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City of Saints & Thieves

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Librarian's note: This is an Alternate Cover Edition for ISBN10: 0399547584 ISBN13: 9780399547584.

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 in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published January 24, 2017

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About the author

Natalie C. Anderson

2 books242 followers
Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children's Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,244 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,253 followers
March 24, 2017
4.5 stars
update: accidentally deleted this review, so here it is again :/

If this is a sign of what is forthcoming in young adult fiction this year, consider me an extremely happy lady. I'm in!

A young adult contemporary standalone set in modern day Africa. It is a revenge story that is also part murder mystery. The main reason to pick this up is for the rich and beautiful setting. It also doesn’t hurt that the writing is very strong. There’s a great deal of diversity and the story is enthralling.
We pass a break in the houses and trees, and I catch a glimpse of the dark Indian Ocean. Sangui: City-state on a hill, port to the world, and a fine bloody place to do business. You do the dirty work down there in town, and the Ring is where you retreat.

Tina and her mother are refugees from the Congo. They escape to Kenya where her mom became a maid for the wealthy Greyhill family. Eventually her mother is murdered leaving Tina and her sister orphans. She takes her sister to live at a convent school, while Tina lives out on the streets with nothing on her mind but revenge. She takes care of herself by joining the city’s gang, the Goondas, and becoming a master thief. She’s finally ready to start her plan for vengeance against the man who killed her mom. Dirt. Money. Blood.

The plan brings her back to the very place she left five years earlier: the Greyhill estate. With the Goondas in on her plan, there is little wiggle room. Everyone expects a payout. Tina cannot mess this up. But being back in the house her mother died in has emotions swirling. Her past will collide with her present as she gets set on a path to find the truth and get revenge.

There is so much to this story. There is Tina’s life as an orphaned refugee in Sangui City and the way she manages to survive. The bits from the past we’re slowly given that display the life Tina and her mother had as refugees in Kenya. The journey into the dangerous jungles of the Congo. The exploration of modern day Africa with gangs, militia, warlords, slave labor used to mine gold, and the war caused over the fights for these mines. It was powerful and unlike anything I’ve ever read. The beauty of Africa was so clear even among the darkest places. Eventually we even learn why Tina and her mother fled the Congo in the first place.

Tina is everything I want out of a protagonist: determined, strong, and smart. I appreciated the relationships she has with her sister, Michael, and Boyboy. It was interesting the way Tina’s rules to live by were at the beginning of a lot of chapters and throughout the story. They helped to maintain structure. I could have done without the romance. I know there was very little, but it still felt out of place. The ending was also tied up a little too neatly for a story like this. I think there’s crossover appeal for adults. City of Saints & Thieves remained engaging throughout. I’m surprised this is only a debut novel! This is one not to be missed.
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
872 reviews3,754 followers
April 5, 2017
Video review (spoiler free)- https://youtu.be/WfoswNFSQ8w

The writing was fine. The characters were good. I appreciated that the author seemed to have done a lot of research, having worked with refugees in Kenya and that she included information in the author's note about which parts were fictionalized and which were not, as well as including a list of resources for you to learn more.

The reason this is only 3 stars for me is because this is not the style of mystery I enjoy. I was intrigued by the summary saying it was a revenge thriller, but I didn't feel like that's what I got. There is only one suspect, there is no tension or suspense, and although Tina started out wanting revenge, that angle felt dropped pretty early on. This was much more a story about a girl finding out about her mother's past than a mystery. It's just not my preference in terms of a thriller.

Rape and sexism are very prevalent themes, and although they are relevant to the story, it was hard to swallow. It's not a bad thing for a book to show those themes, it didn't romanticize them, but they also didn't seem handled with purpose beyond 'this is just how the world is.' Does it need a purpose? That's up to the reader, but for me personally this did lower my enjoyment because I was not aware of how prevalent they would be. Other readers might find it more impactful than I did.

I did really enjoy the characters of Tina, Boyboy, and Michael. As far as representation, most of the characters are black and a couple are biracial (black/white), one side character is gay, and it features a main character who is homeless.

I would recommend this if you are looking for a book set in Africa (Kenya and Congo) and has a strong lead character trying to understand her roots.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
April 13, 2017
Question: What is worth more than diamonds and gold? What is the most stable currency? What thing, when stolen, becomes most dangerous and precious of all?
Answer: a secret.

What a well-written, exciting thriller!

