Tuesday, 2 March 2021
Hetty and Benjy Rhodes both escaped slavery in 1858. They became Conductors with the Underground Railway as a way of locating Hetty’s missing sister. Their motto: never leave people behind. With the war over, the pair solve crimes affecting the black community in Philidelphia that police ignore. When one of their friends turns up dead, the case becomes much more personal as they learn more about their friends - and each other.
The worldbuilding is fantastic. The setting is often gritty and harsh, especially the flashbacks. The author really captures the complexity of the world, with various laws, good and bad areas of town, economics and politics. I especially loved the friendship connections surround Hetty and Benjy. Community is hugely important in this book, and I loved seeing the variety of interactions and how Benjy and Hetty helped and were helped in turn by their friends.
There are three magic systems: sorcery using a wand, restricted to white practitioners; celestial magic, a mixture of practices from Africa, the West Indies, and Native Americans, which uses sigils for power; and alchemy or potion magic, created by brewing herbs. While you see less sorcery than the other two, I loved how magic was integrated into the world.
The pacing was great. So much is going on here and the setting and characters were so interesting that I never felt the book slow or drag.
It was fun reading about a couple who married for convenience. It’s great seeing a different kind of marital relationship and I loved seeing the couple’s interactions. They don’t always get along, but it was cool watching people in a strong marriage make up after fights and work together towards their goals.
This is a fantastic book. In many ways it reminds me of Jaime Lee Moyer’s Delia’s Shadow. If you like historical fantasy with great characters, fun magic systems, and an interesting mystery, pick this up.