Thoughtfully imaginative and action-packed, Steeplejack is New York Times best-selling A. J. Hartley's YA debut, set in a 19th-century South African fantasy world. Actress Noma Dumezweni - best known for originating the role of Hermione Granger in the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - narrates with the precision and delicacy of a high wire act to bring a remarkably complex and one of a kind heroine to life.
Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga lives repairing the chimneys, towers, and spires of the city of Bar-Selehm. Dramatically different communities live and work alongside each other. 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 over generations ago as servants and now mostly live in poverty on Bar-Selehm's edges.
When Ang is supposed to meet her new apprentice Berrit, she instead 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 her a job investigating his 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.
©2016 A. J. Hartley (P)2016 Audible, Inc.
"A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for." (Cory Doctorow, New York Times best-selling author)
Entrepreneur. Seeker. Artist. Adventurer. Foodie.
Steeplejack follows the adventures of 17-year-old Anglet Sutonga as she searches for truth, purpose and the murderer of a young apprentice amidst the depths and heights of a society divided by class and race.It is a rush of a story with gorgeous sentence-level writing, memorable characters and enough plot twists to keep it interesting.
Author A.J. Hartley gives readers a lush world of landscape and characters to explore. I like the descriptions of the wildlife and diverse human/racial communities presented. Read by the incomparable Noma Dumezweni, these descriptions transport the listener to a compelling, alternate world.
Ms. Dumezweni captured the spirit and the heart of the characters as I imagined them. Her voice and performance perfectly matched the world presumably imagined in steampunk Victorian South Africa.
It was a fantastic listen and I highly recommend it.
This alternate reality steampunk (did the author intend any steampunk imagery?) was so hyper realistic that I found myself living the life of the lead character, I could feel the social tension between classes as colonialism was drawing to a close in a diverse world struggling for equality of race and class. I could feel the tensions between the old ways of my people dieing too slowly to help the optimism of the fresh generation. I dreaded but did not fear and revere my interactions with the not-so necessarily evil white colonialist establishment and found intrinsic goodness in my interactions with some of them. All my prejudices were challenged as I sought to discover the mystery that was bringing my city into chaos. Where you might expect to find gimmicky airships and gizmos, here in Barcelem you'll find yourself.
A reviewer on Nocturnal Book Reviews since 2011. Love fantasy of any kind, contemporary fiction, kick butt heroines & antiheroes.
I have to give major kudos to this book for the creativity. It's rich, full of steampunk elements and takes place on the African continent. The narrator adds to the atmosphere with the cadence of her voice, and I just loved Steeplejack on audio partly because of her!
The investigation itself is not the strongest part of the plot, and I wasn't convinced by Ang's mostly intuitive jumps to conclusions/ I don't think she made for a good detective, and she certainly shouldn't have been offered the job. There was absolutely no reason for her to be primary. It would have made more sense to have her as a consultant helping the police investigation. Having said all that, I loved this book in so many other ways.
The different cultures, skin colours and clashes in technological advances made Bar-Selehm a fascinating place.
Ang is in a difficult position from the start. She is an outsider in her own tribe, she has no influence among the ruling race to go through her investigation successfully, and she doesn't know who to trust within the other tribe, which is in even worse condition than her own. She also decides to take care of her sister's newborn, which is sheer madness if you ask me and which she soon realises as well.
Her superior and his sister, the police detective, the Mahweni girl: they are all fabulous secondary characters and make for some vivid scenes. Take the chimney episode, for example. I was holding my breath there.
Overall, despite a choppy investigation, I really loved this book. It was original, refreshing and superbly atmospheric, so I hope to read more from A.J. Hartley soon. Recommended.
I bought this book because of the reader' s voice. For a YA book it was a well written coming of age story. Author love unique elements into a believable story. It held my attention, and warrants a second listen. Recommend
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