City of Saints & Thieves is set in Kenya, where Tina - a Congolese refugee - is a member of the Goondas, a gang of street thieves. Tina looks out for her beloved younger sister, Kiki, whilst also longing for revenge against the man she knows murdered her mother: the wealthy Mr. Greyhill.

With the help of the Goondas, Tina plots her revenge, but when she is caught trying to steal files from Mr. Greyhill's computer - by his son, Michael - she is forced to make a deal. Michael will assist her in finding out what really happened to her mother, in exchange for her holding off on unveiling the files and exposing his dad's shady antics.

A diverse cast of characters find themselves digging deeper and deeper into the past; a journey which will take them to a tiny village in Congo, and reveal ever darker secrets. Alongside the fictional mystery that gets more nail-bitingly tense by the second, Anderson shines a light on some real world atrocities: real tales of greed, crime, and the way women's bodies become the spoils of war.

As far as I know, the author is not Kenyan or Congolese, but it definitely feels like a lot of research went into this book. She presents the dark sides of both countries, but also paints them in rich, beautiful detail. All of the characters are carefully-developed with thought and sensitivity; Tina, for example, has had to get tough to survive as long as she has, but she is also realistically flawed and driven by anger and sadness. Her narrative is split into thief "rules", as she educates the reader in how to be a good street thief, and reveals the story at the same time. It's quite punchy and effective.

City of Saints & Thieves contains a vivid world that will be unfamiliar to most readers, as well as memorable characters, and an intriguing mystery. Predictably, some romance does surface, but it isn't until the later chapters of the book and is kept to a minimum. Recommended for those looking for a YA thriller that sits outside the norm.

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Profile Image for Faith.
1,897 reviews535 followers
April 20, 2022
This is a young adult thriller that deals with more important themes than I usually associate with the genre. Sixteen year-old Tina became a street kid in Kenya after the murder of her mother who was working as a maid in the Greyhill household comprised of a rich, white American ex-pat, his Kenyan wife, their son Michael and their daughter. Mr. Greyhill is also the father of 11-year-old Kiki, Tina's half sister, who has been in a convent school since the murder. Tina joined up with a gang of street criminals and is a pickpocket and burglar, but her chief goal is revenge against Greyhill who she thinks killed her mother.

I wasn't really engaged by the beginning of this book but at around the half way point I started to love the story. Tina, Michael and Boyboy, Tina's friend and partner in crime, travel by banana lorry to Congo to try to find out who really killed Tina's mother. In the process they also learn the painful story of Tina's mother who had fled from Congo when Tina was a small child. From then on I found the story really fascinating and it felt very real. Congo is a very complicated place and what Tina learns about her mother is all tied up with greed, politics, slavery, human rights violations, the plight of refugees and the treatment of women in war zones. All of this was packed into a book that was also a satisfying thriller. This was a lot more than I expected from this book and I was pleasantly surprised.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Profile Image for Helen.
159 reviews68 followers
January 9, 2019
City of Saints and Thieves is a fast-paced murder-mystery, moving between contemporary Kenya and Congo and providing a real eye-opener on the Congolese Civil War and the plight of its refugees. The story follows Tina who has been forced to survive on the streets and eventually recruited as a thief into a notorious gang, the Goondas, after her mother’s murder. Tina’s burning desire for vengeance is what keeps her going and motivates her to work her way up the gang’s hierarchy so that she can access the power needed to avenge her mother’s murder. After breaking into the home of a wealthy businessman, she is unexpectedly reunited with Michael, her childhood friend, and both he and Boyboy, Tina’s best friend from the streets, provide a stark contrast to Tina’s prickly and taciturn personality. The interactions between all three were great, as was the dialogue, and it was interesting that Boyboy’s homosexuality seemed to be accepted by everyone they came across at face value. In my experience, thrillers and murder-mysteries haven’t exactly been trailblazers when it comes to LGBTQ representation, so this was a nice change.

