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The city of Bar-Selehm is tossed into a whirlwind of scandal when the Prime Minister is found dead on the floors of Parliament: and Anglet Sutonga's friend and employer, Josiah Willinghouse, is the one holding the knife.

Determined to prove his innocence, Ang investigates leads throughout the city, only to discover even more chaos wherever she goes. A mysterious but fatal illness is infecting the poor. A fanatical politician seizes power, and rolls out his plans to make Bar-Selehm great again.

Amidst these surrounding dangers, Anglet Sutonga must gather her friends from places high and low to form a resistance... and hopefully, protect everything she knows and loves.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 12, 2018

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A.J. Hartley

42 books272 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
724 reviews1,202 followers
March 7, 2021
There are a lot of things I liked about about this series, but unfortunately The Guardian was just a bit too ridiculous for my tastes.

The author does a great job hanging a lantern on diversity, discrimination, and racism in this series. In fact, the whole plot of this book kind of hinges around those ideas. I just wish the story hadn’t gotten so far-fetched because it stole momentum from other really solid components.

For one, the writing. The author has a very sophisticated yet accessible writing style and I quite enjoyed it. Another great element is the cultural immersion through settings, dialogue, world-building, and plot. It has a 1920s vibe with some South African indigenous people and wildlife along with a subtle albeit weird fantasy twist. It’s such a unique atmosphere, I’ve never read anything like it, and that’s saying something these days. I’d also never heard of a steeplejack before but loved every single page describing the profession. It’s just now occurring to me that I don’t even know if it’s a real thing or just made up for the series. Whatever the case, it gave the main character some interesting background skills and knowledge that played an active part in the unfolding mystery of each book. I really loved that aspect, even when things got weird.

There were a few eye-rolling moments where I thought “okay, I know I’ve been pretty amiable about just going with all the weird ideas up to this point, but that was so completely far-fetched. I just can’t.” A few such scenes really cheapened a lot of the other fantastic things going on. I also thought the overall conflict was too oversimplified; resolved a bit too seamlessly. The idea behind it was great, it just needed a more realistic approach and a longer timeline to satisfy what I wanted out of it.

Recommendations: read this series if you want something fun, unique, and slightly odd.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.nikihawkes.com

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Profile Image for Marta Cox.
2,566 reviews191 followers
May 16, 2018
What can I say about this the third book in this incredibly emotive series ? Ang has come a long way since her work as a steeplejack repairing chimneys. Now she’s firmly ensconced in the household of liberal politician Josiah Willinghouse but there are those who fiercely oppose his policies and that makes Willinghouse a target or should I say scapegoat ?
A fabulous return/conclusion to this alternative view of what could be nineteenth century South Africa. Please note I wouldn’t call this steampunk as then readers start to expect certain things and this series is unlike any other that I have read. Our heroine is a young woman of colour living in a world of discrimination and an unfair class system . There are what I can only describe as almost colonial whites taking centre stage which leaves those of colour , no matter how numerous definitely at the bottom of the pecking order. I found the situation Ang lives in gave me pause on numerous occasions as the race issues were just part of the inequality and gender issues too were used to great effect to bring this harsh society to life.
Ang stands heads and shoulders above the other characters here although there is one of note whose strong beliefs sadly lead him to make the ultimate sacrifice. There is a cracking mystery for Ang to unravel but I feel those who have followed this journey will enjoy how the author brings about a satisfying conclusion. It’s exciting, complex and thought provoking with a unique setting and I found myself gripped.
This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books151 followers
November 2, 2017
This has been a wonderful series to read. AJ Hartley did not disappoint. A full review is coming, but I just want to say that as to the question I asked at the end of Firebrand, I think Ang made the right choice.

A big huge thank you to Tor Books for the advanced readers copy of the novel. It already has a place of distinction on my shelf.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 4 books52 followers
July 5, 2018
This was one heck of a finale. Though, oddly enough, I struggled a little bit with the first couple chapters; I couldn't remember some of the secondary characters and how I felt about them during the previous two Steeplejack books (STEEPLEJACK and FIREBRAND). But everything started falling into place around Page 40, and from there it was a breeze. A thrilling, heart-wrenching breeze, that is.

