Author : Nicole Glover | Publisher : John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books | Release Date : March 2, 2021 | Genre : Adult, Historical Fantasy | Pages : 384 | Add on Goodreads | Buy indie | Buy on Book Depository
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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.