The story was brilliantly plotted and provided a much needed insight into a catastrophic conflict not many people in the West know enough about. Apparently, the Second Congo War was the deadliest conflict since World War II, and hostilities are still ongoing in certain parts of the country. The author previously worked with Congolese refugees on behalf of the UN and her emotional connection to the country really shines through in her writing. Her intimate knowledge of the subject really helps to bring the descriptions and the emotional turmoil of her characters to life. In many ways, my favourite part of the story was the ending. It was so satisfying on every level and was exactly the sort of empowering ending I always hope for with these kind of stories, but rarely get. A full five stars from me.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,027 reviews2,046 followers
February 15, 2017
“People are complicated creatures, my dear. The ways they find of explaining the bad things that happen in the world are not always the right ones. Sometimes they are simply the easy ones. They are the ones that give them enough comfort to sleep at night, the ones that let them take the blame off themselves.”
I had two days off of work for the inauguration and I intended to spend them both reading my way into distraction, but I ended up mostly just lying on the couch unable to focus on much of anything except Esquire’s Parks and Rec marathon. After spending Saturday marching on the National Mall, I was grateful to spend Sunday reading a book about a kickass young woman who gets to be the hero of her own story. What’s more, I was grateful to spend Sunday reading a book that highlights atrocities in a part of the world that’s often forgotten about.

Loosely based on real stories, this book is about Tina, who was brought to Kenya from the DRC as a refugee when she was very young. Her mother procured a job with the prominent American businessman, Roland Greyhill. Greyhill fathered Tina’s half sister and Tina knows that he was involved in some illegal business in Congo, so she naturally suspects him when her mother is murdered when Tina is just 12.

After her mother’s death, Tina runs away from the Greyhill estate. She sets her sister up at a convent school and spends four years becoming a master thief with a street gang known as the Goondas, essentially training for the day that she can exact revenge on the Greyhills. But when that day finally arrives, Tina is jolted by the realization that the circumstances of her mother’s death aren’t as black and white as she’d long believed. Though she gets some help along the way, Tina will stop at nothing in her quest to unearth her family's history and avenge her mother's death.

This book has a similar flavor as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo--a young woman bent on revenge, using the knowledge of hackers to advance her cause--but the violence is less intense, easier to stomach. And it manages to shine a light on the blood gold industry of central Africa. We are probably all familiar with the concept of “blood diamonds” thanks to the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, but Anderson shows us the horrifying human rights violations committed by the militias seeking control of the gold trade in places like Congo (and the Central African Republic).

Ostensibly meant for an older YA audience, this book ought to appeal to adult readers as well. It’s a thriller with believable, unpredictable twists and compelling, fully realized characters. Natalie Anderson has done an excellent job building a story that kept me at the edge of my seat. Seriously, this book comes in at around 400 pages and I managed to devour it in just under 30 hours. I highly, highly recommend it.
Profile Image for kate.
1,221 reviews947 followers
May 28, 2017
I enjoyed the Kenyan setting and the fact that the author seemed to have done a lot of research into what they were writing about but for me, the thriller/mystery aspect was a bit lacking. I was hoping for an intense, page turning read and unfortunately that's not what I got. I think a lot of people would really enjoy this but as someone who loves a thriller with a lot of tension and keeps me guessing, I was a bit disappointed. That being said, it was an enjoyable read, just not the read I was hoping for. It's also worth mentioning that I'm very much in a 'reading slump' right now, so that may well have affected my overall enjoyment of this book!
Profile Image for TL .
1,876 reviews53 followers
March 1, 2017
I received a copy of this from Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to the publisher and Goodreads Giveaway for giving me the chance to read this book :).

This is going to sound wrong haha but, it felt like I was reading this book longer... I work overnight so time kind of bleeds together and it is hard to keep track of days (Sometimes when someone asks me when I'm off and I say the number they ask me what day that is and I shrug and say "Whatever day *insert number* is" Some of us call it the "vampire shift.") When I looked at the dates on the review, I was pleasantly surprised :).
*pats the book fondly* Got me through a couple frustrating work nights.

This book pulled me in right away and I fell in love with Tina, Kiki, Boyboy, and her imperfect city right away. Michael followed soon after, worming his way in without me noticing (Tina had to make room haha).

The pacing alternated between steady and quick and it was a bit slow in the middle but never lost my interest. (In fact, I was cursing my body for being not awake enough to binge-read).

We start out thinking one thing, along with Tina, but as the story goes on... it is way more complicated than it first appeared. As layers are peeled away and more things are revealed, it became impossible for me to put the book down despite my head pounding (high compliment to the author by the way). I had to force myself to slow down and keep my eyes from skipping ahead so I didn't miss anything.

A certain revelation... wouldn't have expected that...at all. It gave this particular character 'something' more that had my stomach dropping and wanting Hulk to smash him under his foot. And also had my heart breaking for Tina's mom and her all over again.

