...slaves and free persons of color...have the right to perform acts of magic...permitted as long as they are performed within the constraints defined by local authorities...unlawful to possess or use a wand...persons so offending shall face imprisonment no less than one day or more than ten days..." -Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania "Sorcery was for white folks. Laws prevented anyone who wasn't white from learning...A wand in hand, a whisper of an incantation, or even a glance at a spellbook meant losing everything you held dear". Hetty's magic was "a mixture of lore brought over from Africa, from the West Indies, and even from the native peoples of this land. Mingled together, it created a magic system...that found ways to brew magic with herbs, to enchant candles for protection, to use song to rejuvenate...to develop sigils from the constellations...Sigils were even stronger once grounded on a surface...It kept the magic alive longer to be used at a later time...Hetty sewed sigils into the band at her neck...[keeping] a reserve of magic at her fingertips...at her touch, sigils unbounded themselves from the fabric". On the night of a dinner party, Charlie Richardson sought Hetty out, concerning trouble he felt unable to handle by himself. Hetty, not in a hurry to field his request, was slow in delivering the message to Benjy. A late night knock at the door revealed a frantic man telling the duo that a drunk had been found in a nearby alley. Oh no, it was Charlie! Someone had killed Charlie Richardson with great deliberation, his well cut clothes removed and hobo like, torn clothing was substituted. What did the murderer want? Did Charlie have gambling debts? There will be many suspects, among them close friends. Hetty and Benjy are determined to try to solve the crime. "The Conductors" is an ambitious undertaking by debut author Nicole Glover. Genre blending of history, mystery, fantasy and magic seemed to be a most difficult task, especially for a first novel. It was frustrating to this reader to try to understand how celestial magic worked. Hetty and Benjy, as protagonists, didn't appear very sharp, missing clues and proceeding at a sleepy pace. The secondary characters needed to be more fully developed. "The Conductors" was an average read. I would be interested in exploring what author Glover has planned for a future novel. Thank you John Joseph Adams/ Mariner Books and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Emetis

    DNF at 30% A big thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an uncorrected proof of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book. I can’t say I hated it because there might be a slight hope for this book. I just hope that it gets polished a bit before the release date. Reasons why I didn’t like this book: The magic system. When you start reading it, it becomes clear that only POC can access magic and because of that they were punished and e DNF at 30% A big thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me with an uncorrected proof of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book. I can’t say I hated it because there might be a slight hope for this book. I just hope that it gets polished a bit before the release date. Reasons why I didn’t like this book: The magic system. When you start reading it, it becomes clear that only POC can access magic and because of that they were punished and enslaved. They use constellations, and each constellation has a different use. Besides that you get nothing. And through reading reviews did I discover that they draw constellations in order to use magic; it wasn’t clearly explained in the book. I tried so hard to like it and told myself constantly that if I only get through 100 pages then getting through the rest would be easy. However, I couldn’t even get through 100 pages. I didn’t understand what was going on most of the time and my brain got fuzzy when I was reading this book. I couldn’t concentrate on the story and I wanted to start another book because this one wasn’t able to hold my attention for more than five minutes. The timeline certainly didn’t help either. It jumped through decades and it didn’t continue from where it had left of. The characters were bland and one dimensional. I think the author wanted to make this book more exciting for the reader and therefore decided to forgo a character development. Yet in my opinion the book wasn’t even exciting; yes there is a murder mystery but it was done very poorly. I understand that it is her debut novel and I think if she were to write another book, I would read it because I think her story did have some potential. But unfortunately for this book, it’s a big no from me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This novel has an interesting fantasy element in the story of two ex-slaves who act as conductors for the Underground Railway in the 1860s, helping other slaves escape to the North. They are able to use a system of magic to help them evade those hunting for them. Following the abolition of slavery in the US in 1865, conductors Hetty and Benjy are now living and working in Philadelphia. Hetty as a seamstress and Benjy as a blacksmith. They also help those who escaped slavery look for their relativ This novel has an interesting fantasy element in the story of two ex-slaves who act as conductors for the Underground Railway in the 1860s, helping other slaves escape to the North. They are able to use a system of magic to help them evade those hunting for them. Following the abolition of slavery in the US in 1865, conductors Hetty and Benjy are now living and working in Philadelphia. Hetty as a seamstress and Benjy as a blacksmith. They also help those who escaped slavery look for their relatives left behind in the south and now freed. When one of their friends, Charlie Richardson, is found murdered and mutilated in an alley they also become involved in hunting down his killer. I wanted to like this novel more than I did. It has a great premise for a fantasy novel with a historical setting but unfortunately the world building and system of magic was poorly developed. We’re told that some white Americans are able to use sorcery but that black Americans are banned from using wands and learning sorcery. Black Americans are allowed to use a system of magic called celestial magic where they call up star signs to perform different acts. Although we see this in action many times, it’s never explained how this works and it’s also not clear if white Americans can learn this system of magic if they want to. Hetty is also able to sew charms and wards into clothing to use as magic or protection. I would have loved to learn more about celestial magic such as what the various sigils could do and I wanted to learn more about how white people used sorcery and also what Philadelphia looked like in this magical world. While Hetty is the main character in the novel and we do get a sense of her nature, I felt the other characters could have been given more substance. Despite being her partner, Benjy is very shadowy and just seems to be there to help her when he could have been much more interesting. Likewise, Hetty’s friends are depicted rather vaguely and I had trouble distinguishing them as individuals. I also found that the two time lines didn’t work as the flashbacks didn’t give any extra context to the ongoing story and might have been better delivered in a linear format rather than as annoyingly interruptions to the main narrative. This is the author’s debut novel and shows a lot of promise. I can see a sequel working well with a more in-depth exploration of the systems of magic and deeper character development. With thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for a copy of the book to read

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thistle & Verse

    With a witty and opinionated protagonist, creative magical system, and historical references, there's a lot to love about The Conductors. Full review here: https://youtu.be/27MxdQFSfEc With a witty and opinionated protagonist, creative magical system, and historical references, there's a lot to love about The Conductors. Full review here: https://youtu.be/27MxdQFSfEc

