Jun 29, 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight w/ Giveaway!: Firebrand by A.J. Harley

See the Tour Schedule HERE 

About the Book

New York Times  bestselling author A. J. Hartley returns to his intriguing, 19th-century South African-inspired fantasy world in another adrenaline-pounding adventure

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. The latest threat to the city-state: Government plans for a secret weapon are stolen and feared to be sold to the rival nation of Grappoli. The investigation leads right to the doorsteps of Elitus, one of the most exclusive social clubs in the city. In order to catch the thief, Ang must pretend to be a foreign princess and infiltrate Elitus. But Ang is far from royal material, so Willinghouse enlists help from the exacting Madam Nahreem.

Yet Ang has other things on her mind. Refugees are trickling into the city, fleeing Grappoli-fueled conflicts in the north. A demagogue in Parliament is proposing extreme measures to get rid of them, and 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.

The hallway was lit by the amber glow of shaded oil lamps on side tables, so that for all the opulence of the place, the air tasted of acrid smoke, and the darkness pooled around me as I ran. Up ahead, the corridor turned into an open area where a single yellowing bulb of luxorite shone on intricate ceiling moldings and ornamental pilasters. There were stairs down, and I was aware of voices, lots of them, a sea of confused chatter spiked erratically with waves of laughter.
          A party.
          More Bar- Selehm elegance and, for me, more danger. I had no official position, no papers allowing me to break into the hotel rooms of the wealthy, nothing that would make my Lani presence among the cream of the city palatable. And in spite of all I had done for Bar- Selehm— for the very  people who  were sipping wine in the ballroom below— I felt the pressure of this more keenly than I had Darius’s malevolent kick. Some blows were harder to roll with.
          I sprang down the carpeted stairs, turning the corner into the noise. The hallway became a gallery running around the upper story of the ballroom so that guests might promenade around the festivities, waving their fans at their friends below. Darius was on the far side, moving effortlessly through the formally dressed clusters of startled people. He was still masked, and they knew him on sight, falling away, their mouths little Os of shock. One of the women fainted, or pretended to. Another partygoer, wearing a dragoon’s formal blues, took a step toward the masked man, but the pistol in Darius’s hand swung round like an accusatory fin ger and the dragoon thought better of his heroism.
          I barreled through the crowd, shoving mercilessly, not breaking stride. The party below had staggered to a halt, and the room was a sea of upturned faces watching us as we swept around the gallery toward another flight of stairs. As I neared the corner, I seized a silver platter from an elegant lady in teal and heaved it at him, so that it slid in a long and menacing arc over the heads of the crowd below and stung him on the shoulder. He turned, angry, and found me elbowing my way through the people as they blew away from him like screws of colored tissue, horrified and delighted by their proximity to the infamous cat burglar. And then his gun came up again and they were just horrified, flinging themselves to the ground.
          He fired twice. The gilded plaster cherub curled round the balustrade in front of me exploded, and the screaming started. Somewhere a glass broke, and in all the shrieking, it wasn’t absolutely clear that no one had been seriously hurt, but then someone took a bad step, lost their balance, and went over the balustrade. More screaming, and another shot. I took cover behind a stone pillar, and when I peered round, Darius had already reached the stairs and was gone.
          I sprinted after him, knocking a middle- aged woman in layers of black gauzy stuff to the ground as I barged through. My kukri was still in my hand, and the partygoers were at least as spooked by the sweep of its broad, purposeful blade as by Darius’s pistol, though it had the advantage of focusing their attention away from my face and onto my gloved hands. A waiter— the only black person in the room that I could see— stepped back from me, staring at the curved knife like it was red- hot. That gave me the opening I needed, and I dashed through to the stairs.
          Darius had gone up. I gave chase, focusing on the sound of his expensive shoes. One flight, two, three, then the snap of a door and suddenly I was in a bare hall of parquet floors, dim, hot, and dusty. A single oil lamp showed supply closets overflowing with bed linens and aprons on hooks. The hall ended in a steel ladder up to the roof, the panel closing with a metallic clang as I moved toward it.
          He might be waiting, pistol reloaded and aimed. But he had chosen this building for a reason. Its roof gave onto Long Terrace, which ran all the way to the edge of Mahweni Old Town, from where he could reach any part of the northern riverbank or cross over into the warren of ware houses, sheds, and factories on the south side. He wouldn’t be waiting. He was looking to get away.
          So I scaled the ladder and heaved open the metal shutters as quietly as I could manage. I didn’t want to catch him. I wanted to see where he went. It would be best if he thought he’d lost me. I slid out cautiously, dropped into a half crouch and scuttered to the end of the roof like a baboon. Darius was well away, taking leaping strides along the roof of the Long Terrace, and as he slowed to look back, I leaned behind one of the hotel’s ornamental gargoyles out of sight. When next I peered round, he was moving again, but slower, secure in the knowledge that he was in the clear.