GUARDIAN is definitely the most political book in the series. But that's partly why it's so good. Its themes of race, justice, and resistance against a corrupted government make this book, and this series as a whole, too timely to ignore. There are echoes of the main conflicts from the first two books as well, and they tie in with Anglet's final case / dilemma seamlessly. Plus, A.J. Hartley improved on the one main critique I had about FIREBRAND. The stakes in GUARDIAN aren't just more personal for Ang. This time, they're so high that, should things go badly, their impact on Ang, her family, her friends, and the rest of the black and colored populations of their city is terrifying.

I think STEEPLEJACK is still my favorite book of the series... but GUARDIAN is a close second. I'm just really happy that these stories exist to begin with, and I'll be shouting and singing from the rooftops about it so that other people know about it and start reading it. And Mr. Hartley, thank you for writing these books. :)
Profile Image for Kathy Martin.
3,383 reviews73 followers
November 22, 2018
The conclusion of the Steeplejack trilogy finds Ang Sutonga deep in the politics of the city of Bar-Selehm. When her employer Josiah Willinghouse is accused of murdering the prime minister Benjamin Tavestock, Ang is nearly alone in trying to find evidence to clear his name.

It doesn't help that Tavestock's death left an opening for the Far Right in the person of Norton Richter to seize control of the government and initiate their extremely racist policies. Blacks and browns lose their jobs and homes. The police force loses power to Richter's citizen militia who all happen to be white bully boys.

Meanwhile, there is a new disease that is running through the Drowning which is the Lani part of the city that Ang comes from. It is striking down mostly young girls including Ang's nieces. It takes a while to find out what is causing the illness and the knowledge signals even more trouble for Bar-Selehm.

This story is filled will all kinds of wonderful characters from seventeen-year-old Ang to a charismatic black activist who is looking for a non-violent solution. Willinghouse's sister Dahria is also fascinating as she combines rich society girl with a cynical political eye. She is also Ang's friend - most of the time.

The story was filled with action as Ang investigates to try to clear Willinghouse's name and finds herself spying on any number of villains and facing danger on all sides. The worldbuilding was well done. I like the South African background.
Profile Image for K.D..
Author 13 books1,847 followers
July 20, 2018
I am a massive fan of YA literature, and an even more massive fan of YA literature with a fantastic angle. This? The Steeplejack series? It's gorgeous. It's sent in an alternative steampunk 1800s South Africa, in a wholly original city, with amazingly deep and detailed characters. It's exceptionally smart. This is not a YA book that talks down to its audience. It's exceptionally clever -- the mysteries of each novel are filled with twists, and cunning logic, and genuinely surprising reveals. And it's filled with wonderful action sequence balanced off against heartfelt & emotional character development. You will fall in love with Ang; and -- in GUARDIAN in particular -- you will love to see how her story comes to a close.

I adored this trilogy, and mourn its ending. I loved every second I spent in this world. Since the day I read Steeplejack, it's been among my highest of recommendations. If you're interested in smart YA, with gorgeous detail and action, then you should give the trilogy a shot.
Profile Image for Teenreadsdotcom.
696 reviews37 followers
July 6, 2018
Former steeplejack and fledgling spy Anglet Sutonga -- Ang for short --- is back with the most intense adventure yet in book three of the Steeplejack novels, GUARDIAN by A.J. Hartley.

Every time I write a review for one of these novels I have to remember that I can’t reference everything, otherwise the review will be as long as the book, but goodness this mystery is a doozy! As far as third installments go, GUARDIAN is here to put its two predecessors to shame. All of the stops have been playfully removed by Hartley, who at this point can almost be seen laughing maniacally at his own ingenious pacing. He is an absolute master of pacing and building tensions higher and higher. I might very well have whiplash from how fast I blew through this book.

The dynamism, vibrance and honesty of Bar-Selehm is in full uproar when the Heritage Party takes control of Parliament. The Heritage Party is (for those grabbing this volume before the second in the series: FIREBRAND) a hardline white supremacist government party in Parliament. At the start of GUARDIAN, the Heritage Party is trying to remove all people of color from Bar-Selehm, the steampunk city-nation in which our young Anglet Sutonga resides. This fascist party of potentially violent government officials has attempted to assume control of Parliament and the country for some time, but to no avail.