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘

    CW - (view spoiler)[Slavery, period-related racism (including racist slurs), violence, torture, death of a loved one, mention of miscarriage, discrimination and bigotry (hide spoiler)] Have you ever read a more fantastic premise than this : the year is 1871. Hetty and her husband, magic users and former conductors on the Underground Railroad, are swept into a gruesome murder investigation that will force them to question the friendships they nurtured since the end of slavery. I dare you not to ac CW - (view spoiler)[Slavery, period-related racism (including racist slurs), violence, torture, death of a loved one, mention of miscarriage, discrimination and bigotry (hide spoiler)] Have you ever read a more fantastic premise than this : the year is 1871. Hetty and her husband, magic users and former conductors on the Underground Railroad, are swept into a gruesome murder investigation that will force them to question the friendships they nurtured since the end of slavery. I dare you not to ache to learn more - as for me, I couldn't look away. Indeed I've always had a soft spot for Historical Fantasy novels, and the ones centering Black people are sadly so rare. I, for one, am very happy to see it's changing, but let's face it - it's slow, way too slow still. Please, publishers, enough with the white-centered dull stories we've already read a thousand times! In this post-Civil War America, magic is a fact of life : while white people rely on wands to practice sorcery, Black people wield constellations to develop powerful sigils. Although it took me a while to get a grip on the mechanics of the magic system, once I did I absolutely loved how imaginative it was. I do wish that it had been more developed, and I hope it will be in the sequel. Seriously though - I can't help but think that it would make for a fantastic tv show: I can already see how gorgeous the constellations would be. But despite this fascinating addition, The Conductors' world is very much like our own : full of racial discriminations and bigotry, and our main characters are forced to navigate between racist micro-agressions and full-on violence. I won't lie, I struggled at the beginning: the pacing was slow, and it took me a while to get invested, around 25%. From then onwards however, the story never came back to its rather dull start but on the contrary, kept me interested until the very end. The flashbacks were something I dreaded at first - fair to note: I don't like flashbacks as a rule, so it's more of a personal preference - but as my investment in the characters grew, I learned to appreciate them for what they were - little windows into their past that helped shed light on what shaped them.  More than anything, the characters made this story for me. Both Hetty and Benji are so fierce and loyal, so intent on hiding their vulnerabilities - I loved them together. Their marriage is one of convenience, but despite their claims it's quickly clear that they care deeply for each other. Stubborn fools. *shakes head fondly* Throughout the story, they slowly realize that what they share is a love so bright, they can't ignore it and this is the kind of quality content I am 100% here for.  But their relationship isn't the only one that I grandly appreciated: indeed The Conductors also pictures a full set of secondary characters I'm eager to learn more about. The found family and community theme that radiated from every page made my day. As for the writing, it's compelling despite some abrupt sentences and weird phrasing at times. As I read an arc, it's fair to expect that the sentences that bothered me have been edited out, so I didn't take them into account in my rating. Bottom Line: I'm very glad I gave The Conductors a chance, and I will definitely read the sequel. ARC provided by the publisher —John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books— in exchange for an honest review (thank you!). The quotes in this review are subject to change upon publication. For more of my reviews, please visit:

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    29/11/19 So intrigues by the premise! A black murder mystery set after the civil war, about former conductors of the underground railroad, featuring black elites AND it's fantasy?! Wild. Going to have to read this one! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website 29/11/19 So intrigues by the premise! A black murder mystery set after the civil war, about former conductors of the underground railroad, featuring black elites AND it's fantasy?! Wild. Going to have to read this one! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    This is a hard one to rate for me, because there are a lot of interesting elements going on in this book that intrigued me and I thought were successful. The premise (murder mystery in post-Civil War American following a Black couple with magic who solve crimes) was really intriguing and had moments of delivering me what I wanted. I think this book ultimately didn't fully come together for me, as I thought the pacing was just all over the place and it kept me from fully connecting with the chara This is a hard one to rate for me, because there are a lot of interesting elements going on in this book that intrigued me and I thought were successful. The premise (murder mystery in post-Civil War American following a Black couple with magic who solve crimes) was really intriguing and had moments of delivering me what I wanted. I think this book ultimately didn't fully come together for me, as I thought the pacing was just all over the place and it kept me from fully connecting with the characters. There were high moments, but it did not fully deliver on the promise of the premise. That said, there were enough moments of interest to keep me going, and I will be watching for what the author does in the future, as I believe this is a debut

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Hetty and Benjy Rhodes were once Underground Railroad conductors, using courage and a touch of magic to bring dozens of people to safety in the north. With the Civil War over, Hetty is still focused on locating her sister Esther from her new home base in Philadelphia. Hetty works as a dressmaker while Benjy is a blacksmith but together the couple solve crimes in their community that white authorities have zero interest in. When their friend Charlie is found dead in an alley, Hetty and Benjy sear Hetty and Benjy Rhodes were once Underground Railroad conductors, using courage and a touch of magic to bring dozens of people to safety in the north. With the Civil War over, Hetty is still focused on locating her sister Esther from her new home base in Philadelphia. Hetty works as a dressmaker while Benjy is a blacksmith but together the couple solve crimes in their community that white authorities have zero interest in. When their friend Charlie is found dead in an alley, Hetty and Benjy search for answers in the city’s elite Black society, learning secrets they’d rather keep buried. This story holds so much promise! I was intrigued at the idea of magic woven into a story about Underground Railroad conductors turned detectives. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking in several areas. First, we’re introduced to a number of characters at the very beginning of the book and I had trouble keeping up with them all since there isn’t a ton of back story or development throughout. Next, readers are told that some Black people have magic but it’s all too vague — there’s no explanation or insight into how/why/when this came about or its parameters. All we know is that constellations are used as sigils by those who have magic and they work as spells. I’m still confused about it; the magic just feels random. The mystery is interesting and finally pulled me into this story after the vague and rocky start. Then, I became frustrated that there was much more telling than showing. Instead of action or first person narratives to offer insight, readers must rely on dialogue between Hetty and Benjy as they work out clues, motives, and discuss the unfolding of events. I can enjoy a well-executed slow burn but this one didn’t work for me as much as I would’ve liked it to. For me personally it felt like the story tried to go in multiple directions, focus was lost, and that hurt many of the unique concepts within. The Conductors is historical fiction with speculative fiction/fantasy elements in a post-Civil War mystery. Still, the ideas here are fantastic, original, and hold so much promise that I cannot give it less than 3 stars. Thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Conductors is scheduled for release on March 2, 2021. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    This is a complicated book to review. The things that it does well are great and the concept is very original. I am definitely interested in reading on in the series. However, it's painfully obvious that this is a debut and there are some issues (which we will get into) with the writing and the pacing. That said, I hope people will give this a chance (with measured expectations) and that the author gets to hone her writing in what could be a very cool series. The Conductors is a historical fanta This is a complicated book to review. The things that it does well are great and the concept is very original. I am definitely interested in reading on in the series. However, it's painfully obvious that this is a debut and there are some issues (which we will get into) with the writing and the pacing. That said, I hope people will give this a chance (with measured expectations) and that the author gets to hone her writing in what could be a very cool series. The Conductors is a historical fantasy/murder mystery set in post-Civil War Philadelphia and following a couple who used to be conductors on the Underground Railroad and are now sort of amateur sleuths in their community. This is an alternate history where magic exists and part of slavery involved controlling the magic of Black people, with ongoing oppressive laws that limit their access to certain types of magic use. We get periodic flashbacks to when the MC (Hetty) was enslaved, after her escape, and some of her time helping others escape. In the current time, people are dying one by one, leading Hetty and her husband Benji to investigate. Hetty and Benji have a marriage of convenience but clearly have grown to love each other and seeing the progression of their relationship through the story is very sweet. And once things with the mystery and investigation really get going, I found it to be really interesting and satisfying. The problem is, this book is much too long and the pacing is VERY slow until about the 66% mark when things pick up a bit. There are lots of unnecessary scenes, excessive explanation and description that really drag down the pace of the plot. With this genre, you want something that hooks the reader in quickly and keeps them turning the page. Unfortunately, this book you really have to commit for awhile before you start to get a payoff. I think part of the problem is the author was trying to do too many things and address too many issues. For instance, we see a lot about the microagressions Hetty and others experience, spend time on the class separations even within the Black community, and see a lot of the social interactions. All of which is important and fine in moderation, but for a book that is intended to be in the mystery genre, there is far too much of it. If this wanted to be a historical fiction or historical fantasy that was really about those things, that's fine. But for this genre you really need to keep up the pace and this fails to do that for about the first half of the book. That said, once things picked up I was really into the way the author wrote the mystery and scenes of danger and tension. I like Hettie as a heroine and liked the way this handled the complexities of female friendships as well. I would love to read more in the series, hopefully in a book with tighter editing and a faster pace. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    (4.5) rtc Rep: Black cast, gay characters, trans side character CWs: period typical racism, descriptions of slavery, murder, gore