          I waited another second before dropping to the Long Terrace roof, staying low, and sheathing my kukri. The terrace was one of the city’s architectural jewels: a mile- long continuous row of elegant, three- story houses with servants’ quarters below stairs. They were fashioned from a stone so pale it was almost white and each had the same black door, the same stone urn and bas- relief carving, the same slate roof. Enterprising home owners had lined the front lip of the roof with planters that, at this time of year, trailed fragrant vines of messara flowers. The whole terrace curved fractionally down toward the river like a lock of elegantly braided hair. For Darius it provided a direct route across several blocks of the city away from prying eyes.
          The nights were warming as Bar- Selehm abandoned its token spring, and the pursuit had made me sweat. We had left the light of the Beacon behind, and I could barely keep track of Darius in the smoggy gloom, even with my long lens, which I drew from my pocket and unfolded. At the end of the terrace, he paused to look back once more, adjusting the tubular roll of documents he had slung across his back, but I had chosen a spot in the shadow of a great urn sprouting ferns and a dwarf fruit tree, and he saw nothing. Satisfied, he shinned down the angled corner blocks at the end of the terrace and emerged atop the triumphal arch that spanned Broad Street, then descended the steps halfway and sprang onto the landing of the Svengele shrine, whose minaret marked the edge of Old Town. I gave chase and was navigating the slim walkway atop the arch when he happened to look up and see me.
          I dropped to the thin ribbon of stone before he could get his pistol sighted, and the shot thrummed overhead like a hummingbird. He clattered up the steps that curled round the minaret and flung himself onto the sand- colored tile of the neighboring house. He was running flat out now, and I had no choice but to do the same. I jumped, snatched a handhold on the minaret, and tore after him, landing clumsily on the roof so that I was almost too late in my roll. Another shot, and one of the tiles shattered in a hail of amber grit that stung my eyes. I sprawled for cover, but Darius was off again, vaulting from roof to roof, scattering tile as he ran, so that they fell, popping and crackling into the street below. Somewhere behind us, an elderly black man emerged shouting, but I had no time for sympathy or apologies.
          As the narrow street began to curl in on itself, Darius dropped to the rough cobbles and sprinted off into the labyrinth which was Old Town. The streets were barely wide enough for a cart to squeeze through, and at times I could touch the buildings on either side of the road at the same time.  There was a pale gibbous moon glowing like a lamp in Bar- Selehm’s perpetual smoky haze, but its light did not reach into the narrow ginnels running between the city’s most ancient houses. Down here his footfalls echoed in the dark, which was the only reason I could keep up with him as he turned left, then right, then back, past the Ntenga butchers’ row and down to the waterfront, where I lost him. 
          The river wasn’t as high as it had been a couple of weeks before, but it filled the night with a constant susurration like wind in tall grass. As the carefully maintained cobbles gave way to the weedy gravel around the riverside boatyards and mooring quays, any footfalls were lost in the steady background hiss of the river Kalihm. I clambered down the brick embankment that lined the riverbank and revolved on the spot, biting back curses as I tried, eyes half shut, to catch the sound of movement.
          There. It may have been no more than a half brick turned by a stray foot, but I heard it, down near the shingle shore only fifty yards away. It came from the narrow alley between a pair of rickety boathouses that straddled a concrete pier. I made for the sound, opting for stealth rather than speed, one hand on the horn butt of my kukri, picking my way over the rounded stones, my back to the city. Even here, in the heart of Bar- Selehm, when you faced the river, you stepped back three hundred years, and there was only water and reeds and the giant herons that stalked among them.
          I heard the noise again, different this time, more distinct, but in this narrow wedge of space between the boat houses, almost no light struggled through. The river itself was paler, reflecting the smudge of moon in the night sky and touched with the eerie phosphorescence of glowing things that lived in its depths, but I could see nothing between me and it.
          Or almost nothing.
          As I crept down the pebbled slope, I saw—or felt— a shape in front of me as it shifted. Something like a large man crouching no more than a few feet ahead. A very large man. I slid the kukri from its sheath, and in that second, the shape moved, black against the waters of the Kalihm. It turned, lengthening improbably as it presented its flank to me. It was, I realized with a pang of terror, no man. It was as big as a cart, and as it continued its slow rotation to face me, a shaft of light splashed across its massive, glistening head. I felt my heart catch.
          The hippo rushed at me then, its face splitting open impossibly, eyes rolling back as it bared its immense tusks and bellowed.
Copyright 2017 by A.J. Hartley

Praise for FIREBRAND

Hartley creates a world so analogous to our ownit hardly seems like a fantasy....Anglet has blossomed in this sequel, releasing her previously restrained sharp tongue and expanding her emotional range. Even as she learnsto put on a neutral face to be a more effective spy, her empathy for those whoare suffering and her relentless search for the truth are her most laudable attributes. Readers who come for the tightly plotted mystery will stay for the heroine who does all she can to resist.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The well-crafted adventures of this feisty, diverse protagonist continue in thisworthy sequel to Steeplejack (2016), evoking Sherlock Holmes with its Victorian-esquesetting, and James Bond in its espionage-laced plot. Hartley has composed another electrifying fantasy that buzzeswith intrigue and timely political and social issues, making this a must-have additionto any collection.” ― Booklist, starred review

