Written by Nicole Glover
Published by Mariner Books
Paperback, 422 pages
When I read the description of this book, I was intrigued. Post Civil War, helping slaves and ex-slaves to safety and freedom. And magic. For me, I think of historical magic stories and I think of Europe, not my own back yard, especially during a period I tend to enjoy learning about. I thought to myself, why not?
I’m glad I did.
The Conductors is Nicole Glover’s debut novel. I found it fun, suspenseful, and charming (no pun intended).
The story takes place in Philadelphia after the war is over and the slaves are given their freedom. Hetty and Benjy Rhodes are former slaves who have escaped and made their way north, helping others along the way. Hetty is very skilled in constellation magic, using the celestial beings as her guards or weapons. Benjy also knows magic but is not as skilled as his wife. Together they help with the Underground Railroad, finding others’ loved ones, and solving crime mysteries. When the two of them stumble across a friend mysteriously murdered and surrounded in a cloud of dark magic, they start down a path that leads them to discover more about their inner circle than they thought they already knew.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of the last five to six pages of a book revealing why whoever did it did it part, but with this I was okay with it. I think it was because I was not ready to leave Hetty and Benjy. The character building Glover has put into them and their relationship with each other and their circle of friends is good. She has enough detail without it becoming overwhelming. Plus the history of each of them as slaves, making them who they are today. And real complications that sometimes is overlooked. The path to freedom is not as “romanticized” as some stories may make. Glover reminds the reader of this. Love and loss and reconnections.
This drives the overall story. When the reader finds out the “who dun it and why,” you almost want to feel sorry….almost. And the bad person is surprising. Glover weaves so many theories together that you become lost in them. There were times I thought I knew where she was going…..just to find out I didn’t.
Plus the magic. Different spells named for constellations producing different visual effects of who or what they represent, guarding and protecting the characters. Who are slaves and ex-slaves. It seems counteractive to the stories they would tell about witchcraft or voodoo and secrets. The magic in this story is very open and used as another way for their owners to justify some of the cruelty, in their own magical way.
If this is the start of Nicole Glover’s career as a writer, I look forward to what else she has ahead. I would even like to see more stories in this period. It could be a fun universe mixing genre into this period of history. Her storytelling seems effortless and well thought out. She left no stories unfinished.
I’m sad I have finished the book but I will keep my eye out to see what Nicole Glover comes out with next.