When backstory is told regarding

There are certain... issues discussed but not in great detail... still wouldn't recommend this to those below 16 (I know that is the age my parents may have let me read this but YA wasn't as diverse when I was in highschool so... ) Don't hold me to this, just my humble opinion.

Loved Tina, she had a good head on her shoulders despite everything. She was brave and smart when she needed to be, and would do anything to take care of her sister/friends.

So glad this book came across my radar, I may not have discovered it otherwise.
Looking forward what else Miss Anderson writes in the future :).

Would recommend :) A different sort of novel in its own way <3

Happy reading!
155 reviews260 followers
December 30, 2017
4.5 stars

The more I think about this book, more I feel I should give it less stars but no matter how many negatives come to my mind, I can't deny the simple fact that I enjoyed the hell out of myself reading this book. City of Saints and Thieves marked as Murder mystery set in modern say Congo amids the war and conflict. The mystery aspect was not very good, but the characters, writing, diversity, and research done was spot on.

I loved Tina. She was strong headed and cunning. Her narration was really good and I loved her character arc. All other characters; Boyboy, Micheal, Mr. Greyhill, even Bug Eye and Ketchup were really interesting to read about.

The best thing about this book is the research done regarding ongoing conflict in Congo was truly amazing. We got to know little bit about politics in African countries, refugee issue, street children, warlords, all the dirty business for the gold and among all these dark things, there was beauty of African countries and people who just want to live peacefully.

However, the mystery aspect of the book was dissapointing. It was undeveloped and to be honest nit much research was done by Tina to find her mother's murderer. In the end, the murderer simply revealed himself when Tina was nowwhere near tge conclusion herself. What a bummer.

In conclusion, it's a fast paced, emotional and action packed book. Not a good mystery but it's fun nonetheless.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
May 25, 2017
City of Saints and Thieves is a well-paced, character driven thriller. Maybe the plot is nothing new, but the protagonist and the research stand out enough that it's still worth the read.

The largest thing that sets this novel apart is obviously the setting. The protagonist is a refugee from Congo, and the book focuses on NGO activity in the Congo. I have to praise the author for excellent research on this front; her research stands out.

Tina's character is definitely very strong. Her arc as she tries to avenge her mother is possibly the best thing about this book.

Possibly the largest disappointment is that the overarching mystery isn't very new. We've seen simple revenge thrillers before. The plotting here isn't very twisty for a mystery.

VERDICT: A typical mystery, but still very well-written for what it is.

* I received a copy of this via my local bookstore. This does not impact my review in any way.
919 reviews255 followers
June 8, 2017
This could have been so good.

There's a spark missing, a level of dust and heat and danger that never really came through despite the setting and the plot. The characters were a little too cut-out, a little too predictable (though Boyboy stole every scene). Why base the book in a fictional city? Why start every chapter with a new "rule"? This could have been so good, but somewhere it missed the mark and settled softly into just "ok".

And yet - if you're going to read a "just ok" YA novel, with a reasonably kickass heroine and perfectly nice love interest and etc etc, make it this one rather than yet another whitewashed-as-fuck teen-angst drama.
Profile Image for Kristy.
1,055 reviews130 followers
March 13, 2019
DNF 60%

Maybe it's me, maybe it's the books I've been reading, but YA no longer holds my attention. This book has gotten a lot of high reviews and love for being fast paced and a thriller, but I didn't get any of that.
Profile Image for Daniela.
175 reviews91 followers
December 29, 2020
Great for those people who think that Africa is synonym to poverty and underdevelopment. This book actually treats it as a real place, with real people, with struggles and triumphs, instead of a prop for the white man to save. However, there are some flaws: I thought the ending was a bit too predictable.

Some characters are very interesting, such as Boyboy and, ironically, Mr. Greyhill, and Tina’s dead mother. The adults definitely are the most interesting characters in this YA novel.

