The Conductors by Nicole Glover

An Arc was sent to us by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of this book. Thank you to Del Rey Publicity team for allowing us to read this and review it.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m not going to lie, I was really excited about The Conductors. The premise was so intriguing to me and I thought that this has the potential to be an instant favourite for many people.

Pitched as “The Underground Railroad but with with magic” but with also some crimes solving added on top… who wouldn’t want to pick it up to give it a read?

There were several things I truly enjoyed about this novel but the truth is I think I might have spoiled the enjoyment of the book with the anticipation of it. I had very high expectations, so much so that once I had finished reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

Let me tell you why.

Nicole Glover breaks the stigma surrounding the blending of two well established genres with a solid attempt of marrying crime with fantasy.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover is an excellent crime novel. We follow the main character, Hetty Rhodes, a former conductor on the Underground Railroad who now uses her magic to solve crimes in her community in a post Civil War World. The set up, from the start, was engulfing. I like that the book didn’t shy away from touching on matters of race throughout the book especially for when the book is set. Glover done an excellent job at making me feel maybe an ounce of what black people are dealing with on a day to day basis through out the world, now.

Hetty is an excellent main character and Glover doesn’t shy away from giving her various hats to wear; from the investigator hat to the spouse hat, Hetty comes of as a complex, well fleshed and well thought out character. Most importantly to me, Hetty felt like a real human being and not a fiction character that had been developed for the benefit of the plot.

When the first body appeared in the novel, I’m not going to lie there was an element of confusion as to where the story would go. I was excited that Glover didn’t shy away from mixing two genres in her book but I also think that because of this, the book made me feel disappointed in the end.

The fantasy element of the novel were too sparse. I wanted the world building to be so much more than it actually was, to be explained the magic system and to understand why the classification between the two types of magical people in this world was important. I wanted so much to be rooting for the magical system, being an avid fan of magic in novels but it didn’t turn out to blend too well with the crime aspects of the novel; the magic being conveniently there to help further the investigations.

The Conductors is the first novel in a series and I’m keeping my eyes open for the continuation. I want to see if the second novel will go deeper in the magical elements, if the characters backgrounds and experiences will be further explored. However if you are a fan of crime novels but also like magical elements peppered through out the novel, then this book is for you.

In conclusion I would like however to congratulate Nicole Glover for trying to break the stigma that two genres can’t be blended as The Conductors is a solid novel that proves that sometimes, it’s good to have crime mixed in with mystery and crime.

The Conductors comes out tomorrow, 4th of March 2021 and I would encourage anyone to give this book a try. You never know what you might like unless you try.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once in a while, I get the opportunity to read amazing fantasy and something inside me just blooms. I consider myself an avid reader now. But if you would’ve met me five years ago, I would have probably said that I read about five books a year.

I arrived very late at the party, discovering the joys of reading in my mid twenties. And once I got there, I had the feeling that I had missed so many amazing novels and somehow felt compelled to make up the time lost.

I think that every time I pick up a fantasy novel, especially the ones that are either recommended to me or put in front of me by my friends with a ‘you-will-thoroughly-enjoy-this’ label on them, I start to get skeptical. Not because I don’t trust them, but because I know that a part of me had wished that I had read it when I was younger. When I was the target audience for the book.

Tracy Deonn weaves a well-known legend with her unique ideas perfectly, trapping reader in an original tale of magic and secret societies.

Nonetheless, Legendborn is one of the novels that I wished had come out when I was in my teens. It is a modern, Arthurian Legend inspired fantasy novel with elements of RootCraft (magic drawn from the roots of plants). Tracy Deonn conjures a world that feels new and fresh and in my opinion like anything that I had read in recent fantasies.

There were so many aspects of this novel that I enjoyed, and some that I enjoyed a bit less.

Let me start by just giving a few examples of the things that I enjoyed in this novel. The characters are amazing. With some very few exceptions (which I will go into later in this review) are fleshed out from head to toe. I particularly enjoyed the attention with which Deonn creates side characters, that although (and I presume) won’t come to the forefront until maybe later on in the series, making them feel important throughout the novel even though they appear for one scene or two in the whole book.

