The main part of this novel that stood out to me was that it was set in Congo so I knew that diversity would be very very prominent within the book. With a 90% black cast with a handful of mixed race characters and a couple of white characters as well, this book explores racism, refugees and the war against the militia within Congo and surrounding areas. Whilst all of this is happening, this book also disguises itself as an action-packed thriller/mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on.
I read this book in a few hours; I was absolutely captivated by the premise of the story. The beginning immediately had me hooked and kept me going until the very end. Our main character, Tina has a huge huge character arc throughout the novel and even though she is our strong, female protagonist, we also see a sensitive, emotional side to her which makes her a very relatable MC. I also really liked how Tina had loads of tattoos. I don’t see a lot of male/female protagonists in YA that had piercings/tattoos so it was a breath of fresh air to read from the persepctive of a character who does have them. The only other characters that I liked within this book were BoyBoy and Michael. It’s probably because they had more spotlight than other characters which meant they could be developed more, but side characters such as Bug Eye and Ketchup really didn’t grip me. I just really didn’t like them and I felt like they didn’t add anything to the story other than being in the Goondas gang.
The thriller aspect of the novel was actually very good – hence why I finished the book in a few hours! It was just so well written, with the descriptions of Congo pulling me in. There were such vivid descriptions of all of the settings that I felt like I was actually there and that I was a fly on the wall watching the whole story play out.
“After a while I found that I liked pain better than emptiness. The little monster inside of me fed on the violence and grew strong.”
– Natalie C. Anderson, City of Saints and Thieves
There were a couple of things that I didn’t really like about the book. One was when we find out who killed Tina’s mother. I felt like it was slightly obvious, as I had guessed who it was at around 35%. There is also a part near the end of the novel where we find out *MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD* that Mr. Grehill as been paying for Kiki’s school at the Convent. Oh yes, a white man coming to the help of the poor mixed race kid and the black kid, because that felt really original. No, I didn’t like that at all. I liked at the beginning where we thought Kiki was there on a scholarship but instead, she’s there because of some white man’s dirty money. I don’t care that he’s her father, where was he the rest of the years of her life?! But nooooo, money solves everything, doesn’t it?!
Ok, rant over. Aside from those couple of things, I really did like this book and I thought that it was a very enjoyable read. You could tell that Anderson had definitely done her research on Congo and the militia problems that they have there. She wrote about the citizens fear so well and captured the scare-mongering that goes on there with such precision. What is also good is that Anderson actually worked in Africa with refugees and development for the past decade. I also think that City of Saints and Thieves is a brilliant debut novel and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Warning: this book contains triggers for death and racial abuse and rape.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review