Review: Steeplejack


Anglet “Ang” Sutonga may be the best steeplejack in Bar-Selehm, but for a Lani girl from the Drowning, that doesn’t guarantee an easy life. Rejected by her Lani community, who live on the outskirts of the city, Ang doesn’t really fit anywhere: not in the dangerous, male-dominated world of the steeplejacks, who repair the chimneys and towers in the city, nor in the white, Feldish high society that governs Bar-Selehm. When Ang finds her new steeplejack apprentice, Berritt, dead from an apparent fall from a tower, she is the only one who suspects it was murder. Berritt’s suspicious death coincides with the theft of the Beacon, a valuable historic landmark, and Ang begins to ask questions about a possible connection. Her questions get her noticed by a prominent politician, Josiah Willinghouse, who hires Ang to secretly investigate the murder and the theft. With the city in turmoil, Ang must use her intelligence, street-smarts, and the help of a few new friends to navigate unfamiliar classes and cultures to get to the truth…and avoid being next in a series of suspicious deaths.

A.J. Hartley’s character-driven mystery is a suspenseful, thought-provoking exploration of class, race, culture, and political intrigue. In Ang we find a compassionate, intelligent, self-sufficient heroine who makes mistakes, but keeps fighting and seeking the truth. The cast of supporting characters is rich and worth knowing in their own right. Steeplejack is a complex mystery that takes place in a fictional city that comes alive in Hartley’s hands. One of my favorite books of 2016.

Why I love it: There are so many reasons to love this book, but the main reason is that Ang is amazing. I love her strength, compassion, and imperfections. I want her to truly see her self-worth and release herself from the confines of her culture and the people who actively try to destroy her. Hartley has left room for her growth over the series, and I’m interested in going on her journey with her. This story also has atmosphere. Inspired by Victorian South Africa, Hartley paints a vivid picture of this fictional city and the surrounding area, including the wildlife. Not content with mere pigeons, the city houses iridescent bee-eaters, pink rollers, and fruit bats! It gave me the sense that the city was only just this side of civilized and could, at any moment, revert back to the bush country surrounding it. The conflict of cultures and classes also adds depth to the story and promises a continuing thread that I hope will tie the series together. A little birdie tweeted that the next book is called Firebrand. It’s already on my TBR list.

More A.J. Hartley:

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