Bree, the protagonist of the story and the main POV from which we see the events of the novel being played out is one of the strongest main characters I’ve read in a while in a YA Novel. She came off as loveable but at the same time not overly characterized to me, jumping straight off the page and by the end I felt like I had acquired a new friend rather than reading the events that happened to a stranger.

One of the things that came off to me as clunky was the characterization of Selwyn Kane. I know what Tracy Deonn wanted to achieve with this character but to be honest it didn’t work for me. There is more to be redeemed in the character before I can actually believe that he is trustworthy and wondered why Bree changed her demeanour around him so quickly. All in all he comes off as ‘too much’.

However I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys retellings of classical stories but also enjoy a good twist. Legendborn is a series that I will definitely will keep my eye on.

Year One by Nora Roberts

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Here’s the thing. I like to be surprised. I like to pick up a book and be knocked off of my feet with amazing, captivating stories. And this book has done that, for various different reasons.

I might be the only one who thought that Nora Roberts has only written romance. I remember my mom being very excited to read her romance novels and somehow, in my small mind, I had categorised her as an author to be exclusively a romance writer.

Shame on me for thinking that. Shame on me for pushing her in a box that she definitely doesn’t belong in. Shame on me for thinking that one author can be fitted into only one genre.

Nora Roberts is not only a romance author. She is a masterful story teller who’s able to see past genre. Who can write compelling stories with interesting—and sometimes twisted—characters. She’s a good cook, that knows her recipes and adds the perfect amount of character, plot and twists into a pot and lets it simmer.

Now was it a smart idea to read Year One in the middle of a pandemic, when the story is about a pandemic? Absolutely not! The book hit too close to home. The story starting with a hunting trip in Scotland. In Scotland of all countries!!

The accuracy with which the first 20-30 pages described the pandemic through which the whole world went through in 2020 and is still currently going through, made me at times afraid. I had, on multiple occasions and to no fault of Nora Roberts as an author, stopped. Simply put the book down, went in my bedroom, closed the door, went under the blankets and cried for a good half an hour. It was too much.

I read because I like to escape reality. I like to be immersed in a story and follow characters I’ve never met because the real world is too difficult to deal with. When I was plunged into a fictional world, that resembled oh-so-well the reality in which we were living, I couldn’t cope.

But I did finish the book. I did read it through cover to cover and it was… *chef’s kiss* perfect! The story in itself follows four characters through their way of coping with the fact that the world as they knew it ended. Irrevocably and irreparably ended. To a certain degree, I found myself criticising myself. Here I was whining that I haven’t left the small town I’m living for 8 months but the characters in the book had to leave their lives behind. If they wanted to survive they had to uproot themselves and go into the unknown with the hope that they would find peace.

I would recommend Year One to anyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre but also to anyone who feels that the world outside their window, feels too strange and too broken to be ever pieced back together. I hope you get the comfort from this book, although it is categorised as fantasy, that you need to understand that not all is lost. And there are better times coming.

The Darkest Part Of The Forrest by Holly Black

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“In the woods is a glass coffin. It rests on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives….”

Some stories are written to be read and shelved.

Some stories are written to be adored but never read.

This story has been written to be read and loved and when you’ve finished it you can’t help but tell someone about it.

The Darkest Part of The Forrest by Holly Black has become an instant favourite of mine. I usually don’t get to enjoy the fairytale type of stories as my brain is weird in such a way to reject anything that is anything close to a fairytale. Yet Black managed what many haven’t managed to do. Trick my mind. Make it believe that although there is a magical setting, and although there are elements hidden through out the text that––in retrospect—should have made my brain shut down, it didn’t.

The magic of Black’s writting manages to conjure something refreshing. Something that many tried to do and failed. To bring a new breath into a story that has been told before.

Although it is loosely based on one of my favourite balads in German literature called Erlkönig—having studies it in school—it never crossed my mind that a retelling might be ever based on it. Partially, because I always thought that the original ballad had been perfect in my mind, but also because the elements that Black brings to the story are not things that I thought would fit into the mix.

The Darkest Part of The Forrest is a great story, fairly a quick read for anyone who looks to get lost in a story that takes a folk story—a twisted classic in my opinion—making it feel brand new. It is the perfect start for anyone who enjoys stories set in the real world—or some what similar to the real world—with magical elements, a bad ass female character and queer representation.