STEEPLEJACK by A.J. Hartley bursts with rich imagery and world building. Bar-Selehm is a city in a historical South African fantasy world with three primary communities: the white Feldish, the native Mahweni, and the Lani. One major element of the story is how the communities and races interact together and how Ang feels she has no place as she doesn’t adhere to the more traditional Lani customs. The descriptions of the city and the landscape are beautiful, and even with all the smoke and chaos in the city, it clearly feels like a home to Ang as she knows every roof.
The detective/mystery plot is well layered and holds more than one unexpected twist. The story gets even better as Ang teams up with a newspaper girl and a politician’s sister to figure out some of the clues. All are highly intelligent and savvy, and their dialogues are a joy. Ang’s sisters also play important roles, and the strained family relationships are written well and realistically.
Luscious world building, a tense mystery, and a smart heroine combine to make STEEPLEJACK an absolute thrill ride.