That is, until the Prime Minister and leader of a somewhat conservative but less ignorant party turns up dead --- slain, in fact --- in a tucked away corner of the Parliament building. Now it’s up to Anglet to solve the case with the help of her powerful friends. Or at least that would be the case, until her powerful friends start getting taken off the streets to prevent any interference. Soon, a national crisis sends heads spinning, fingers pointing and lands Anglet Sutonga’s Parliament representative employer, Willinghouse, in jail as the prime suspect in the Prime Minister’s murder!

Amidst all this government conspiracy the children of the district in which Ang’s family lives, including all of her nieces, have started getting deathly ill. The virus starts with a handful of girls and quickly spreads to the adults. People are dropping like flies and Ang has only days before people start dying. Its true, you will find all this and more in A.J. Hartley’s newest Steeplejack installment, GUARDIAN!

This is the fastest moving and absolute most intense installment in A.J. Hartley’s Steeplejack series. If this is the conclusion I’m satisfied with it, but really I am hoping I can step back into Bar-Selehm again and again.

Reviewed by Matthew Burbridge
Profile Image for Ajay Ollis.
24 reviews
July 28, 2019
Phenomenal final installment to a phenomenal series. Guardian, the 3rd and final book in the Steeplejack series, is like the mystery and suspense icing on the cake. A.J. Hartley's very believable world of Bar-Selehm is once again deftly injected with sociopolitical themes that hint at those from our own world without being preachy or soap-box-y. If you've read the first 2 installments, you know the characters and know to expect a novel taut with suspense, some shocks, mystery, and a whole lot of Ang getting herself into crazy situations you'll be biting your nails to see if she escapes. It felt like this novel went to 11. When both priors are solid 10's, that's saying something. I had the opportunity to meet the author at a convention and he signed this book, inscribing it with, 'hope you like how this wraps up.' Well, Mr. Hartley, I didn't *like* how it ended, I *loved* it! Steeplejack is the kind of YA novel that I recommend whenever people erroneously assume to know what YA can offer. I'm a 33 year old male and genuinely feel sad, knowing there will be no more adventures to read of Ang and her adventures. Without spoiling anything, there's an incredible surprise toward the end that I think fans will get giddy about!
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,157 reviews458 followers
June 8, 2018
*Source* NetGalley
*Genre* Young Adult / Fantasy
*Rating* 3.5-4


Guardian is the third and final installment in author AJ Hartley's Steeplejack trilogy. 17-year old Anglet Satonga is a Lani (non-white) who lives in a world that is similar in nature to 19th century South Africa. She's a former steeplejack who works for Brevard Party politician Josiah Willinghouse solving the most curious mysteries. Ang's work will get even harder this time out as she finds herself trying to solve problem after problem starting with Josiah's arrest and his subsequent charge of murder, conspiracy, and treason. For Ang, she knows better.

*Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews*

Profile Image for Ashley.
1,065 reviews13 followers
May 7, 2018
I absolutely love the Steeplejack series - it's one of my favorite YA series out there, set in a city inspired by 19th century South Africa featuring a badass female protagonist of color... I love it. Guardian is the culmination of two books worth of heightening tension in Bar-Selehm, and provides an absolutely fitting and satisfying conclusion to the series. If you haven't read this series yet, you need to. It's brilliant and frighteningly relevant. Read it, seriously. Just stop everything and read it, Ok?

Fingers crossed for a book 4 at some point, though Hartley did say that this would be the last one. I'm going to hold out hope for more someday. Please let there be more. Please?
Profile Image for IM211 -Scattered thoughts-.
156 reviews7 followers
June 4, 2018
I apologise for being unable to review thie whole book, since some aspects of this book is against my personal beliefs.

This book has a political intrigue, with discussions of equality for women and black people. I found the dialogues and ideas to be strong and not dull at all. The MC is very likeable strong headed passionate person, which is very refreshing to come across. I'd say I relate to Dahra character here, her views of politics mirrors mine so I'd a fun time whenever we'd interactions with her.

