If you love to read, you probably also love discovering new authors. It doesn’t matter if they are well-established authors. If they are new to you, you feel the joy of discovery. And what a special treat to find an author who’s written a series. Knowing that, after you finish that first book, you have more adventures with the same characters to look forward to is sheer delight.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting , A.J. Hartley, aka Andrew Hart, who spoke at our local Sisters in Crime meeting, recounting his journey to becoming an international bestselling author of novels spanning a variety of genres. He has written several archaeological thrillers, the Darwen Arkwright children’s series, the Will Hawthorne fantasy adventures and novels based on Macbeth and Hamlet. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he is also the Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte.
For me, AJ’s talk was one part informative, one part inspirational and two parts humorous. Afterwards I selected Steeplejack, the first in his three-book YA Fantasy series. The book’s protagonist and heroine, seventeen-year-old Anglet Sutonga, earns her living cleaning and repairing chimneys and towers in the city of Bar-Selehm, “an industrial city resembling an alternate Victorian South Africa.”
Anglet is a Lani. In the culture of the Lani people, the first daughter is a blessing, the second a trial, the third — a curse. Anglet is a third daughter. Nevertheless, she is a talented climber and excels at her job. She is also independent and fierce, characteristics that draw us to her immediately.
Near the end of the story, when Anglet is on the run and in great peril, she encounters a black weancat with a collar, a creature with whom she feels a kinship. She muses that the collar is a “collar of the mind” that you could simply refuse to believe in, and without the collar “all the cat had was itself: muscle and sinew, claw tooth and bone, senses, experience, skill, instinct and roaring, blood-pumping animal need.” She, of course, could be describing herself — or any of us, for that matter.
I loved this character and I loved this book. The story is gripping, the action, non-stop, the setting, hauntingly beautiful — the language, soaring. No wonder more and more adults are turning to Young Adult literature. Can’t wait to finish reading the series.