“Expertly written, never preaching or pointing fingers, but subtly applying pressure toexamine race issues, gender inequalities, microaggressions, and socio-economicproblems in our culture…. Teens will see themselves in the tough, realistic, and fierce yet vulnerable protagonist. The multicultural worldbuilding will draw in readers of many ages and backgrounds, while the well-crafted mystery and action will keep them wanting more….A delightful follow-up to the explosive first novel from an established author who clearly knows his craft.” ―VOYA

Hartley's story succeeds in building a detailed world of bothfamiliar (charging hippos) and unfamiliar (a precious mineral, luxorite, usedby the rich) elements while also tackling a wide range of complicated social issues....Most impressive is the genre-blending; the author adeptlymerges a political thriller with action, adventure, and mystery. Will have strong appeal to a wide range of readers, particularly those looking for complex novels that reflect a diverse world.”―School Library Journal


“A richly realized world, an intensely likable character, and a mystery to die for." ―Cory Doctorow, New York Times-bestselling author

“A thought-provoking blend of action and intrigue, with a competent and ethical heroine in Ang and a fully imagined setting whose atmosphere and cultural cues also play important roles. The result is an unforgettable page-turner built on surprises and full of potential.”―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Skillful writing, masterful pacing, and a capable and quite likable female detective are just a few of the things to love about this fantasy-adventure....In addition to the detective angle, Hartley thoughtfully explores issues such as race relations, both inter- and intra-racial, as Anglet deals with the censure of her own community, and class issues, as she attempts to work outside the political system to solve the murder. This one won’t stay on the shelf for long.” ―Booklist, starred review

“Smart political intrigue wrapped in all the twists and turns of a good detective story makes for a rip-roaring series opener.” ― Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“With its unique South African-inspired setting, richly-drawn and diverse cast of characters, and unstoppable plot, readers of any age won't be able to put Steeplejack down!” ―Carrie Ryan, New York Times bestselling author

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley introduces a dynamic, complex and likeable new heroine who combines wits, skill and courage to face deadly challenges in an exotic world. Teens and adults will love this book and want more, more, more!” ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Rot & Ruin and The Orphan Army.

“A.J. Hartley has created an exquisite, explosive, nail-biting, tear-rousing masterpiece, in a world so realistic it might be right around the corner.” ―Faith Hunter, New York Times bestselling author

“What a world Hartley has created! Enough twists and surprises to keep the pages turning long into the night.” ―R.L. Stine

“A unique epic adventure set in a richly imagined world; lush, exotic and masterfully written. It's Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Twist, and Indiana Jones rolled into one.” ―Lissa Price, internationally bestselling author of Starters and Enders

“Smart and socially-aware, this fabulous debut adds to the growing library of multicultural fantasy and is a loudly resounding success.” ―Nisi Shawl, Tiptree Award-winning author of Everfair

“With Steeplejack, A.J. Hartley creates a world as complex as its heroine, and a mystery that spans class, race and geography. You can feel the grit and glory of Bar-Selehm, a many-spired city teetering on the edge of the savannah, and the verge of war. The perfect setting for a street-smart young woman who is caught between three cultures, yet refuses to be trapped by them.” ―Sherri L. Smith, award-winning author of Flygirls and Orleans

Hartley has created a world so gritty and real I could taste the soot.” ―Maurice Broaddus, author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy

“Steeplejack combines a lively and intelligent plot with an intriguing and well-drawn world, and caps all this goodness with a determined and indefatigable heroine.” ―Kate Elliott, author of Court of Fives and Black Wolves

“A rich, atmospheric tale of adventure, morality and consequence, Steeplejack will linger with you long after you read the last page.” ―Kady Cross, author of the Steampunk Chronicles and Sisters of Blood and Spirit series

“Elegant prose, a cracking good mystery, lots of action, and characters to fall in love with and root for. I read it cover to cover in no time at all. In fact, I did so twice! And I was on the edge of my seat both times.” ―D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker series

“I was completely hooked from page one. Ang is a hero to cheer for heart and soul. A thrilling, clever, meaningful read.” ―Leanna Renee Hieber, award-winning author of Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files

“An exquisitely built mystery set in a lush, vibrant world. I was loath to leave Ang and Bar-Selehm behind at the end of it. Definitely a book to be revisited again and again.” ―Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me

About the Author

Author A.J. Hartley is the bestselling writer of mystery/thriller, fantasy,
Photo Credit: Wade Bruton
historical fiction, and young adult novels.

He was born in northern England, but has lived in many places including Japan, and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, where he specializes in the performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama, and works as a director and dramaturg.

He has more hobbies than is good for anyone, all of which you can learn more about by friending him (odious word) on Facebook, by following his blog and by checking in on the What’s Going On blog page. He is represented by Stacey Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management for books, and by Eddie Gamarra of the Gotham Group for film and television. And check out A.J.’s Amazon author page.

Find the Author

--Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter

2 Winners will receive a Set Copy of the Alternative Detective Series, Steeplejack and Firebrand by A.J. Hartley.

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