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I Belong

Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

Title: Steeplejack

Author: A.J. Hartley

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Alternative Detective (Book #1)

Publication Date: June 14, 2016

Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 076538342X (Tor Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0765383426 (Tor Teen)

Reviewed by: Stephanie


Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, makes a living repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside one another. The white Feldish command the nation’s higher echelons of society; the native Mahweni are divided between city life and the savannah. And then there’s Ang, part of the Lani community who immigrated there generations ago and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm’s edges.

When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice, Berrit, she finds him dead. That same night the Beacon, an invaluable historical icon, is stolen. The Beacon’s theft commands the headlines, yet no one seems to care about Berrit’s murder—except for Josiah Willinghouse, an enigmatic young politician. When he offers Ang a job investigating the death, she plunges headlong into new and unexpected dangers.

Meanwhile, crowds gather in protests over the city’s mounting troubles. Rumors surrounding the Beacon’s theft grow. More suspicious deaths occur. With no one to help Ang except Josiah’s haughty younger sister, a savvy newspaper girl, and a kindhearted herder, Ang must rely on her intellect and strength to resolve the mysterious link between Berrit and the missing Beacon before the city descends into chaos.

Quick & Dirty: Unique and entertaining, a few flaws do nothing to detract from the pleasure of reading this first book in the Steeplejack series.

Opening Sentence: The last person up here never made it down alive, but there was no point thinking about that.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Ang had become used to her life as a steeplejack. She’s garnered a reputation as one of the best. But on one fateful morning, everything seems to go wrong. The Beacon, an historical artifact of the city, goes missing. That same day, she discovers the body of the boy she was supposed to begin teaching. The authorities believe he died from a fall, as most steeplejacks do, but Ang sees a wound that implies murder. No one will listen though, until she’s approached by a politician who asks her to look into the murder. As Ang begins her investigation, it becomes apparent that it goes much deeper than the murder of one steeplejack boy. As her life becomes ever more in danger, Ang can’t help but wonder if maybe being a detective is a bit more dangerous than the life of a steeplejack. Will she live to see justice for the young boy whose life was taken from him?

This book sucked me in right away and moved very quickly. The word building isn’t confusing at all, which is very helpful. Indeed, were it not for a few flaws, this would easily garner four stars from me. As it is, it falls somewhere between 3 and 4, so I went ahead and rounded up because I did enjoy the story very  much.

As mentioned, though, there are some flaws. For one, there is a side plot involving Ang’s sister’s baby that I found a little distracting. It often felt like there was no point to it other than to complicate Ang’s life further. It did, however, provoke a very emotional response in me, so Harvey definitely did something right. I just was often more concerned about what was going on with the baby than I was with what was currently happening with Ang, so my attention wasn’t always fully focused on the moment at hand.

Secondly, while Ang is an amazing main character who is vividly brought to life, I don’t feel the same can be said for the secondary characters. They weren’t necessarily cardboard cutouts, but it did feel as though there wasn’t much depth to them, to the point that the few hints of romance that occurred fell very flat because I had no feeling towards the particular male in question. Other characters had hints of greatness, but it was just never fully realized. Hopefully, this is something that will be improved in future books in the series.

Despite those flaws, this was still a very engaging first novel in a series. The first person narration works very well at drawing the reader in and making them feel as is if they are a part of the story. I didn’t see the ending coming, and was very much satisfied with how everything turned out. I’m very much looking forward to reading a sequel!

Notable Scene:

“What is her name?” I asked.


“The baby. What do you call her?”

Rahvey shrugged. “We only thought about boys’ names,” she said. “Call her whatever you like.”

I picked the basket up. As I did so, the baby stirred, jaws flexing and closing in a yawn. I gazed at her, then looked up momentarily still.

I felt the eyes of the world as a presence like the rumble of the ocean or the still insect-singing heat of the savannah. Outside, the Drowning and Bar-Selehm in general were crouched, waiting.

Fourth daughter. Doubly cursed. The child that should not be.

I tried to carry the basket as if it were lighter than it was, as if it held nothing of value. I gave my sister one last look, but Rahvey had closed her eyes.

“Tell no one where she is,” I said.

I opened the door and stepped out into the world.

Alternative Detective Series:

1. Steeplejack

2. Firebrand


FTC Advisory: Tor Teen provided me with a copy of Steeplejack. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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One Response to “Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

  1. Penny OlsonNo Gravatar

    Steeplejack sounds fun and unique. Thanks for the review.

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