It’s an entertaining book that reveals Natalie Anderson's potential.
Profile Image for Ana.
2,352 reviews325 followers
April 11, 2022
For the most part, I liked the fast-paced writing style, the setting, and the mystery aspect of the book. My problem with the book is that the way the characters interacted felt forced. I just didn't buy the logic behind their choices. But still, it was an okay read.
Profile Image for Maraia.
471 reviews177 followers
June 1, 2019
I'm always skeptical when a book is blurbed as a cross between one of my favorite books and something else, and I'm not 100% sure I see the connection between The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and City of Saints & Thieves, but I enjoyed it regardless. The mystery kept me hooked, the characters were complex, I didn't guess all the surprises, it was culturally and sexually diverse, and I LOVED the setting. City of Saints & Thieves is an excellent debut and should be at the top of everyone's 2017 TBR.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Imogene Dacanay.
139 reviews64 followers
April 9, 2017
ARC REVIEW: City of Saints and Thieves
**Thank you Penguin Random House International for providing an ARC of this title in exchange of an honest review.**

Please take note thar this review is based on an ARC.

A YA novel I never thought I'd love!

What had me hooked was the first rule in being a thief. "If you're going to be a thief, the first thing you need to know is that you don't exist."

The unique setting quite fascinated me. I now have enough knowledge about Kenya. I mean, if I am not mistaken not much books are set in such place. Tina lives in such a complicated yet interesting place, Congo. The originality caught my whole attention and made my reading experience more enjoyable.

I liked the characters, mostly Tina. She's someone who's determined, strongly-motivated, someone who knows exactly what she wants. A brave and smart young girl. Together with her is Michael and Boyboy, both played a really important role in the the story. They were also one my favorites!

There were serious issues tackled in the story like human rights, politics, economics are also included, as well as inequalities. Each has strong and unimaginable impact.

The pacing of the story is what annoyed me, most of the time the pacing is stead-fast, while some times, it's too slow. Though it didn't affect my reading, I just you guys to know just in case some of you don't like alternated pacing.

Never have I ever read a thriller book with a revenge plot mixed with street gangs. One which has relevance in our current situations. The story was too thrilling, too unpredictable, I was often at the edge of my sit. The storyline kept me guessing, thank goodness I was brought to a few new places.

Overall, City of Saints and Thieves successfully pleased me. I want to read more diverse books like this. Highly recommended if you want something different.

Profile Image for Nic Stone.
Author 22 books4,196 followers
September 8, 2016
What a ride!

What I knew going into this book: it was about a Congolese refugee who steals to survive her rough life on the streets of a fictional city in Kenya, looking for revenge on the man who killed her mother.

What I know coming out of it: things aren't always black and white/good and bad in the real world... so they don't have to be in books. That was my favorite thing about this story. Nothing is easy or neat or wrapped up in a bow. It explores the true meaning of friendship and examines the assumed obligations attached to familial bonds. It shows, in vivid detail, the kind of circumstances that could drive a person with understandable motives to do not so nice things. The characters in the novel make questionable decisions. They succeed at "bad" things and fail at "good" ones, and vice versa. No one in the story is purely good or purely evil. It's one of the most morally complex novels I've ever read, and as such, one of the most realistic.

I loved it!
Profile Image for Carlos.
617 reviews291 followers
September 15, 2017
I really liked this audio book, The narrator had the perfect accent for it. The story was fast paced and the characters were very well introduced. Tina or Christina has had a mission since her mother was assassinated , to find the killer and make him pay. She already know that Mr G killed her ( the boss her mom worked for), so she has dedicated her life to bring him down and protect her sister (kiki). Caught in the middle of a robbery by Michael (Mr g's son) she will have to change that plan and embark in a quest that could bring her to the killer of her mom who might not be who she always thought it was or get her and her friends killed. The ending was so good.
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,279 reviews460 followers
October 3, 2018
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

After the murder of her mother, Tina joins a gang called "The Goondas". For four years, Tina bides her time waiting until she can seek her revenge on Mr. Geryhill, the man who shot her mother. She has always been confident about who killed her mother, but when new information comes to light, she starts to second guess everything she thought she knew.

I found it interesting that a lot of this story was inspired by the author's work in Kenya. It was obvious that the author put a lot of time and effort in their research while writing. The book is marketed as a thriller, but I definitely don't think this is correct, I would consider it more to be a mystery novel. I did enjoy trying to figure out who murdered Tina's mother and definitely did not think it was going to be who it ended up being. I found the pace to be too slow for my liking, and took too long for any action to occur. I really enjoyed the setting and the way the author described each scene in Kenya and Congo. I do think that every character in the novel was very well-developed. I really liked Tina as a main character. She was very head-strong and determined. I also loved how protective she was about her little sister Kiki. I also loved Boyboy and how sassy he was with his little one liners.

