Thank you to John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: The Conductors (Murder and Magic 1) by Nicole Glover
Release Date: March 2nd 2021
Tags: Adult | Historical Fantasy | Magic | Arranged Marriage | Post Civil War | Philadelphia
Trigger/Content Warnings: Segregation | Mentions of Slavery
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.
When I requested this book it sounded interesting. But once I picked it up everything in this book screamed at me. Our characters, our plot, but most of all, the setting of this story. Because how often do you come across a fantasy that also deals with slavery with so much feeling.
Before and during the civil war conductors of the Underground Railroad helped slaves escape. This is an actual part of American history and Nicole Glover plays with that. After the civil war, as slavery for banned, former conductors Hetty and her husband use their unique talents to solve mysteries. Often of the magical type. Even as conductors they often used their magical abilities to help slaves escape.
There are two types of magic. The zodiac magic of the black people, with some herbal remedies to boot. And the sorcery of the white people. The zodiac magic is really interesting as she sews it into clothes to call forth when needed in action. But it also can be carved into wood as Benji does often. I would love to go more into detail of the magic, but that wasn’t the main part of the story. There isn’t a lot of explanation about the sorcery of the white people and I know that has annoyed people, but honestly, why would Hetty, a former slave and conductor care to know anything about the sorcery of white people? White people never did anything for her and they don’t live in her part of the world. So why should it get anything more than just a mention? This novel is an entirely black novel. No white people in sight. Deal with it.
But it wasn’t the magic that grabbed me. It was the setting. This historical setting, after the civil war. Set in philadelphia where we come into a black community. Where everyone was a former slave. How this community still had its class wars within itself but still came together when it mattered most. The history of the conductors with Hetty and Benjy
There were a lot of plot lines going on but that never bothered me. I was happy to follow along in this world with Hetty, and at the end of the day, a lot of these plot lines came together into one bigger one. I love when that happens. It gives such a sense of accomplishment to see it all fall together alongside our characters.
Another aspect that interested me was Hetty and Benjy’s marriage. They met eachother after Hetty had escaped as a slave and Benjy inserted himself into her life. Along the way they decided to get married for convenience. It was easier to travel together as a married couple and they wouldn’t have to deal with seperate places they were staying at. During the story however a romance finally settled between them. A slow burn romance.
All in all I loved The Conductors and I can’t wait for The Undertakers to be released at the end of the year!