Cover Image: The Conductors

The Conductors

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I'm not very fond of stories with investigations but this book caught my eye when I saw that the Conductors investigated the crimes that the police didn't take. Why? Because they were about black people. The Conductors are Hetty and Benjy, a married couple who used to help slaves flee towards the northern states of the US before the Civil War. This was already interesting, but add a little magic and I was sold.
Some (black) people have magic : they cast sigils that represent constellations and these come to life.  White people also have magic, but it's called sorcery and you need a wand to cast a spell. Sorcery is forbidden for black people. It made me wonder if other populations also had magic and how different it was from magic or sorcery.
I was a little bored with the investigation although it allowed to show the society from that era, and that was very interesting. There were also flashbacks from Hetty's time as a slave and as a conductor, and it was very useful to better undestand the dynamics between all the characters.
I really liked this novel and found it innovative.

TW : murder, slavery, racism
Was this review helpful?
This had a lot of interesting elements that could have been great but unfortunately failed to live up to their potential.
Was this review helpful?
A really intriguing premise with a curious magic system, this was a really enjoyable read and has made Glover into an author I'm keen to see more from.
Was this review helpful?
DNF - I really wanted to enjoy this book, the premise sounded so good but I really struggled with it. I felt that the world building was rushed and I really didn't understand what was going on most of the time. Maybe if I read more fantasy novels I would have fallen into the world more easily.
Was this review helpful?
This was good for a debut novel and it was a good first installment in a series. I think it'd be better if the pace was faster. But, all in all I enjoyed it and I'd continue the series. 
Thanks a lot for this copy.
Was this review helpful?
The Conductors is a great blend of historical fiction set in Post Civil War America, celestial magic and murder mystery. 
Hetty and her husband Benjy who were both conductors for the Underground Railroad are now living a domestic life in Phildelphia on the outside while fighting crime and solving murder mysteries secretly with the help of their magic. One of their friends with whom they have a difficult relationship turns up dead with a cursed sigil, shortly after asking them for help and they set out to find the murderer. 
We get to know not only the present but also the past describing exactly how Hetty and Benjy came to be in their current vocation through interludes interspersed with the chapters. 
I really enjoyed the setting, the magical system as well as our main two characters and their chemistry. The murder mystery was also equally engaging with the incorporation of magic and sorcery . The narration does lag a bit in some places and could have done better with more editing but overall it was a great start to a series. 
I would love to see more books set in this world with Hetty and Benjy solving more interesting cases and would definitely recommend this book for anyone looking to immerse yourself in a fantasy thriller.
Was this review helpful?
Glover created a solid first entry in her new series and I was impressed by her ambition for a debut novel. I'm certainly looking forward to continuing on with the next instalment.
Was this review helpful?
The Conductors is set in post Civil War, Philadelphia and is firmly within a genre of historical fiction that has a whisper of magic. Benjy and Hetty are a married couple, united in their purpose. They are renowned, ten years on from the end of the civil war, as conductors - guides who helped slaves escape the south through the Underground Railroad. Interestingly I had only recently come across the railroad when reading another book about magic set in an historical context - Alix E Harwood’s The Once and Future Witches. Hetty and Benjy used celestial magic to aid their rescues and for this they use sigils, which are usually a pictorial symbol of a god or spirit, but here are a symbol of their desired outcome. Ten years on, they use their magic to solve murders and missing person’s cases, particularly those with black victims where discriminatory authorities may not have investigated properly, even in the more forward thinking Northern US states. Their skills are frequently called upon in their district of Philadelphia but this time is different, this time the murder victim is an old friend and they will have to investigate within their own community. 

Trying to investigate and unearth who can’t be trusted amongst their own friends and neighbours is really tough, especially when their suspicions start to take them very close to home. They have to use all their magical powers and experience, because stirring up secrets buried for this long turns out to be very dangerous for the pair. How much do they really know about their friends and neighbours? Trying to bring together historical facts and fiction can be hard enough for a writer, but to stir in fantasy and magic too takes great skill. The author must get us to feel like we’re in the past, but that past is brought alive by magic. The balance has to be perfect, or the end result can feel messy and chaotic. Instead this feels fresh and leaps off the page vividly. I was drawn in quite early on, by the characters and the incredible world the author has built - especially the fantasy side. It moves slowly at first, which draws the reader in, but also allows us to settle into these characters and their world before letting the rest unfold. Then when it does, the story is believable, rich and vivid. I believed in this couple’s relationship and I was invested in them as characters. So, when the tension did start to build, I was hooked - hoping they would solve the case and emerge unscathed. I thought the magical explanation for systemic racism was interesting and would be interested to see how that resolves in future novels. Definitely a writer to watch.
Was this review helpful?
The Conductors by Nicole Glover is a delightful murder mystery where the Underground Railroad meets magic. From the blurb: “As an escaped slave, Hetty Rhodes helped dozens of people find their own freedom north using her wits and her magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband, Benjy, still fight for their people by solving the murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch.” I really enjoyed my reading experience, though this is not a perfect book. I felt like the plot was a bit thin, and the mystery itself not very compelling in itself. What I struggled most with is that the book reads as if it was from the middle of a series rather than the start of a new one. But The Conductors makes up for that with superb character work. Hetty and Benjy have a wonderful rapport and the way their relationship grows – chef’s kiss. They are interesting and multi-dimensional characters, along with the side-players in this story. The characters in this are so strong that I did not mind the plot as much, and I am looking forward to spending more time with them in the next installment.
Was this review helpful?
DNF at 22%

