City of Saints & Thieves
“If you’re going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don’t exist.”
Tina’s mother was killed four years ago, and since then Tina has been training, determined to be ready for the chance to exact revenge on her mother’s killer. Not only will she kill him, she will also destroy everything he holds dear. But when she finally finds her chance, someone from her past catches her, and Tina is forced to doubt everything she ever thought was true. New circumstances bring Tina across Sangui City and the sprawling countries of Kenya and Congo, where she must confront the truth that maybe this man did not murder her beloved mother. Enemy lines are drawn as Tina delves deeper into the truth of her mother’s murder and who her mother truly was.
"CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES continuously surprised me with each new revelation...The diversity of the characters, setting and plot set this book apart as one to watch, and I cannot wait to read more from Anderson."
In this explosive debut novel, Natalie C. Anderson threads revenge, sorrow, love and humor into one unforgettable novel about a young girl wanting revenge and the people that will stop at nothing to get in her way. CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES was my first read of 2017, and I am so happy about that. If this is what I can expect from YA literature this year --- diversity, interesting locales, fantastic atmosphere, unlikely heroes and unlikely villains --- then I cannot wait for what is to come.
This novel starts out with Tina, a teenage girl who has been planning revenge for her mother’s murder for four years with the notorious Goonda gang in Sangui City. I loved how Natalie C. Anderson built the dynamics between the Goondas and how Tina fit in, the lone girl who can do everything the men can do and more.
The writing in CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES was wonderful and somewhat snarky, but the aspects that really shined were the characters, Tina in particular. Tina was not a perfect heroine. She was tough, but could cry. She was calculating and cunning, but could make mistakes and misjudgments. Most importantly, she was not sure of herself. In YA literature, I feel like we see so many teenage girls who are a perfect picture of confidence, but that is not the reality of teenage girls. We are unsure, messy, emotional and sometimes not very sophisticated. What I liked most about Tina was that she was a perfect blend of many different aspects of girls and what makes them who they are. She was easy to relate to, even though she was under conditions that I could not dream of being under --- living in Africa, being part of a gang and exacting revenge for her mother’s murder. Somehow all of that made her even more real, and I loved her as a character.
Other characters I loved were Boyboy, Tina’s tech-genius and fashionable sidekick --- though I would not reduce him to just a sidekick. He was a hero in his own right. I even liked Omoko, who --- no spoilers --- was quite the rat.
Finally, one of my favorite parts of this story was the atmosphere. I do not think I have ever read a book set in contemporary Africa. It was intriguing to read about a place that is constantly stereotyped in the media. The Africa in CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES was vibrant and throbbing with life, love and crime --- like any good setting should be. I loved reading about Tina, Boyboy and Michael’s journey through Kenya and Congo, from big cities to small villages, and everything in between. When --- no spoilers --- they reached Tina’s home village and found what they were looking for, I might have shed a tear or two. CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES continuously surprised me with each new revelation and now I want more. The diversity of the characters, setting and plot set this book apart as one to watch, and I cannot wait to read more from Natalie C. Anderson. I have a good feeling we will be seeing her name everywhere.
Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on January 20, 2017