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rosava Doshchyk

    I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It was a quite good debut. 3.7 stars from me. The novel is designed as a town mystery in historical settings with some fantasy elements. Married couple Hetty and Benjy are solving a crime of their friend’s murder. It’s post Civil War times and police wouldn’t be very interested in the Black people cases so they took responsibility for helping their community with major and lesser problems. The strange death of the respected tho I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It was a quite good debut. 3.7 stars from me. The novel is designed as a town mystery in historical settings with some fantasy elements. Married couple Hetty and Benjy are solving a crime of their friend’s murder. It’s post Civil War times and police wouldn’t be very interested in the Black people cases so they took responsibility for helping their community with major and lesser problems. The strange death of the respected though shrewd Charlie is totally their work. The story is told from the Hetty point of view. She is good with Celestial magic, a talented dressmaker, a captivating storyteller, and a very strong-willed woman. I very much liked how she was portrayed though sometimes I felt like she had been missing some small faults here and there. Nevertheless, I find her perks interesting. She judges a person by the clothes he or she wears in a professional way and she is very passionate about her magic. She can’t stand not using it. For her, it’s the essence of life like breathing is. “The magic is the world and it moves through us,” she says. The main plot’s pacing is a bit slow. Especially at the start of the book. It’s good there are interludes to quicken it. New faces and all the talking become too much sometimes. To be honest, I feel confused there. I like that author describes this transition to a free life. Different people deal with it differently, trying to pose as a white person or taking an active part in politics or running some business and schools. They expect a better life now that they are free but the evil and prejudice aren’t gone with slavery. And Hetty’s talking to all of them is the logical way of conveying this narrative. However, these talks shift a focus from the investigation to community life far too often than needed. There are things that I loved. Interludes are really great. They tell us how it was back then and why conductors were so important. I also appreciated the humor in the dialogues. I can recall the specific one that had taken place at Charlie’s funeral. It was about a man who once had a wife who was sold. “When people were sold they were good as dead”. So after the freedom, he married the other woman. And then his first wife found him and made a fuss. “Did he choose the past or the present?” “From what I can tell he’s taking time to choose his future carefully.” I was pleasantly surprised that it appeared to matter later. But the strongest point of this novel is a romantic subplot. I rarely enjoy romance but this was done spectacularly. Hetty and Benjy married out of convenience not expecting to fall in love at all. They were partners who had gone through many trials as conductors together. I enjoyed 14th chapter immensely when Hetty realized her love for her husband. The author did a good job portraying their love through small things like a special pin Benjamin presented to Hetty. The investigation subplot was mostly OK but I was disappointed by the culmination. (view spoiler)[Clarence is missing a crucial part of a good villain. It was clear he isn’t nice based on his relationships with Eunice. But I couldn’t see his hatred from his previous interaction with Hetty and Benjy. The final fight was a bit far-fetched in my opinion. (hide spoiler)] Finally, the magic system. It was fresh and fascinating. I liked how Celestial magic and Sourcery were compared. The magic was also used as a separator between white people and people of color. Though I’d like to know if it’s a truth that wands are made from celestial magicians’ bones. ) Celestial magic itself is a strong concept for a fantasy world. Apparently, you can even sew sigils into clothes or carve them into the wood or steel. This magic should be learned too so it isn’t obtained easily. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I congratulate the author with her debut. Відгук українською тут.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    It's important to note I listened to the audiobook which I received via Libro FM for this while reading alongside an advance copy that I was sent by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nothing really changes between them outside of some grammar and sentence structures. While I usually don't like Bahni Turpin's narration I thought it flowed steadily here. As the first book in the series we are introduced to a lot of characters. And like many fantasy stories you're thrown into the world rather than eased in It's important to note I listened to the audiobook which I received via Libro FM for this while reading alongside an advance copy that I was sent by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Nothing really changes between them outside of some grammar and sentence structures. While I usually don't like Bahni Turpin's narration I thought it flowed steadily here. As the first book in the series we are introduced to a lot of characters. And like many fantasy stories you're thrown into the world rather than eased in. And there's so many different moving pieces to set up the series. This story follows Henriette "Hetty" Rhodes who alongside her husband Benjamin "Benjy" have worked to help Black people escape slavery through the Underground Railroad. And even though the 13th Amendment has been passed and ratified by Congress for some that freedom exists solely on paper. The story opens with wanted ads for Negro runaways. As well as an ad for Hetty and Benjy who are wanted dead or alive for stealing slaves. In this world some Black people do practice magic and previously were forced to wear collars to identify and restrain them. They are now permitted to use magic do so but with restrictions defined by the local authorities. But they can only use one type of magic and are not permitted to use the sorcery that white people use which includes magic wands and is considered a more powerful form of magic. The particular brand of magic that Hetty and Benjy use is a celestial magic brought over from Africa and passed down through generations. It incorporates brew magic with herbs, songs, and sigils from constellations. Magic users often draw these sigils into the air, dirt, or other objects. Hetty sews them into her clothes as well as Benji's so they always have a reserve of magic ready. This magic aided slaves on the plantation to aid in tasks such of picking crops or to making healing balms for wounds. You are reminded throughout that these people are not far removed from slavery with flashbacks to life on the plantation and how Hetty had to use her talent in sewing to survive. The transition to free life and how different people in the community fit in. We meet a