Unfortunately I just couldn’t get in to this book.
I found the world building to be lacking and because of this I felt no intrigue or motive to continue. 
I enjoyed the interludes far more than the main storyline and I think that was due to the dialogue. It felt incredibly sterile and offered no real insight to the character and their feelings at the time, or even a wider sense of personality. 
I think for a more plot driven reader this may work better, and it’s entirely possible that I just didn't get far enough in to the book to be hooked, but I think at 22% in that that should have happened already.
Was this review helpful?
The Conductors, by Nicole Glover is fantasy mystery set in post-slavery America. The setting is so unusual that I immediately wanted to see where it was going and everything about this novel was a very welcome breath of fresh air, from the magic system to the take on the side romance. 

We follow the couple: Hetty and Benji, supposedly retired conductors, meaning people who risked their lives to lead slaves who wanted to run from their masters to states where they could live as free people. You would think that once freedom came all over America their trouble would be over, but that would be too simple.

Hetty is a complex character, the type that is really intriguing, full of contradictions, real emotions and a drive that you can only envy. I really enjoyed viewing this very different world through her and loved discovering about her past even if I didn’t always see how it was linked to the present. Oddly enough, most of the tension of this murder mystery didn’t come from the case itself, but actually from the relationships between characters.

Another thing I greatly enjoyed is the relationship between Hetty and her husband. A lot of the beginning mystery seemed to be what kind of relationship they truly had. They are great friends, we immediately see that they are utterly dependable and essential partners in their past freedom fighting days… but are they really a couple or is it all convenience? 

I will add that I loved the magical system. There is many amazing ideas in this book and I certainly do want to follow the author and intend to continue that series because it is absolutely unique and fascinating. 

That said there is some bad points. The Conductors does feel like a first novel in that some of the plot was a little murky. It all makes sense, but what I mean is that the pace can be a little strange, the flash backs don’t always seem to serve a purpose, there is too many people introduced all over the place, they add flavour but we didn’t really need all of those extras that come in for one line here and disappear forever after. The world is so dense and full of things some of the main ideas get a little lost.

I highly recommend this novel to people who liked the time traveling classic Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, and the beautiful graphic novel White All Around by Wilfrid Lupano and Stéphane Fert. Anyone who wants insights into the post slavery world with a dash of marvelous will love this book.
Was this review helpful?
Nicole Glover draws you into her story, revealing dashes of magic here and there, until the story has you in its beautiful grip. She heightens the drama of this story of injustices and race by redistributing where power can lie in society, and in turn delivers a compelling and thoughtful tale. I'm loath to give too much of the plot away because so much fun is had in realising what her characters can do, little by little, as the drama unfolds. This type of magical realism deserves to be savoured so tuck in and enjoy!
Was this review helpful?
It just didn't pull me in. The beginning with the wanted posters was interesting enough but the promise didn't held up. It quickly became something languid. It felt like the book tried to tell too much and didn't know the meaning of precision.
Was this review helpful?
This book is a really easy read magical mystery, with just a touch of romance and I loved it. The blend of historic, fantasy and mystery fiction made for a fantastic read, which was so difficult to put down. To start I was a little confused, but you fall into the story easily and I was enveloped in it.

The story successfully intertwines constellation-based magical systems and the real life struggles of being Black in post–Civil War America together in an interesting story with compelling characters that keeps you guessing until the end. I did find it frustrating that the magic was quite literally thrown at you with little explanation to start with, which did get explained in a little more detail later on, but not enough. Glover could have built a whole magical world with some historic descriptions and definitions of the magic, and what tied you to one form and not the other, but either way it was interesting.

The characters, specifically former Underground Railroad conductors Hetty and Benjy Rhodes (the protagonists), are as fascinating as the mystery. Hetty and Benjy are contrasting characters who were completely accepting of themselves, each other and their friends and I loved how their relationship developed as a result of that. The mystery behind this story was compelling and the addition of magic was enchanting. There was some really interesting social commentary and the blossoming of a love story had me hooked. 

