Format: E-Galley, 336 pages
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Steampunk
Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, Ang for short, repairs the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm, the ethnically-diverse industrial capital of a land resembling Victorian South Africa. The city was built on the trade of luxorite, a priceless glowing mineral. When the Beacon, a historical icon made of luxorite, is stolen, it makes the headlines. But no one cares about the murder of Ang's new apprentice, Berrit—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician, who offers Ang a job investigating Berrit's death. On top of this, Ang struggles with the responsibility of caring for her sister's newborn child.
As political secrets unfold and racial tensions surrounding the Beacon's theft rise, Ang navigates the constricting traditions of her people, the murderous intentions of her former boss, and the conflicting impulses of a fledgling romance. With no one to help her except a savvy newspaper girl and a kindhearted herder from the savannah, Ang must resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city is plunged into chaos
Steeplejack is the first installment in new to me author A.J. Hartley's Alternative Detective trilogy. 17-year old Anglet "Ang" Sutonga lives in a place called Bar-Selehm. One could say that the setting of the story is an alternative version of South Africa, especially with the most diverse cast that I can truly remember reading about. Ang is one of only a few individuals, and the only female, who works the high places of Bar-Selehm. Her work includes cleaning and repairing everything from chimney's to spirals to towers.
After discovering her new apprentice Berrit murdered, and the Beacon that shines brightly over the city missing, Ang is pulled into a situation that can have dire consequences for people of all colors. Ang is what's known as a Lani. In other words, she's not white, nor black. The Lani came to the country as laborers, and now they do various jobs like being a steeplejack. Ang takes the burden on her shoulders to discover what really happened to Berrit, and ends up working for the only person who seems to really care; Josiah Willinghouse.
Ang and Josiah make a deal. Ang will do what she does best; investigate who killed Berrit, and who had the means necessary to steal the Beacon which is made of a rare and valuable material called luxorite. That means Ang gets to dig into places only she would have access to, which puts a target on her back. Ang is such an interesting and fierce character. Ang is a character that you can relate to, except for maybe her family. Ang has her own moral compass, and I can honestly respect a whole lot of her choices.
She struggles to survive each day knowing that she can fall to her death at any time. She belongs to a gang lead by a man who is just vulgar, and pays peanuts to his gang. Her own family, two older sisters, are dysfunctional and horrible towards Ang. I do have one minor issue and that concerns a baby that Ang becomes responsible for. I shall not spoil the rest, nor will I say who it actually belonged to. Was just trying to figure out the point of that particular storyline. After all, Ang puts her life on the line time and time again.
Steeplejack is a story that is deep into racial and political tensions but not overtly to make the reader feel uncomfortable. One wrong move on Ang's part, or not discovering who the actual villains are, will push the country into a war that it cannot win. Hartley does an amazing job of keeping a strong pace, while also making readers confused about who would be responsible for intentionally tearing the country apart. His cast of characters is so diverse, that I challenge would be readers to jump in feet first and enjoy.