character who is passing as white which meant cutting family ties and living in fear of being discovered. And some people did it to aid others in their communities while some did it to advance themselves only. There's a killer on the loose and unfortunately one of their close friends falls victim and because white folks don't care about Black lives they must take the investigation into their own hands. It's not talked about enough especially since our history books like to paint them as saints but white people in the Union also saw Black people as inferior. Hetty and Benji as a couple have a very interesting dynamic because their marriage started off as a way to be easily partnered together without drawing suspicion and question of honor. And even though they've been together for a few years they're finally addressing their feelings towards each other. At times the mysteries got lost in the other plots but I enjoyed this story and it kept me enthralled and I couldn't always keep up with the cast of characters. Hetty and Benjy had an easy chemistry and work well as a unit. And I think as this series progresses there will be a more seamless blend of the magical, mystery, and community aspects. And the ending left for some interesting new opportunities to arise for the duo. I look forward to reading The Undertakers later this year. https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  14. 5 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Hetty Rhodes and her husband Benjy were celebrated conductors on the Underground Railroad, famous for their prowess in magic and for never losing a person. The war has ended, and both are making ends meet in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries the white authorities won't touch. But when a friend is murdered, all signs point towards something nefarious in their inner circle of friends, particularly among the elites of Black Philadelphia. I really, really enjoyed this. A bit messy at first ( Hetty Rhodes and her husband Benjy were celebrated conductors on the Underground Railroad, famous for their prowess in magic and for never losing a person. The war has ended, and both are making ends meet in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries the white authorities won't touch. But when a friend is murdered, all signs point towards something nefarious in their inner circle of friends, particularly among the elites of Black Philadelphia. I really, really enjoyed this. A bit messy at first (so many characters to keep track of, and an odd present/past storyline), but it all came together quite nicely. "I've mourned." "You have not had even a spare moment to do so. They expect you to be strong, to not show a bit of weakness no matter what you're going through." Hetty was utterly fantastic. She has spent her entire adult life searching for her sister, who she lost while the two were escaping to freedom. Her search has formed the impetus for her entire career—as a conductor, as a magic practitioner, and as one-half of a crime-solving duo. Her life, however, has essentially been one of non-committal, because how can she commit to anything fully when at any moment she might discover her sister's whereabouts and need to go? Her relationship was Benjy was much the same—a marriage of convenience, with both really loving each other but reluctant to say the damn words. They are the best of friends, but the ghost of Esther and Hetty's refusal to accept and move on are firmly wedged between them, which leads the two to hide truths and secondary lives from each other. However, when the hell has Hetty even had a minute to mourn, or been allowed for a second to let herself be perceived as weak? Glover's take on the Strong Black Woman stereotype is fascinating, and the implications of this stereotype permeate every single Black woman in the book. No one can be weak, no one can show weakness or reveal pain, or face being perceived as other or lesser. And so everyone carries on, chin up, forward momentum, hiding their hurts and wounds from each other. "Burdens lessen when they are shared. Or will you better understand this with a story?" He snorted. "I'm curious at how you'll tell it. Would it be a story told with animals? Of mice banding together to scare off a lion? Or ants that carry a bounty of food home? Oh, I know just the one: It'll be about birds that roll a pumpkin home?" "It'll be a story about three impossible tasks the husband can't figure out until the wife shows him the trick." I also ended up liking a lot of the secondary characters (and casual queerness—including a trans masc character and a gay couple!!!!!!!), despite being overwhelmed at first by how many there were and how they were related to each other. I loved how Glover documented and explained the lives of those who had escaped slavery and tried to move on—how they moved on, how they processed it (or didn't), and how those who had been born into freedom revolved around those who did not. And yes, that's a lot of trauma, but there was also SO. MUCH. JOY. It was a fascinating and well-researched insight into reconstruction Philly, and I really, really enjoyed reading about it. The theme of community was so strong in this book—of people opening up, making themselves vulnerable and becoming stronger because of it. That is why there were so many secondary characters, because Hetty's world was a community and a network of friends and non-blood family, all connected, for the most part, because Hetty and Benjy led them all to freedom. They all shared a bond they could not forget, even those who wanted to move past their beginnings and start fresh. And while Hetty expresses this sentiment of becoming stronger together, she doesn't truly seem to understand it and embrace it wholly herself—she is an island, braving the ocean alone, occasionally visited by other ships in the night who ask of her resources and time. I also liked the addition of the magic systems. There is the white-dominated system of Sorcery, which uses wands and a labyrinthian set of rules that is never really explained (mainly because I don't know if Hetty herself understood it, or cared to understand it). Wand-owning is banned for Black people, and during the war Black people with magical talent wore slave-collars that inhibited their abilities and kept them tied to the farms/plantations, which was an insidious depiction of white supremacy and systemic racism of this world. And then there was the magic of constellations, a magic debunked by whites (and denigrated by non-slaves) and used mainly by former slaves to subvert the system and covertly inform others of what was happening. While this is a murder mystery at its heart, it's mostly a book about community and moving on and finding peace and love after a horrific series of events and trauma. Of becoming stronger together. Because the mystery itself ended fairly quickly, with a mustache-twirling monologue and all plot threads neatly tied up. "Don't you think it's funny," Benjy said, "that after all the time you spend asking so many questions, in the end the answer just appears right in front of you?" Overall, this is definitely a must-read. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dianthaa

