*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Book review of NETGALLEY arc The Conductors – Book 1 of the Murder and Magic series by Nicole Glover #BrainfluffNETGALLEYbookreview #TheConductorsbookreview

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I saw this one featured on Books, Bones and Buffy and loved the look of it, so requested it and was delighted to be approved. Would it be as enjoyable as I’d hoped?

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.

When they discover one of their friends brutally murdered in an alley, Hetty and Benjy mourn his loss by setting off to find answers. But the mystery of his death soon brings up more questions, more secrets, more hurt. To solve his death, they will have to not only face the ugly truths about the world but the ones about each other.

REVIEW: This one grabbed me from the first page and wouldn’t let go. This is told in the viewpoint of Hetty, an escaped slave, who helped free others using her magic. As a slave with magical abilities, she’d been forced to wear a collar that not only repressed her magical abilities, but also was used as a means of punishment. I liked the dual timeline; one where we have Hetty and Benjy living in Philadelphia and making a life together within the community of freed slaves; the other timeline in the form of flashbacks to when they were both either escaping, or guiding others to freedom. It worked well, as it gave us vivid scenes of how the pair of them worked together, using magic and their own fighting skills, to save themselves and others, so cut down the amount of explanation that would have otherwise been necessary.

Hetty is a cagey, sharp-edged character who doesn’t quite trust anyone, with the exception of Benjy, who became her companion in desperate situations almost by accident. Once they settle in Philadelphia, they get married to stop any scandal about the fact that their friendship and teamwork means they end up living together. She is also a gifted seamstress and highly talented magical user, using Celestial magic as opposed to Sorcery, which is reserved for whites only. I liked the magic system and didn’t particularly need to have it further explained, as Hetty’s use of the various Celestial symbols when she needed it gave us a ringside seat into the main rules she needed to consider.

I enjoyed the characterisation of Hetty and her relationships with those around her. It becomes apparent during the investigation that while everyone around them is busy moving on with their lives since the war, both Hetty and Benjy are finding it difficult to adapt to their daily routines. The fact that difference is causing rifts in their relationships with their friends and each other is poignant and significant to the plot. Overall, I thought the murder mystery is well handled, with plenty of suspects and a strong sub-plot. However, there is a fair bit of repetition, which slows the pace and slightly silts up the narrative tension.

This is an ambitious book in dealing with the number of plotlines around the themes of of loss and trauma – and how people differ in their handling of it. The storyline around Hetty’s sister felt a bit rushed at the end, and given that this is a series and how much this issue chafes at Hetty, I think the overall pacing would be improved if this plotline was dealt with more thoroughly in the sequel. It seems a bit tacked on at the end – and is why this book didn’t get five stars. Overall, this is an impressive debut and I look forward to reading more about Hetty and Benjy in due course. Recommended for fans of historical fantasy, who enjoy reading about settings other than the usual medieval/early modern European era. While I obtained an arc of The Conductors from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

15 responses »

  1. It seems like years since I featured this book on my blog, I’m pretty sure the release was postponed several times. Glad you enjoyed it, I’ve seen some mixed reviews but you’ve made it sound really good!

    • I’m aware some folks wanted more details regarding the magic system – but I don’t really care all that much, so long as it actually makes sense and works. Which it does. I’d rather it was that way around than Jackson Bennett’s long explanations about the way his magic functions in his The Founders series – even though I love his world.

      The pacing around the murder mystery was a bit uneven and the plotting in the second half became a bit too busy, so that the ending felt a little rushed – but they are relatively minor niggles in comparison to just how much Glover got right, as far as I’m concerned. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I LOVE Hetty…

  2. I really loved this. Fantastic review! I’m looking forward to more and perhaps there will be further expansion about the sister in the next book, but yes, it was rushed when I consider how it was a decision point for Hetty for about 15 years.

  3. This sounds like a book with plenty of heart and not only mystery and adventure, and reading about it after seeing, just yesterday, a History Channel documentary on the Underground Railroad, looks like the Universe sending me some kind of message… 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Aye, ye did enjoy this a lot more than I did. Glad to see that it worked that well for ye and the reasons why. I am interested in hearing yer thoughts about book two whenever that comes out.
    x The Captain

  5. I saw this one around and I confess that it piqued my curiosity, but I haven’t read it yet. Too bad the ending felt a bit rushed, but I’m glad you enjoyed it overall 🙂

  6. It’s a fine line isn’t it between no explanation at all and overly explaining things to the point of boredom. The Ladies of the Secret Circus for example doesn’t explain the magic and I think it worked really well for that reason. Sometimes, there is magic, sometimes there are dragons – it doesn’t always need explaining to the nth degree.
    Lynn 😀

    • Oh, absolutely. I’ve never needed all that much explanation, as long as I’ve felt convinced. But I’m aware that I have far more tolerance for the background noise to stay in the background than a lot of readers – and it’s an aspect that I need to pay attention to as a writer, too.

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