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Thoughtfully imaginative and action-packed, Steeplejack is New York Times bestselling A. J. Hartley's YA debut set in a 19th-century South African fantasy world

2017 Thriller Awards Winner for Best Young Adult
YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection
Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book
Booklist Top Ten YA in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

"A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for." -- Cory Doctorow, New York Times-bestselling author

Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga lives and works as a steeplejack in Bar-Selehm, a sprawling city known for its great towers, spires, and smokestacks - and even greater social disparities across race and class.

Ang's world is turned upside-down when her new apprentice Berrit is murdered the same night that the city's landmark jewel is stolen. Her search for answers behind his death exposes unrest in the streets and powerful enemies. But she also finds help from unexpected friends: a kindhearted savannah herder, a politician's haughty sister, and a savvy newspaper girl. As troubles mount in Bar-Selehm, Ang must discover the truth behind both murder and theft soon - or else watch the city descend into chaos.
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Product details

  • 12-17
  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 162.56 x 236.22 x 30.48mm | 498.95g
  • NY, United States
  • English
  • 076538342X
  • 9780765383426
  • 1,157,771

Review quote

"Racial tensions and class strife provide the underlying conflict in this tense mystery, first in the Alternate Detective series, set in an industrialized fantasy city reminiscent of Victorian-era South Africa. Sixteen-year-old Ang Sutonga works as a "steeplejack," cleaning and maintaining Bar-Selehm's many towers and spires. When her new apprentice is murdered, no one seems to care. Then a secret government organization hires Ang to find the killer, believing the death is linked to more important matters, such as the theft of the city's fabled Beacon--an impossibly valuable piece of luxorite, the glowing mineral that forms the backbone of the city's economy. As Ang delves into the mystery, she discovers treachery, danger, and evidence of a far-reaching conspiracy that could throw the region into chaos. Hartley's (the Darwen Arkwright series) story is a thought-provoking blend of action and intrigue, with a competent and ethical heroine in Ang and a fully imagined setting whose atmosphere and cultural cues also play important roles. The result is an unforgettable page-turner built on surprises and full of potential." Ages 13-up. Agent: Stacey Glick, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June) - Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga is the only female steeplejack on the Seventh Street Gang; she's also the best. When a routine steeple repair job results in the death of a new gang member Anglet realizes he was murdered. At about the same time the Bar Selehm city beacon--a large, luminescent luxorite stone--is stolen from its high perch above the market. Anglet is convinced the murder and theft are connected and she is secretly hired by a rich politician to find evidence--if she can do so before civil war erupts in the city. Skillful writing, masterful pacing, and a capable and quite likable female detective are just a few of the things to love about this fantasy-adventure, set in what seems to be a Victorian-era South Africa. The author has a flair for world-building, not settling for vivid descriptions of sights and smells, but also utilizing social customs to ground Anglet's story. In addition to the detective angle, Hartley thoughtfully explores issues such as race relations, both inter- and intra-racial, as Anglet deals with the censure of her own community, and class issues, as she attempts to work outside the political system to solve the murder. This one won't stay on the shelf for long." -- Booklist, starred review (May 1st), Cindy Welch

"This latest novel from Hartley (Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, 2014, etc.), his debut for teens, is social commentary masquerading as crime fiction masquerading as fantasy. The book opens with a murder and a mystery: the invaluable luxorite stone that lights the Beacon at the heart of Bar-Selehm is stolen, and Berrit, a young Lani boy, is found dead at the bottom of a spire. Hartley's fictional world is dense and rich. Though heavy with exposition in the beginning, the plot deftly explores the economic and political entanglements of the native black Mahweni, the white settlers from Feldesland, and the brown Lani people the Feldish brought as servants. Determined to get justice for her would-be apprentice, Lani steeplejack and narrator Anglet Sutonga discovers that Berrit's death is but a small part in a larger conspiracy to gain wealth and power at any cost. The diverse cast of characters reflects the varying classes and races that intersect and clash in the post-colonial city. The close first-person perspective keeps readers' hearts pounding as Anglet draws ever closer to the truth. The tension stays taut throughout the book, heightened with each precipice Anglet climbs: if she falls, the city goes to war. Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"In his heart-poundingly suspenseful, elegantly crafted series debut, Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley (the Darwen Arkwright and Will Hawthorne series) introduces a tender and steely heroine in a racially tense, class-clashing world harking back to 19th-century South Africa.