    Check out more reviews on my blog www.dianthaa.com This was one of my very anticipated releases for 2021 and my spidey sense were right, because I loved it. It’s a mystery novel starring a married couple, who used to be conductors on the Underground Railway. While the book does a lot of things, it’s a mystery novel, then there’s the story of Hetty looking for her sister, the relationship between Hetty and Benjy, the magic that exists in the world, I think the mystery is the main focus. I noticed Check out more reviews on my blog www.dianthaa.com This was one of my very anticipated releases for 2021 and my spidey sense were right, because I loved it. It’s a mystery novel starring a married couple, who used to be conductors on the Underground Railway. While the book does a lot of things, it’s a mystery novel, then there’s the story of Hetty looking for her sister, the relationship between Hetty and Benjy, the magic that exists in the world, I think the mystery is the main focus. I noticed a lot of reviews mentioning a rough start, personally, I was into it from the beginning, though it did take me a while to keep names straight, so YYMV. The main character’s a seamstress and that’s one of the things makes me very excited in general. The mystery I don’t read a lot of mystery as a genre, especially non-sff, so my opinion may be uninformed. But, I loved it. It had so many small clues, one clue leading to another and the characters and the reader piecing it all together, I liked the parallels and mirroring. Some red herrings here and there. Lots of things turning out to be connected. A list of suspects to be questioned. Real danger for our protagonists as they get closer to the truth. They also had a map on the wall where they pinned locations, and got hidden messages, it was all a lot of fun. There was a lot of who do you suspect, who can you really trust that always had me guessing and second-guessing. I read it all pretty quickly over one weekend, so it was easy to keep on top of things, and uncharacteristically for me, remember what was going on. There were some clues that the MCs missed for a long time, but it all fit in with the uncertainty of not knowing who to trust, and always being so stressed and tired. The married couple MORE MARRIED COUPLES IN SFF PLEASE. I love it when books acknowledge that established relationships exist. It seems like such a mundane thing but it’s so rare. That was the detail in this book’s blurb that sold me on it instantly. I liked that it turned out completely different than I was expecting, and it was surprising and still had a lot of relationship development. I also liked how we got some flashbacks of them before getting married. The characters Hetty – She’s the MC and we follow her PoV, I think for the entire book. She is a lot. She’s independent, driven, close to her friends, maybe she keeps a grudge a bit well, a skilled and creative seamstress and a great storyteller. People gravitate to her and listen. She’s also the best celestial magic-user in town. I found her great to be around and liked it when some of her traits came back to bite her. She’s very driven to find her missing sister and we get flashbacks of how she’d go searching for her before the Civil War. Benjy – the more analytical of the pair, puzzling out mysteries, also in some ways a mystery himself. He tries to keep Hetty safe but also respects her agency and independency, and that’s some sexy stuff. Overall I can’t say I was his biggest fan, but he had his endearing moments. The friends & social circle – Hetty and Benjy are kind of oddities, they’re respected and well known for their work as conductors but a lot of the friends they’ve helped escape slavery want to distance themselves from the past. So our main couple doesn’t quite make it to the highest level of their society and some old friendships are very strained. At the same time, other friendships are strong and sturdy. Penelope and Oliver and the two that help out most. Penelope through her healing magical salves and plentiful cousins, and Oliver who’s the sort of friend that would help you hide a body, and put on a funeral too. He’s also missing his partner and I liked how even though it’s historical fiction people are accepting of a same-sex relationship and all his friends support him when he’s lonely. There’s also a mention of a trans character that’s very casual and cool with it. The magic & setting I admit I’m kinda confused by the other reviews I’ve read. Because I didn’t find the magic that weird or hard to grasp. Celestial magic is the main kind Hetty uses, it’s like glyph magic only with constellation sigils, and they can be small ones that are 2d and work like a simple alarm spell or ward, or if they’re infused with more power they can be full 3d translucent creatures able to affect the world around them. There are also ways to brew potions and salves, and enchant candles for protection. We’re not told what each constellation does and how everything works because Hetty isn’t learning magic, that’s not a point in the book, she knows it and she’s very good at it. It’s not a story of the wonder or discovery of magic, it’s just a tool that people use. It’s like there is a hard magic system at work in the world, but we’re not let in on the rules, which I’m ok with. There’s also a separate, in some ways stronger, or at least more combat-useful, magic system that is called sorcery and only white people are allowed to use, there’s mention about how that played into colonialism, but we don’t get a lot of details there. I was worried at first, because the MC had this great hook of having been conductors, and then the story is set after that. But there were a lot of flashbacks to their conducting activities, and they tied into the characters from the present story, so I was happy with that. Recommended for: mystery & historical fantasy fans, fans of Dread Nation that are looking for an adult, less zombie more optimistic post-Civil War book

  16. 4 out of 5

    Thushara

    Thanks to Librofm for the Advanced Listening Copy in exchange of an honest review. 4 stars The Conductors by Nicole Glover is an alternative historical-fantasy set in post-Civil War America following Hetty and Benji, slaves turned conductors, who use their celestial magic to free other slaves. Hetty held out a hand to the girl, much as she'd done many times before, and said, "Someone here to help." The magic system is what makes the book stand out. Even though the original magical world was a hit, Thanks to Librofm for the Advanced Listening Copy in exchange of an honest review. 4 stars The Conductors by Nicole Glover is an alternative historical-fantasy set in post-Civil War America following Hetty and Benji, slaves turned conductors, who use their celestial magic to free other slaves. Hetty held out a hand to the girl, much as she'd done many times before, and said, "Someone here to help." The magic system is what makes the book stand out. Even though the original magical world was a hit, there is a part where the book missed the mark. To me the main issue was the pacing. It was uneven and I had to push myself sometimes through the book. Nevertheless it was an amazing journey. What I loved the most other than the magic system was the characters themselves. The Conductors have proved that Nicole Glover can write, and I am excited for her books!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sheena ☆ Oh, the Sheenanigans!