The one major complaint I have was the romance which I felt was pointless to the plot... I think the story would have been better without it in my opinion.
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 8 books1,021 followers
October 6, 2016
Read as an ARC.

OMG, I am not worthy. This book will drop you in a world of stunning poverty and wealth and the heroes and villains who come from both. And the crazy thing is- this shit is real. Tiny is a special kind of heroine because she's all too possible, both in character and in situation. This story is an amazing look into modern Africa with its refugees, fleeing their homes for a better life or defiantly staying when they know militants who protected them yesterday could kill them tomorrow, and its bustling cities bursting with a mix of modern and 3rd world life, crowned by a wealthy class of citizens who make their own rules. It's a picture of Africa that everyone needs to see, written by someone who's been there and seen it all.

Brava, Ms Anderson: both your life and your writing inspire me.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,248 reviews393 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
January 5, 2017
I got over 100 pages in and had yet to get invested in Tina's story. I should care much more than I do considering she's a homeless teen trying to avenge her mother's death and make sure her sister is provided for, but none of the characters jump off the page. I'm gonna keep doing what I did last year and not be afraid to DNF something I have no interest in. This time, I'm keeping count!

DNF #1 of 2017.
Profile Image for Sam.
142 reviews338 followers
March 16, 2017
WHAT. A. RIDE. While the blurb comps The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (definitely shares some DNA) and Gone Girl (not so much in my opinion), City of Saints and Thieves is such a special, inventive, fresh read that is pure adrenaline in terms of its plot but also gives you ancillary characters to really invest in, a whodunit that becomes more complex as the evidence builds and adds twists, a glittering yet gritty world of Sendai City where anything feels possible and an array of hustlers, thieves, mercenaries, journalists, and wayward children eke out a lives and collide, and probably one of my favorite heroines in recent memory: Christina Masika aka Tina and Tiny Girl. Tina is a flawed sixteen year-old, fiercely protective of family and friends, a skilled thief working for a larger plot of vengeance for her murdered mother, but when she has to confront the recent past and things may not be as clear cut as she thought, Tina's willing to go to any lengths and willing to rethink her core beliefs to seek the truth about her mother and her family's past in the Congo. She's a fighter through and through, and though she has real fears and demons haunting her from danergous times as a refugee from the Congo, Tina forces herself to face them and truths. She's not invincible, and can be a bit slow on the emotional uptake, but her edges are not overdone and her heart and smarts and courage are so winning.

In some ways it shouldn't be remarkable that our heroine of a commercially oriented thriller is African in 21st literature, and indeed it's not the most notable thing about Christina, but the setting of a coastal African city and the horrors of commercial exploitation of resources and its role in civil war and the murder and rape of African civilians (especially women) is brought to light by Anderson here, and the information is presented seamlessly in terms of an action packed plot and good characterization. But there is something inspiring in Anderson's choice to lay the mantle of heroine on a girl who in movies or another novel would have been relegated to sidekick or the African other as a foil (I mean, look at movies like Blood Diamond as an example here). That this is YA is all the more astonishing for me: it definitely is accessible enough for an older YA audience and absolutely entertains and informs, but I definitely see this as a strong crossover read for adults. And Anderson make her characters seem entirely familiar to us, easily identifying with them, but also allows us to fully inhabit a world completely different from our own (unless you too are a gang affiliated thief in Kenya with a tragic refugee background).

The pace is relentless in the best possible way: clues dropped in the text and picked up throughout, new confrontations and developments each chapter, and there's strong narrative tension and believable teenage dialogue even if this could be an African twist to a Jason Bourne plot. I honestly had so much fun reading City of Saints and Thieves, and am so pleased that a book this well-written and this diverse and this thrilling exists for YA and adult readers. Diversity for its own sake usually winds up not working or being poorly executed: these are great characters first and foremost and a compelling action/mystery plot, and the wildly different African background and setting just add to its uniqueness. I highly recommend this for anyone in search of a great new read, a diverse novel... seriously if you're into exotic locale action-political-personal thrillers and can handle a heavy dose of hard reality (i.e. discussion of rape and murder in the context of civil war) this is the book you're looking for. I hope Tiny Girl, Boyboy, Michael, and the Goondas appear in future adventures by Anderson, but until then, this is a great standalone or first entry to a series, and one I'll likely re-read in the future.