I would say the first 10-15% was really setting the scene so it did start a little slow but, even still, it was interesting and once it started I literally couldn't put it down. I read the last 80% in 2 days. I adored the characters of Hetty and Benjy and loved the majority of their friend groups. The characters in this were so endearing and their relationships as individuals and a group had me thinking of my own friends.

This book is mesmerising and will have you hooked. So, congratulations to Nicole Glover, because seriously that was such a brilliant read, it almost hard to believe that it was a debut. I would recommend it to anyone that is a fan of mystery and partial to fantasy (namely, magic, in a variety of forms). I also got to the end and found out there was a sequel and I CANNOT WAIT.
Was this review helpful?
I so wanted to love this - I thought the premise sounded brilliant and I am always looking for more real world based fantasy that is a bit different to what I have read before. However, the pacing was off and I am just not in a good enough reading space to be able to power through. Told in dual timelines, I was not invested enough in the past timeline to keep reading - the present timeline was more interesting but felt disjointed in a way that made it difficult for me to keep all the moving parts straight in my head. I am very interested in the sister angle of this, so changes are high I come back at another point but for now I decided to put it down.
Was this review helpful?
Dead bodies keep turning up with a cursed sigil carved into them so Hetty and Benjy Rhodes, legendary Underground Railroad Conductors investigate. The first body is that of their flash frenemy and one of their first passengers Charlie. He’s got his fingers in all sorts of pies and a snotty wife who used to be Hetty’s bff until they fell out so as they are Good People Hetty and Benjy fell duty bound to do something about it. 
The pace of The Conductors is fairly slow, there’s A LOT of back story and history to lay down as well as a magic system to sort out which I’m not sure is fully realised. I have no idea how the magic works other than it’s bound to the earth (?). I did not like that there were two sets of magic pitted against each other. The bad guys and white people using high faluten sorcery and wands and the good guys and black people using good clean celestial magic. 
There’s also a lot about the Benjy and Hetty relationship. They are married but it’s a marriage of convenience or is it? Cause apparently it’s been consummated which must have had all the passion of a dentist appointment because they don’t have special feelings for each other until years down the line. It’s an odd one especially since we only get it from Hetty’s point of view and Hetty’s not exactly warm and fuzzy. 
However I did enjoy The Conductors, it reads well and the characters are interesting if a bit stiff. As a series there’s a lot of places it can go and I do want to know more.
Was this review helpful?
Huge fan of this author and this is another absolutely superb read. I have nothing negative I can say about this book. It has been a great read filled with interesting characters and a unique plot.
Was this review helpful?
It's hard for me to review this book as it was by no means bad, but it just wasn't really what I expected. There was magic in this, for sure, and maybe it's because I listened to the audio rather than read physically, but it just felt like there wasn't quite the whimsy I had anticipated.

That said, it was enjoyable and I do think it was a me issue more than anything.
Was this review helpful?
3.5 Stars

This was an excellent book that had a few flaws but not enough to spoil my enjoyment. I loved the idea, 'Underground Railroad with magic', and the setting was really well done. The plot was intriguing and unfolded nicely with enough red herrings to keep you wondering. The backstory of the main characters was engaging and the flashbacks were well placed so that they didn't confuse but added an extra dimension to the relationship of Hetty and Bengy. I found the magical systems really interesting but sadly the explanations of them were very thin on the ground which left me frustrated. I also found some of the secondary characters a little one dimensional and occasional got them confused with each other which deadened some of the storytelling. Overall though this was a book well worth reading if the synopsis appeals and I sincerely hope that the author will be returning to this world and characters.
Was this review helpful?
DRC provided by Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Representation: Black protagonist, Black secondary and tertiary characters, Black queer secondary and tertiary characters, Black trans tertiary character.

Content Warning: death, racism, sexism, violence, slavery, desecration of a cadaver, classism.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover is a compelling historical and mystery novel that will keep your eyes glued to the page. 

Henrietta and Benjamin Rhodes are conductors, members of the Vigilance Society and magic practitioners who helped people escape slavery or find missing loved ones, whilst keeping on looking for her lost sister. They start living a quieter life in Philadelphia, working as a dressmaker and a blacksmith, and occasionally helping out the people who seek them out. Their somewhat peaceful life is upset when one of their friends is mysteriously murdered and his body is left in an alley with a disturbing carving on his chest.

The Conductors weaved an enveloping mystery, but ultimately disappointed me in the grand revelation. As much as I loved all characters, among which Penelope was my favourite; and the story with its twists and the way every question answered resulted in new and more complicated questions, I was a tad bored by whom the mystery person behind everything was revealed to be. I, though, really loved the way the author exquisitely and effortlessly introduced queer characters in a historical setting and the way the story flowed.
Was this review helpful?