The Conductors was one of those books where the premise was so unique that I immediately wanted to read it, so I was delighted when it turned up on Netgalley and my request was granted. Mostly, it lived up to my expectations, though there were a couple of things about it that didn't quite work for me, perhaps showing that this is a debut novel.
The basic premise of The Conductors is that it's set in the post-Civil War United States, with flashbacks to earlier times, but this is an America with one big difference - the existence of magic, in two different forms. The magic wielded by some slaves, and therefore by freed men and women after the war that is based on the elements - either sigils of the constellations or brewed - as opposed to the wand-based Sorcery restricted to white people. While this is an intriguing way of structuring a magic system, there are clear omissions in the world-building (whether by design or not) especially around how much more effective the elemental magic seems to be.
As well as talking about magic, this is also a murder mystery with a number of dead bodies cropping up along the way. Our protagonists, formerly the eponymous conductors of runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad with the use of magic, find themselves in the middle of this scenario and take on the role of investigators with vigour. Unfortunately, the pacing of the book starts to lag a little in the middle and my interest started to wane a little - again, perhaps, the mark of a first novel?
Everything gets resolved in the end, I'm sure you'll be glad to hear, and this seems to be a standalone so there's no nasty cliffhanger for the next book to deal with. All in all, The Conductors is an entertaining read and clearly a labour of love for the author, who has worked hard in terms of her research. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.