-received on edelweiss as an ARC thanks to G.P. Putnam and Penguin
154 reviews4 followers
March 21, 2017
A more complete review is available on my blog:

Young Adult fiction is usually not for me. I have read some YA books that I have really enjoyed (The Hunger Games trilogy comes to mind) but it is a genre that I don't usually connect with unless there is something else in the book that is interesting or meaningful to me. City of Saints & Thieves was one such book. It was both a mystery and a multicultural read in one, which really intrigued me and drew me in when I read what the book was about. From the very first page, I knew this book would meet my expectations for a great book. I loved Tina and the romantic love-hate relationship that she has with Michael. There were just as many twists and turns as I would expect from any mystery novel. The author does a very good job of painting a picture of both Kenya and Congo and explains how the conflicts in the area effect the everyday people without taking away from the story being developed. One of the reasons why I don't usually like YA books is the over-simplistic writing style that YA authors like to use but this really wasn't the case with this book. It was an easy and quick read that I finished in just a handful of sittings but it wasn't overly so. Also common in a lot of YA fiction are very one dimensional characters. The characters that Anderson has created are complex and interesting. I really enjoyed this book and think that readers of all ages will enjoy it, especially readers who enjoy fiction about contemporary Africa and mysteries.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,021 followers
August 26, 2017
Trigger warnings: murder, death of a parent, war, gang activity, refugee experiences.

I saw incredibly excited when I came across a copy of this when I was in the UK in July, because how many YA books set in Africa are there? ALMOST NONE. So obviously I bought it immediately even though I'd heard slightly mixed things about it.

So the gist of the story is that a number of years earlier, Tina's mother - who was working as a maid to a big important mining magnate in Kenya - was brutally murdered. Tina, who's now a gang member and basically living on the streets, is determined to work out who's responsible for her mother's death. So she sneaks into the mining magnate's house with help from her gang friends.

Tina (and her mother) escaped from the Democratic Republic of Congo ten years earlier, and this is equal parts the story of Tina finding out why they left the DRC as much as it is about finding out what happened to her mother. It's tense and gripping and the author - who spent years working for the UN with refugees - clearly knows her stuff.

I have two small gripes with this. One is that I'm not convinced the romantic relationship was necessary. And the second is that the ending was a liiiiiittle neat and tidy for my liking. But on the whole, this was a pretty great read.
Profile Image for Diana.
1,766 reviews232 followers
June 16, 2017
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya."

That is what it says. For me, it wasn't enthralling. I mean, the first chapters were amazing, beginning with a rule and an explanation that transported us to the actual moment. And then she enters the house, finds her old friend and all goes into slow-mo and loses all the excitement. I kept plodging ahead hoping to reconnect with the good vibes from the first chapters, but nope. What had been an interesting female lead crumbs. There is this boy who I just don't believe or see as real. As much as I don't believe no one questions him about the girl that has come back to the house. I mean... he lives in a mansion, FFS! No one from the staff asks? And pretending she went to Paris in a scholarship? With what money? No one checks anything here? Sorry, but I couldn't buy/believe the story :(
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,179 reviews316 followers
March 24, 2017
4.5 stars. This book was amazing. Right away, I was taken with Tina. Her life as a thief, the gritty descriptions of Sangui City, and her love for her sister. But it was when she got caught that I was HOOKED, and the story got more and more addicting from there. (This happens early on and is in the book description so no spoilers). This book has lots of interesting and complex characters - many I'd want to stay far far away from - but my favorites besides Tina are Boyboy and Michael. This story does have a sprinkling of romance. It is not the focus at all, and not necessary to the story, but a nice compliment.

I enjoyed following Tina. This girl is fierce. She has survived the past 5 years living on the streets as a thief in the Goondas gang, and is determined to take down the man who killed her mother. Through the course of the story, Tina discovers a lot of truths about her mom, their past in the Congo, and the person she wants to be in the future. She also realizes that she doesn't have to be as alone in the world as she's made herself. This story is a mystery and a thriller and the danger increases as Tina and Co. get closer to discovering the truth about her mother's death. Although the way the story ultimately turned out and several of the revelations did not greatly surprise me, the story was fast paced and exciting.

