Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐1/2
"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."
The Conductors is the fantasy debut novel of Nicole Glover set in post-Civil War in Philadelphia.
I thought this was overall an okay read but was a solid enough debut novel. On the positive side, the writing worked for me and story was interesting enough to keep me going. However, I feel like this book got lost in its execution and left me with a bunch of unanswered questions. Get ready for a really in-depth review.
For starters, let's talk about what is mentioned in the synopsis. Our main character Hetty used to be a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and this idea was what caught my attention in the first place. Unfortunately, mentions of her past didn't occur as often as I would have wanted to that is now in the past and this takes place after the fact. It would have been nice to get more background information though.
The actual story takes place post-Civil War where Hetty now solves murders and mysteries with her husband Benjy. While that is the main focus of the book, I didn't feel convinced that that was what they did. It didn't feel like it was their job to solve these mysteries, it felt like 'oh no our friend is dead, guess we should try and figure out who murdered him.' What I am trying to say is that they didn't feel like detectives, they felt like two random people just trying to solve a murder for the heck of it.
In terms of the plot, we had the major focus which was the murder, but there were also two side plots involving a missing sorceress as well as Hetty trying to figure out where her sister is. I think the book could have done without either of those side plots. Sure the missing sorceress had a minor connection to the main plot, but in the end it didn't feel very significant. With Hetty's sister, the direction the story went in made it seem very pointless. I don't really think either of these plot points added very much to the story.
The ending and the reveal of the mystery left me feeling underwhelmed as it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. When it was revealed I just went 'oh, that's it?' Not a very good reaction to have.
I am also unsure as to how this is going to be turned into a series. Sure you can swing it as Hetty and Benjy just solving more murders and mysteries, but I felt that by the end of the book, everything wrapped up and there is not much more room to squeeze another book out.
Moving on to the magic system. I am honestly kind of just confused about it. Hetty is able to use constellation based magic, (which is actually pretty interesting), and Benjy can do...something else that I am not quite sure of. There are also practitioners of sorcery in this which has been made clear is seperate from whatever magic Hetty can do.
My issue with this is that the magic system isn't really explained. How is the magic Hetty has different from sorcery aside from the use of a wand? What dictates who can use one or the other? Is this a case where you have an affinity for a specific type or can you use all different kinds? What is the point of Hetty infusing the stitching of her clothes with magic? There were just a lot things that were left in the air that I would have liked to know.
Overall this wasn't a bad book, I just think that it wasn't fully fleshed out and that more time could have been taken to narrow down the plot. There were things I thought needed to be focused on more while others could have been left out entirely. The idea is interesting but the execution wasn't quite there.