    ‘The Conductors’ is a truly compelling debut that did at first have a rough start but page by page, I become engrossed in Hetty and Benjy, infamous duo that now solves crimes in post-Civil War Philadelphia, journey in discovering who were committing the horrific murders while they dealt with the bubbling feelings and well guarded secrets neither one expected during the course of their marriage of convenience. It was a perfect blend of an historical novel with fantasy and mystery e ‘The Conductors’ is a truly compelling debut that did at first have a rough start but page by page, I become engrossed in Hetty and Benjy, infamous duo that now solves crimes in post-Civil War Philadelphia, journey in discovering who were committing the horrific murders while they dealt with the bubbling feelings and well guarded secrets neither one expected during the course of their marriage of convenience. It was a perfect blend of an historical novel with fantasy and mystery elements all in one that made this a riveting read that was just too hard to put down. This is ideal for readers looking for a well paced cozy whodunit mystery filled with a fascinating premise, subplots, magic, fantasy, and characters that standout.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    This is such a fun historical fantasy adventure, with a fantastically real-feeling cast of characters full of rich personal histories, a beautiful magical system, and a husband-and-wife crime-solving team that is only too horrified to realize they're actually falling in love (several years after their very practical marriage)! I hope there are lots more books to come in this series. This is such a fun historical fantasy adventure, with a fantastically real-feeling cast of characters full of rich personal histories, a beautiful magical system, and a husband-and-wife crime-solving team that is only too horrified to realize they're actually falling in love (several years after their very practical marriage)! I hope there are lots more books to come in this series.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    The Conductors is the first instalment in the Magic and Murder historical fantasy series, set in post-Civil War Philadelphia. It introduces married couple Henrietta “Hetty” and Benjamin “Benjy” Rhodes, former conductors for the Vigilance Society, a group ferrying dozens of Black slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Settling in Reconstruction-era Pennsylvania, both Hetty and Benjy are famed for their daring and cunning chaperoning of the enslaved from the South to the freedom and rel The Conductors is the first instalment in the Magic and Murder historical fantasy series, set in post-Civil War Philadelphia. It introduces married couple Henrietta “Hetty” and Benjamin “Benjy” Rhodes, former conductors for the Vigilance Society, a group ferrying dozens of Black slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Settling in Reconstruction-era Pennsylvania, both Hetty and Benjy are famed for their daring and cunning chaperoning of the enslaved from the South to the freedom and relative liberty of the North and the stories of their exploits still circulate today, almost a decade after the end of the war. But the pair are also skilled celestial magic-users, a type of magic involving the use of sigils and that draws its power from the constellations. Now Hetty and Benjy transfer these magic and analytical skills to a new purpose, as the war is now over, as detectives as they solve mysteries, missing persons cases and murders of Black individuals that the discriminatory white authorities would otherwise ignore. In the heart of Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward, everyone knows that when there’s a strange death or magical curses causing trouble, Hetty and Benjy are the only ones that can solve the case. But when an old friend is murdered, their investigation stirs up a wasp nest of intrigue, lies, and long-buried secrets- and a mystery, unlike anything they handled before. Their suspicions fall close to home so the couple will have to thoroughly investigate in order to ascertain exactly who in their community can not be trusted and is not who they claim to be. With a clever, cold-blooded killer on the prowl testing their magic and placing their lives at risk, Hetty and Benjy will discover how little they really know about their neighbours and themselves. This a captivating, compulsive and original mix of vibrant alternate history, magical fantasy, thrilling mystery and an unexpected examination of slavery all tied up in an inventive, imaginative and thoroughly engrossing tale. I was caught up in the story early on and found that the different elements had been so well woven and plotted that they complemented each other exceptionally well; it's a testament to Glover's talents that she manages to craft these diverging aspects into a cohesive and compelling yarn. She also does an incredible job of world-building in this supernatural mystery. Her cast is almost exclusively Black, and the characters are rich, with Hetty and Benjy’s relationship showcased as a lovely progression of romantic ideals. The pace is slow-burn in order to build up the setting and the characters and lay the foundations for the sophomore instalment but Glover ratchets up the tension as it progresses weaving in details that bring the story to life. It's richly-imagined, beautifully written and, at times, a palpably tense read and it had no problem keeping my attention right from the start. This is a satisfying mystery exploring the prejudice against coloured people at the time when white supremacy was rampant. Finally, the conclusion is a deeply gratifying one that highlights just how our past actions can inform the present in unforeseen ways. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    3.5 stars Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC, in exchange for an honest review. This was a great historical fantasy book that I really enjoyed reading. I loved the magic system; I love how the author integrated both sorcery and celestial-based magic. It felt very fresh and original, and not something I’ve read about before. This book is a captivating blend of genres; traditional fantasy elements mixed with a murder mystery, all in a historical setting. The premise was certainly fasc 3.5 stars Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC, in exchange for an honest review. This was a great historical fantasy book that I really enjoyed reading. I loved the magic system; I love how the author integrated both sorcery and celestial-based magic. It felt very fresh and original, and not something I’ve read about before. This book is a captivating blend of genres; traditional fantasy elements mixed with a murder mystery, all in a historical setting. The premise was certainly fascinating; African Americans living in post-Civil War America, with the protagonist and her husband solving crimes that the white authorities ignore. This isn’t a time period I’ve read much about, if ever, so I appreciated getting a glimpse into what life would have been like during this time. I also loved Hetty, the protagonist; she was clearly a smart and determined woman. I liked the way her relationship with her husband, Benjy, developed — they were an arranged marriage, but as the novel progresses, she realises that she genuinely loves him, and it was sweet to see. However, I feel like the pacing was too slow. At times, it felt sluggish - the author spent too much time building up the relationships and back stories, to the detriment of the murder mystery plot. While this is important in creating a well-rounded story, I think a better balance should have been struck, with a bigger focus on action and actually solving the mystery. Despite this, I still really love the concept and premise of this book, as I think it is rather unique. I would still recommend this book to fans of fantasy and historical fiction, as long as you are someone who does not mind a more slow paced plot.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Seema Rao

    So enjoyable and engrossing. This is the type of “historical” mystery I love; one that reimagines reality and history. Plus it plays with conceptions of race. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    ☕️Kimberly

    The story alternates chapters from the past 1858-1865, with the present (1871). Most of the story takes place in Post-Civil War Philadelphia after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. This fantasy was rich with stories of the Underground railroad (with a magical twist) and the story of Hetty and her husband Benjy as they solve cases for the black folk in their neighborhood. This time they are dealing with a series of murders. The magical elements were interesting and the more I learned, the The story alternates chapters from the past 1858-1865, with the present (1871). Most of the story takes place in Post-Civil War Philadelphia after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted. This fantasy was rich with stories of the Underground railroad (with a magical twist) and the story of Hetty and her husband Benjy as they solve cases for the black folk in their neighborhood. This time they are dealing with a series of murders. The magical elements were interesting and the more I learned, the more I loved it. Hester is a magic user and healer. Black practitioners use Zodiac magic. Hetty sews these symbols into clothing and her husband Benjy carves them into wood. Hetty also mixes herbs for medicinal purposes. The White folks have magic too, but use sorcery. We learned a little about slavery and the way magic was used to keep slaves from running. We also learned how Hetty and her husband used magic to help slaves escape to freedom. When Hetty ran, she lost her sister and still actively searches for her. The community they live in was interesting, and the author allowed us to see even among the former slaves a social ladder existed. The community depends on her and her husband to investigate cases that the police have no interest in, and ours begins with a murder of a gentleman they once helped free. He bears a strange mark and magic was involved There were a lot of characters and I was thankful I had listened, as the narrator helped distinguish between them. The information as Glover built the world and introduced characters slowed the pace in the beginning, but the story quickly took off as the investigation began. The next book will be smoother as the groundwork for the world has been established. Bahni Turpin is a favorite narrator here at Caffeinated, and I confess it was her name that made me stop and read the blurb. Her performance was stellar. She added depth and emotion to the characters and Glover’s story. This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Reviewer

