Steeplejack – AJ Hartley

Steeplejack (Steeplejack #1)Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Well that was underwhelming.

Fantasy thrillers are my jam, but Steeplejack is a disappointment. The worldbuilding relies too heavily on a mish-mash of Victorian and generic colonialist tropes, an unsatisfying shorthand to create a society that feels more like a backdrop for a plot than a real place an intriguing story is happening. Ang is a cardboard cut-out of a Real Girl, her investigation awkwardly interrupted by confusing and inexplicable sexual and romantic attractions to any young man she has a serious conversation with as well as her struggle against a generic patriarchy that feels as empty and pointless to the world and the story as it does to the characters who wish it wasn’t there. I wish it wasn’t there. I want more interesting obstacles for a character in a story like this, not the old stand-by.

The luxorite and the disappearance of the Beacon are a solid foundation for an urban fantasy detective thriller. If this had been a tight and fast novelette or novella—drop the unnecessary patriarchy and the appallingly unrealistic b-plot where Ang takes care of a baby for several days without ever changing its diaper while fighting with a sister that does little for the story that can’t be accomplished through other characters—and it would have packed the punch the author wanted. The only reason the narrative felt fast-paced was because I sped-read my way through, skipping anything that wasn’t dialogue or necessary plot information; everything else was filler.

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