Author: A.J. Hartley
Genre: Fiction, Steampunk
Series: Alternative Detective # 2
Hardcover, 336 pages
Publication: June 6, 2017 by Tor Teen
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Once a steeplejack, Anglet Sutonga is used to scaling the heights of Bar-Selehm. Nowadays she assists politician Josiah Willinghouse behind the scenes of Parliament. When government plans for a secret weapon are stolen, their investigation leads right to the doorsteps of the city’s superexclusive social club, Elitus. Ang has a chance to catch the thief, but only if she can pass for a foreign princess. Her best chance to learn the ways of royalty lies in the aloof Dahria Willinghouse and the intense Madame Nahreem, a woman possessing high standards and unusual pets.
Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees from the north are trickling into the city, but an ambitious politician is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them. She soon discovers that one theft could spark a conflagration of conspiracy that threatens the most vulnerable of Bar-Selehm. Unless she can stop it.
I haven’t read the first book in the Alternative Detective series, but I had no problems following the story in Firebrand. In this follow-up to Steeplejack, we find Anglet, a former Steeplejack working as a private detective/spy for parliament member, Willinghouse. After blueprints for a machine gun gets stolen and a wave of refugees goes missing; Ang is sent into the inner sanctum of the elite society to find out who is behind it all and what she discovers is more alarming than she can ever imagine.
Firebrand takes place in an alternative South Africa and I found everything from the setting to the characters refreshing. I don’t remember ever reading a novel taking place in Africa/Alt-Africa or one featuring such a vast cast of intriguing, complex, and incredible women. Ang, is our main heroine and we are treated to her first-person POV and within the first page I knew I was going to like her and the story. Ang had many admirable qualities, everything you’d want in a heroine. My favorites scenes were of Ang and Madame Nahreem’s training, teaching Ang the proper etiquette of a lady and how to become someone else/neutrality. I also thought the supporting cast was amazing, and one of the characters that rivaled Ang was Willinghouse’s and one of the lady’s society member, Dahria. Dahria was a hoot! She puts on this indifference front, acting as if she’s above Ang (most of the time) but the two are more alike than they cared to admit. And under all that sarcasm (which I found hilarious) she was a little ol’ softie.
Hartley weaved an enthralling story full of multiple threads that converged for a satisfying conclusion. I appreciated and love the way that Hartley incorporated serious issues of race, social class, economic, and politics into the story without it overshadowing the story and characters itself. It was subtle and brought another dimension to the plot. The mystery had me intrigued, the action had me at the edge of my seat, and the wonderful characters had me smiling and laughing throughout the book. I loved Firebrand and can’t wait to see what Hartley has in store for Ang and company next. Firebrand is such an underrated, gem of a novel and definitely doesn’t get the notice it deserved. I highly, highly recommend Firebrand, if you’re looking for a book that has it all, then look no further! It’s here, it’s Firebrand.