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Actual rating is a 2.5 There are a lot of interesting elements to The Conductors. We have a murder mystery, an alternate history setting in the 1800s, and interesting magic systems. The main characters Hetty and Benjy used to be conductors on the Underground Railroad and now investigate mysteries for clients who often have nowhere else to turn. The narrative balances their current investigations in the 1870s with flashbacks of their days as conductors, which serve to provide background on some of Actual rating is a 2.5 There are a lot of interesting elements to The Conductors. We have a murder mystery, an alternate history setting in the 1800s, and interesting magic systems. The main characters Hetty and Benjy used to be conductors on the Underground Railroad and now investigate mysteries for clients who often have nowhere else to turn. The narrative balances their current investigations in the 1870s with flashbacks of their days as conductors, which serve to provide background on some of their friends as well as give a look at how their relationship has developed over time. The Conductors has two magic systems: Celestial and Sorcery. Celestial magic uses sigils from constellations to perform magic ranging from summoning a protector to creating a blinding flash of light. The Celestial magic system has its roots in lore from Africa and the West Indies as well as from Native communities. Sorcery, on the other hand, is heavily regulated and only white people are allowed to have the wands required to practice it. Hetty is an incredibly talented Celestial practitioner and uses her abilities as a seamstress to sew sigils into the garments she makes. Not much is overtly explained about either magic system so it was interesting to see how they were used throughout the story. I would've loved a Celestial sigil cheat sheet to help keep track of which sigil did what but maybe that will make it into the finished version. My biggest hangup with the story was that I found myself really wishing I knew our main characters, Hetty and Benjy, better. The Conductors is written in third-person, which made it feel like there was a big distance between me and the protagonists. There's some character development throughout the story but I finished the book wanting more on that front, particularly from Benjy who often felt like Hetty's sidekick in her adventures rather than a true partner. In addition to our main characters, there are a whole slew of side characters and suspects in the murders that could be hard to keep track of at times. I went into The Conductors expecting a fantasy novel with a mystery plot but would actually describe this as a mystery novel with some speculative elements. The focus of the story is largely on the crime whereas the magic systems primarily serve as tools the characters use to serve their own ends. This is totally fine, just not at all what I was expecting. C/W:(view spoiler)[murder, racial violence, discussion of miscarriage, enslavement (hide spoiler)] Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    On the Same Page

    ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I enjoyed the premise of the book. Having two different magic systems with racial prejudices and discrimination attached was interesting. I enjoyed the descriptions of celestial magic, although I do think it was kept a bit too vague. I have no idea if certain constellations always have the same magic effect or if they do different things. Sorcery isn't fleshed out much at all, and all we get told is that they use w ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I enjoyed the premise of the book. Having two different magic systems with racial prejudices and discrimination attached was interesting. I enjoyed the descriptions of celestial magic, although I do think it was kept a bit too vague. I have no idea if certain constellations always have the same magic effect or if they do different things. Sorcery isn't fleshed out much at all, and all we get told is that they use wands to cast and that's pretty much it. Apparently sorcery is way stronger, but why that's the case remains unclear. Hetty and Benjy were a delightful pair. I loved their snarky interactions and the blossoming romance. Marriage of convenience is one of my favourite tropes and I really enjoyed watching it play out. Unfortunately, the plot feels a bit slow and unwieldy. It takes a while before anything starts to happen, and only the last 15% or so were actually exciting. I also had a hard time connecting to the story and the characters, mostly because of the dialogue. It felt very disjointed; a character's response often felt completely disconnected from the line before it. This constantly pulled me out of the flow of the story, and since there's a lot of dialogue in the book, it sometimes became confusing to follow.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Stoolfire

    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors (Murder and Magic #1) by Nicole Glover is a solid historical fantasy debut. I really liked the concept when it comes to the magic system and the post-Civil War setting. I liked the idea of Underground Railroad conductors having magical powers. The story starts off strong and held my attention. However, the book is a little overlong and it drags too much in several point half way through. I also wish we had more deta I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors (Murder and Magic #1) by Nicole Glover is a solid historical fantasy debut. I really liked the concept when it comes to the magic system and the post-Civil War setting. I liked the idea of Underground Railroad conductors having magical powers. The story starts off strong and held my attention. However, the book is a little overlong and it drags too much in several point half way through. I also wish we had more detail on the magic system itself and how it works. That said, I particularly liked Hetty. She's quite brave, talented, and determined. I also appreciated getting to see Hetty's relationship with her husband Benjy grow over the course of the story. Overall, this series opener is worth trying if you're a fan of the historical fantasy genre. I have a feeling I'll be back to try out the sequel The Undertakers which is due out November 9th, 2021.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Turnbull

    The Conductors is a unique fantasy whodunnit with a historical setting and a whole lot of heart! Hetty is a marvelous protagonist to spend a book with. Strong, yet vulnerable, caring, yet guarded, independent, yet willing to admit when she needs help and to accept that help graciously. Benji, her husband, was more mysterious to the reader as we don't get his point of view. And yet, I found myself grinning at their dynamic by the final chapters. As much as this book is about solving a murder myste The Conductors is a unique fantasy whodunnit with a historical setting and a whole lot of heart! Hetty is a marvelous protagonist to spend a book with. Strong, yet vulnerable, caring, yet guarded, independent, yet willing to admit when she needs help and to accept that help graciously. Benji, her husband, was more mysterious to the reader as we don't get his point of view. And yet, I found myself grinning at their dynamic by the final chapters. As much as this book is about solving a murder mystery, it is also about solving the mysteries of Hetty's life - and by the end, these personal mysteries held far more weight than learning whodunnit (though, the final confrontation did not disappoint and had me on the edge of my seat!). I loved the combination of fantasy elements and the historical fiction setting of the underground railroad. The magic system was unlike anything I have personally read, and I loved that the different types of magic seemed to have personalities of their own. I also can't stress enough how lovely it was to see so much diversity in the main cast of characters. An entirely Black cast, but with varying degrees of connection to their past and heritage (including one woman passing for white), a loving relationship between two men for which their friends and community give full support, and a trans man who is never treated as other or less than. The flashbacks to Hetty and Benji's time assisting escaping slaves were incredibly high stakes and had my heart pounding. The social commentary subtly woven through this book was so well done and will stay with me for a very long time. And the ending, bittersweet yet full of hope and love, had me quietly sobbing. The Conductors was one of my favourite reads of 2020, and I can't wait for the rest of the world to get their hands on it! I am so impressed by Nicole Glover and am so looking forward to reading more of their work. Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, slavery, racism Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. VIDEO REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEUKd... You can find me on... Youtube | Instagram | Twitter