All in all, this book has realistic characterisations & strong premise.

Thank you Net galley and Macmillan- Tor/Forge for accepting my request.
Profile Image for Ted Macaluso.
Author 3 books47 followers
July 3, 2018
Great continuation of the world of Steeplejack

Steeplejack was one of my favorite books of all time, Firebrand was good, and Guardian is the equal of Steeplejack. Protagonist Anglet has emotional depth, the plot is exciting and full of surprise. The world of Bar Sehlem is richly imagined. I wish I could write this well!
Profile Image for hesione.
395 reviews13 followers
July 25, 2018
Okay... why aren't more people reading these... because 1) south africa-inspired 2) race relations (though City of Brass spoiled me to bits as for nuanced culture-relations... Steeplejack is still way more nuanced than a regular teen fantasy) 3) politics 4) MYSTERY 5) ANGLET.
Well let me just say one word for that je ne sais quoi teens apparently want... Korrasami.
Profile Image for Diana Gagliardi.
Author 2 books7 followers
September 20, 2018
Satisfying and engaging ending. Could there be more stories in this world? Undoubtedly, and I would read them all!

Profile Image for Kerry.
61 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2018
Brilliant. As good a tale and as tight a plot as the first 2. Absolutely loved it.
Profile Image for Megan.
276 reviews15 followers
December 6, 2018
Its not that I didn't like it, it was not something I really enjoyed. I plodded through it, half tired of everything and wanted to see how it ended.

It ended. The end.
Profile Image for Alex.
784 reviews34 followers
May 5, 2020
Powerful and has a ton behind it. There is so much to this trilogy I am going to have to start buying it for people so I have someone to talk about it with.
Profile Image for Jessica Strider.
512 reviews62 followers
June 12, 2018
Pros: lots of politics, complex race relations


When Willinghouse is framed for murder, Anglet Sutonga, former steeplejack and spy, tries to clear his name. But the white government starts enacting racist policies that disenfranchise the native black Mahweni and brown Lani populations. Meanwhile a mysterious illness strikes the Drowning, where Ang’s sister lives. As tensions in the city increase, Ang starts to wonder if the city she loves can survive.

This book refers often to actions and people from the previous books in the series, so be sure to read them before starting this one.

While Ang isn’t involved with politics herself, the book depends very heavily on the city’s new policies and how people of different races are treated. I loved seeing a variety of leaders from different groups come together at different points trying to create peace and protest the government’s actions.

The book deals very heavily with race relations, showing clear racist actions on the part of the white men in charge. There are peaceful rallies with some frankly brilliant speeches that wouldn’t be out of place at a Black Lives Matter event. The ending is fantastic in this regard, leaving you with a sense of hope that’s desperately needed in today’s political climate.

Ang goes through several emotional upheavals during the book. She’s able to repress her emotions so she can focus on a number of problems, but I liked how the book addressed some of her feelings at the end, once she has time to deal with them.

I really enjoyed this series and while the book deals with heavy subject matter - especially in today’s political climate - its ending of hope really makes it a worthwhile read.
76 reviews
April 20, 2020
MAL score: 7
Medium-high enjoyability
Medium-high rereadability
Competence porn
Slow burn low-key FS payoff (main)
Profile Image for Kendra.
Author 15 books41 followers
June 25, 2018
Guardian is the third installment in A. J. Hartley's outstanding series that began with Steeplejack. Guardian returns readers to the city-state Bar-Selehm, where protagonist Anglet Sutonga, a smart and tactically brilliant young woman, finds herself grappling with a fascist take-over of the government. Able to climb high above the city and gather information from a variety of sources on the ground, Ang works to protect her community, political leaders, and friends. Hartley's writing is clear and exciting, and often eloquent, a rare thing in thrillers. While Guardian will get marketed as "YA," in part for its obvious (but never pedantic) messages about racism, sexism, politics, voting, and resistance in our own world, the book--and the entire, beautifully-crafted series--should appeal to readers of all ages. Quite honestly, I'd like to put this series in the hands of everyone in the US capable of reading it.
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