Seventeen-year-old steeplejack Anglet "Ang" Sutonga--fixer of brick clock towers and factory stacks in the industrial city of Bar-Selehm--is, as usual, dangling precariously above the cobbled streets far below. She's unnerved, because the Beacon, a priceless luxorite stone that has burned brightly above the skyline for 80 years, is, impossibly, gone. Worse still, a steeplejack named Berrit has just plummeted to his death on his way up to help her. But when Ang spots his body in the alley, she also discovers he has an obvious knife wound. Was he... murdered? The scene is set, and Ang's sense of foreboding is contagious.

Ang is determined to solve Berrit's murder. At first no one else seems to care about her fellow brown-skinned "Lani street brat" whose "fall" was in the newspaper between "an advert for corsets and a piece about a garden party." But when the boy's death is linked to the theft of the Beacon, Ang is recruited by a local politician to investigate, and her sleuthing role becomes official. A city in crisis, breathtaking rooftop chases, harrowing assaults, blood oaths, love and loyalty, brutal betrayals and impressive detective work by the intelligent, intuitive Ang unfold in a fascinating, vividly described setting that includes smog and slums, gas lamps and opera houses, baboons and bushbabies. A political, multilayered mystery-thriller with a strong, impressively fierce heroine.

Discover: In this suspenseful murder-mystery set in a fantastical 19th-century South Africa, a 17-year-old female steeplejack gets pulled into a political maelstrom." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, starred review Shelf Awareness

"Steeplejack is quietly thoughtful and breathlessly exciting, and with two more series installments to follow, Ang's personal and professional journey is far from over." --BookPage, Teen Top Pick

"With its unique South African-inspired setting, richly-drawn and diverse cast of characters, and unstoppable plot, readers of any age won't be able to put Steeplejack down!" --Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author

"With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley introduces a dynamic, complex and likeable new heroine who combines wits, skill and courage to face deadly challenges in an exotic world. Teens and adults will love this book and want more, more, more!" --Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and The Orphan Army.

"A.J. Hartley has created an exquisite, explosive, nail-biting, tear-rousing masterpiece, in a world so realistic it might be right around the corner." --Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author

"What a world Hartley has created! Enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning long into the night." --R.L. Stine

"A unique epic adventure set in a richly imagined world; lush, exotic and masterfully written. It's Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Indiana Jones rolled into one." --Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of Starters and Enders

"Smart and socially-aware, this fabulous debut adds to the growing library of multicultural fantasy and is a loudly resounding success." --Nisi Shawl, Tiptree Award-winning author and co-author of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach

"With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley creates a world as complex as its heroine, and a mystery that spans class, race and geography. You can feel the grit and glory of Bar-Selehm, a many-spired city teetering on the edge of the savannah, and the verge of war. The perfect setting for a street-smart young woman who is caught between three cultures, yet refuses to be trapped by them." --Sherri L. Smith, award-winning author of Flygirls and Orleans

"Hartley has created a world so gritty and real I could taste the soot." --Maurice Broaddus, author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy

"Steeplejack combines a lively and intelligent plot with an intriguing and well-drawn world, and caps all this goodness with a determined and indefatigable heroine." --Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives

"A rich, atmospheric tale of adventure, morality and consequence, Steeplejack will linger with you long after you read the last page." --Kady Cross, author of the Steampunk Chronicles and Sisters of Blood and Spirit series

"Steeplejack has everything a reader could want: Elegant prose, a cracking good mystery, lots of action, and characters to fall in love with and root for. I read it cover to cover in no time at all. In fact, I did so twice! And I was on the edge of my seat both times." --D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series

"I was completely hooked from page one. Ang is a hero to cheer for heart and soul. A thrilling, clever, meaningful read." --Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files

"Steeplejack is an exquisitely built mystery set in a lush, vibrant world. I was loath to leave Ang and Bar-Selehm behind at the end of it. Definitely a book to be revisited again and again." --Kat Zhang, author of What's Left of Me
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About A. J. Hartley

A. J. HARTLEY is the international bestselling author of a dozen novels, including several archaeological thrillers, the Darwen Arkwright children's series, the Will Hawthorne fantasy adventures, novels based on Macbeth and Hamlet, and the Steeplejack series with Tor Teen. He is the Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.
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Rating details

901 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 21% (192)
4 48% (428)
3 24% (219)
2 6% (53)
1 1% (9)
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