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Firebrand: A Steeplejack Novel

Review

Firebrand: A Steeplejack Novel

When I finished A.J. Hartley’s STEEPLEJACK last year, I was floored. I immediately fell in love with the protagonist, Anglet Sutonga, a young Lani woman who works as a steeplejack in Bar-Selehm, a sprawling city known for both its great smokestacks and its social and racial disparities. STEEPLEJACK concluded with Anglet swept up into a world of intrigue and responsible for preventing a war. Needless to say, Anglet was my assured pick for hero-of-the-year after STEEPLEJACK. Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined that Hartley would sling out a follow-up adventure so fast, let alone one that could match the original in many regards while surpassing it in others. I was still collecting myself from a climactic gunfight at the end of the first book when out from the shadows appeared the second installment, the powerfully-titled FIREBRAND.

"FIREBRAND does a delightful job of reminding us of the things we’ve seen and the things to come while weaving the reader in and out of the most engaging conspiracy YA readers are likely to find this year."

FIREBRAND starts with exactly the right amount of action to pull the reader in (an amount that I would describe as “a great deal of” action). This abundance of excitement comes in the form of a spectacular chase across the rooftops of Bar-Selehm. Anglet picks up the narrative a few months after the events of STEEPLEJACK, just as she is chasing a notorious cat burglar known only as “Darius.” Darius has stolen secret government schematics with the assumed intentions to fence them on the black market. He momentarily gives Anglet the slip, but she quickly picks up his trail. The chase gives way when Darius is found handing off his ill-gotten merchandise to a well-dressed gentlemen with cold eyes who promptly ends the burglar’s life!

With Darius dead, Anglet is forced to try and reclaim the lost schematics from this new murderer, only to be severely wounded in a brawl with him. Driven to flee after suffering at the hand of the well-dressed madman, Anglet Sutonga must regroup and drive herself harder than ever before to make things right. Monsters come in many forms, and Anglet isn’t entirely prepared for the evils she faces ahead in FIREBRAND.

I am really hoping a third book is close behind, because FIREBRAND has made the world within (and without) Bar-Selehm so much richer. The stakes are higher and the noose is tightening on Anglet and her South African-inspired world. Looming threats of war around every corner make for an excellent long-term political subplot that continues to develop in Hartley’s deft hands. FIREBRAND does a delightful job of reminding us of the things we’ve seen and the things to come while weaving the reader in and out of the most engaging conspiracy YA readers are likely to find this year. This new mystery of war and genocide will keep readers guessing until the very end.

There are also a few solid moments of legitimately tense romantic vibes amidst all the suspense without airing it out too much and overstaying its welcome. This makes for some outstanding character growth from the supporting cast that this reviewer approves of wholesale. A.J. Hartley has shown tremendous growth over the last year and I cannot wait to see where his story takes him next.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge on June 12, 2017

Firebrand: A Steeplejack Novel
(Steeplejack #2)
by A.J. Hartley

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Teen
  • ISBN-10: 0765388138
  • ISBN-13: 9780765388131