This is a good thriller, but I think the most compelling element, and what set the story apart for me, was the setting. Especially when Tina travels back to the Congo - from where she and her mother escaped when she was a young child. Although this story is fiction, this country is a real place and so is the turmoil its people have faced for hundreds of years (look up King Leopold's role there for a start). This country has been - is being - torn apart by war and violence, but beauty still abounds, and the author depicts the contrasts in the extreme darkness and light - as well as the grey areas in the middle - in a powerful and thoughtful way.

Highly recommended.

Love Triangle Factor: none
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone, as far as I know. (Threads could open for a sequel, but this ending is strong if it stays)

Merged review:

From the first page of City of Saints and Thieves, I was taken with Tina: her life as a thief, the gritty descriptions of Sangui City, and her love for her sister. This girl is fierce. She has survived the past 5 years living on the streets as part of the Goondas gang, and every part of her is focused on her plan to take down the man who killed her mother.

Tina is good at what she does. She is quiet. She is careful. She is quick. She is determined. She gets in and out without being seen...until she breaks into the house of her mother's former employer, and is caught in the the same room where her mom was found dead. It is at this point in the book where I was HOOKED, and the story just got more and more addicting from here. City of Saints and Thieves is a mystery and a thriller, and the danger increases as Tina and Co. get closer to discovering the truth about her mother's death. Some of the revelations surprised me, some did not, but still the story was fast paced and exciting all the way through.

I'm not going to tell you who catches Tina, but this book has lots of interesting and complex characters - many I'd want to stay far, far away from. However, my favorites, besides Tina, are Boyboy and Michael. This story does have a sprinkling of romance. It is not the focus at all, and not necessary to the plot, but a nice compliment. It fits the story well in the way it's messy and a little complicated, but is also clear cut and makes perfect sense for the characters.

In many ways, Tina's mother is the catalyst for this story, and as it continues, Tina discovers a lot of truths about her mother and their past in the Congo. But it is Tina who is at the center of this tale, and as Tina finds out more about her own history, she is shaped into the person she wants to be in the future. This is a girl who has lived the past five years on her own, and the more internal revelations that she makes about the value of friendship and not having to be alone, affected me more than many of the overall plot revelations.

However, I think the most compelling element, and what set apart City of Saints and Thieves for me, is the setting. Especially when Tina travels back to the Congo - from where she and her mother escaped when she was a young child. Although this story is fiction, the Congo is a real place and so is the turmoil its people have faced for hundreds of years (look up King Leopold's role there for a start). This country has been - is being - torn apart by war and violence, but beauty still abounds, and the author depicts the contrasts in the extreme darkness and light - as well as the grey areas in the middle - in a powerful and thought provoking way.

Highly recommended.

Love Triangle Factor: none
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone, as far as I know. (Threads could open for a sequel, but this ending is strong if it stays)
Profile Image for Valliya Rennell.
373 reviews234 followers
June 12, 2017

Natalie C. Anderson's first novel, City of Saints & Thieves, was a phenomenal first novel. It had a heart pounding plot and action, and realistic characters. It follows a girl named Christina (Tina) and her struggle to find out who her mother's killer. She is a Goonda a.k.a. a thief. In fact, she is the best thief in the town of Sangui. She was never caught until she was told to loot Mr. Greyhill's house... the man that killed her mother. Now she is forced into an alliance with his son to find out the truth, but as she struggles to see what it is, she finds out some dark things about herself she never thought possible. After all of this... Will she ever find out who destroyed her life?

Overall, this was a very good first book. I'd recommend it for people who loved Stalking Jack the Ripper. I've read it recently and this has a similar theme. It has a lot of adventure and action in it so lovers of Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) are also to pick this up. It was a good first book, but the whole thing could to some revising.

Before this one occurrence my rating was 4 stars. This is a spoiler:

Other than that it wasn't really "my type" of a novel. I didn't find as interesting as some people might, but that is just because of my personal likings.

I'd like to point out that I was really impressed by this novel. The writing was phenomenal! It was smooth and flowing all the way through the novel. It kept the novel interesting enough for me to keep reading. It was fairly fast paced, so I didn't have trouble getting through it. The action was well written and finding out who Tina's mother's murder was such a surprise that I still can't believe it!

I really liked the defined relationships that Tina had with the other two main protagonists Michael and Boyboy. Boyboy was the perfect nerdy sidekick that every hero needs. He was smart and my favorite character in the whole novel. It is hard for me to describe him, but he is a great lovable character.

To sum up, the novel was a great first novel, but it would be better if there was a sequel to further develop the characters.
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