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    Genre blending is much like fusion cuisine, you have to really do it well and even then it won’t be to everyone’s liking, depending on ingredients. This book’s author decided to take a mystery set in the post emancipation, post war US and infuse it with magic. Specifically, fantasy style magic of spells and such. And I am quantifying this because I love all things related to the other kind of magic…the prestidigitation kind. But when it comes to magic with spells and magic wands, no thank you. I Genre blending is much like fusion cuisine, you have to really do it well and even then it won’t be to everyone’s liking, depending on ingredients. This book’s author decided to take a mystery set in the post emancipation, post war US and infuse it with magic. Specifically, fantasy style magic of spells and such. And I am quantifying this because I love all things related to the other kind of magic…the prestidigitation kind. But when it comes to magic with spells and magic wands, no thank you. It always seems too silly somehow. And this is definitely not a silly story, quite the opposite in fact, a story of a married couple who gained some renown in the previous years as conductors, rescuing slaves and guiding them to safety up North. Now settled down in Philadelphia, in a community of likeminded free black men and women, they are getting by working as blacksmith and seamstress, but also…crime solvers. So there you go, that’s already one genre blending, drama and mystery. Sure enough, they also have a lot of success in mystery solving too. But then someone they all know is found murdered and the case spins out into something more, larger, something that involves their entire community and therefore everyone is a suspect. And the story would have worked very well with just that, but then there’s magic. Celestial kind with spells based on stars and woven into clothing, slow potion based magic of the old ways and the wand based easy magic of the neophytes. The former is a skill and a power and a birthright, the latter is merely a learned set of tricks, but can be just as potent. And to be fair, the author did a thoroughly credible job of mixing the magic in seamlessly until it’s just an aspect of an everyday life. It isn’t just an easy way to do things, there’s still manual labor and difficulties and rent to be paid. It’s just another layer of the characters’ world in a way. And when these spells come to life, they are vivid and well realized and have their own logic, so kudos to the author for making all of that work. But it’s still…too much of a fantasy thing for me. Also, this book took me a long while to get into, if I wasn’t a completist by nature, there’s a chance it might have been abandoned early on. And then slowly it drew me in, based almost solely on the undeniable appeal of the main couple, especially the wife. A powerhouse of a female character, especially for the time, she’s all you might want in a protagonist and she just wins you over. So those two, they drove this ride for me, the side characters (of which there were many) didn’t seem as distinct or as interesting or as developed. The novel offers a window into what lives of the freed men and women of the time was like, the power of the community they build, etc. So fans of historical fiction should be able to enjoy that, but if you’re looking for specifically Philadelphia based historical fiction, this really didn’t do its location justice or favors. In fact, it might have been any large city up north for all the attention it got. Not even a cheesesteak, you ask? No, not even a cheesesteak. But at any rate, it worked for what it was and likely more for different readers. For me overall, it was too slow to get into, too magic y, too drawn out. Don’t regret reading it per se, didn’t love it either, kinda in the middle. Considering the themes, a very timely release, sure to get tons of attention, merited and otherwise. Thanks Netgalley.

  28. 5 out of 5

    jordyn reads too much

    Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC to review. The Conductors has rather a lot going for it -- a story of POC triumphing over the great evil that was the South in the Restoration era of American history. The general plot is about two underground railroad conductors solving a series of murders in their hometown. Oh, and there's magic. However despite the extremely promising premise of the novel, I found this book to be lacking more than a few ways. First off -- the magic system is FRUSTRAT Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC to review. The Conductors has rather a lot going for it -- a story of POC triumphing over the great evil that was the South in the Restoration era of American history. The general plot is about two underground railroad conductors solving a series of murders in their hometown. Oh, and there's magic. However despite the extremely promising premise of the novel, I found this book to be lacking more than a few ways. First off -- the magic system is FRUSTRATINGLY vague. There is literally no explanation of how magic works. There's two different kinds of magic in The Conductors. Celestial and Sorcery. Celestial is only done by Black people, and Sorcery usually only done by white people. There is almost no explanation as to why. No explanation of what specific spells do, or how magic is controlled, or who has magic, etc. Celestial magic has the makings of a REALLY cool system...if we had more information. This is my biggest complaint of the book. We didn't need an info dump, or pages and pages on it, but some information sprinkled here and there would have done a WORLD of difference. Secondly -- The Conductors is supposedly in the adult novel category, but I found the writing to be more on edge with a YA or new adult novel. The writing is a little towards the simpler side, with very, very few descriptions of anything. I had no idea where the novel was set until I was already 40% of the way through the book. I would have love more descriptions on what the Philadelphia of this time period looked like. What did their boarding house look like? What was the weather like, how do the characters appreciate/hate their surroundings? It made the novel feel very bland. Third -- the relationship between Hattie and literally any of the characters was TOLD rather than shown until over halfway through the novel. Hattie calls several people her friends, and we see almost nothing to prove that true. Hattie is rather standoffish throughout the whole book. It makes her less than likeable as a character UNTIL we finally see her open up a bit. Her relationship with Benjy wasn't believable until (again) towards the end of the book. The Conductors is a slow read -- things happen but they happen in far apart beats. Nothing is seemingly urgent, there's no real page turning action in here. This could be a great book! It has the makings of one! There's just a lot missing. Two and half stars, rounded up.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors started off kind of slow for me but it definitely picked up after a chapter or two. Especially after meeting Hetty and Benjy. Now this duo was something I could get behind and invested in. I just wish the whole magic was a bit better in this book. Don't get me wrong, some aspects were a bit magical.. but some of it fell flat for me as well. Now the solving mysteries was what kept me reading this book. Again, I I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors started off kind of slow for me but it definitely picked up after a chapter or two. Especially after meeting Hetty and Benjy. Now this duo was something I could get behind and invested in. I just wish the whole magic was a bit better in this book. Don't get me wrong, some aspects were a bit magical.. but some of it fell flat for me as well. Now the solving mysteries was what kept me reading this book. Again, I loved this duo and it was completely interesting and addicting to see what they were going to do next. Even though they started out marrying for convenience.. it starts to show that they actually developed feelings along the way. Definitely a fun book to dive into. I just wish the magic was better explained to me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cristina

    Thank you Netgalley for this uncorrected proof arc in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors is a historical fiction, meets fantasy, meets murder mystery mash up with interesting characters set during a post Civil War America. Hetty and her husband Benji are the ones people go to to solve problems and get things done that the regular authorities won’t touch. Missing children, strange magic, and murders are just a few things that are handled by this team in Philadelphia. When a friend is f Thank you Netgalley for this uncorrected proof arc in exchange for an honest review. The Conductors is a historical fiction, meets fantasy, meets murder mystery mash up with interesting characters set during a post Civil War America. Hetty and her husband Benji are the ones people go to to solve problems and get things done that the regular authorities won’t touch. Missing children, strange magic, and murders are just a few things that are handled by this team in Philadelphia. When a friend is found murdered in an alley with a dark magical mark etched in his skin, the pair begin to muddle thru truths and lies from their friends and acquaintances, who may hold the key to solving this crime. I was very excited to get an ARC of this book, because the premise sounded so interesting. I liked the idea of magic using star constellations, and I felt it was a very innovative aspect to a popular theme nowadays. However, I think that explaining the different magical types at almost 20% thru the book is very late, and there were missed opportunities for building the background more at earlier points. The protagonists, plot, and characters were very interesting, and well written. However I felt like parts of the book were disjointed, and could benefit from better flow. All the elements of a great book are there, but I don’t feel it is edited in the best way for the reader to get the most out of the work the author put in. I am excited to see how the final copy comes out.

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