City of Saints and Thieves | Spoiler Free Review

Hey guys! It’s Trina and this is my spoiler free book review for City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. This is a 2017 debut novel and I really want to give a dedicated individual book review for all of the debuts that I read this year. And if you guys don’t know I actually do run a Goodreads group that’s called YA Debut Source where I kind of go through publisher catalogs and different sites that promote debuts and I just make a list of them on Goodreads. So if you’re ever looking for a debut novel, there are a ton of them that are coming out this year. I’ll put a link to that group in the description. You don’t have to join or anything, I’m just mentioning it because I do have a very big interest in debuts. This one happens to be the first debut that I have read this year. This one came out in January and this is a YA. It’s pitched as a mystery/thriller. It is set in Kenya. This is the story of a main character named Tina who she and her mother have fled Congo and they are refugees living in Kenya now. They’ve made a new life for themselves and then five years prior to the start of this novel, Tina’s mother is killed and Tina really believes that she knows who did it. Since her mother’s death, Tina actually has been homeless and she’s fallen in with a street gang and she is known as the best thief in this city. The beginning of the book starts off with a heist where Tina and her group are breaking into this like really fancy, well-secured house that no one’s ever been able to hit and she’s like ‘No, I know I can do it.’ So in the middle of this heist, Tina actually finds some information about her mom in the house and that sets off the events for the rest of the book where Tina actually goes on this like quest to find out what really happened to her mother because it may not be what she’s always believed happened. I was actually sent a copy of this book by Penguin. They sent me the copy of the book but I was not paid to do this review and all these opinions are my own. I ended up giving this one a 3 star rating. The good and bad things to me didn’t really outweigh each other so I think 3 was just really like where my feelings fit for this novel. I feel like with debut novels there are a certain set of questions that I should ask myself and then answer about debuts that are things that I wouldn’t necessarily have to think about with works by established authors. So I want to tell you guys first of all why did I pick this book up? And did it meet that expectation? Like did this fulfill the reasons why I picked it up? So I picked this book up for two reasons and the first one is because it is set in Africa and it is one of my reading goals this year that I want to read around the world more. The second main reason why I picked this book up is because this one is heavily marketed as a mystery revenge thriller and I was like that sounds great! I love revenge stories, I’m in the mood for mystery, let’s go. So to answer the question of did this book fulfill those expectations? As far as the setting, yes it definitely fulfilled that expectation. Like, it is set in Kenya. And this is not an own voices story but this author did live in Kenya and worked with refugees. She knows the setting and I did feel like she brought that to life. I have never been to Kenya myself so I can’t say if that setting was portrayed accurately. For me wanting to fulfill a kind of sense of wanderlust when reading, it worked for that but I have no idea if this was indeed an accurate, authentic picture of Kenya. As far as the second part of why I picked this book up, wanting a mystery, this is where the book fell flat. It’s just not the style of mystery that I personally prefer. There was not a lot of suspense built, not a lot of tension. The main character Tina thinks she knows who did it, like she has this one suspect the entire time and then when the climax of the story happens things kind of come out of nowhere instead of having been something that was built up throughout this story. If you like to be blindsided by a mystery, maybe that would really work for you but for me I really enjoy mystery writers who build the suspense more and I think that perhaps the fault of this is not the writing but the marketing. I have no idea if the author set out with the intention of ‘I’m going to write a really gripping mystery,’ or if like there just happened to be this one mystery element to it and marketing is like ‘yes, we can sell a mystery!’ Whatever the case was, it didn’t meet that for me. It was not the style of mystery that I prefer. I just like a lot more tension and suspense. The next question I want to ask about debuts was could I tell that this was the author’s first work? And I’m breaking it down into three different parts. I want to talk about the writing, the world building, and the characterization. So as far as the writing, I actually listened to this one on audio and I’ve admitted before in some of my audiobook series that I can’t really differentiate between writing quality versus narration quality but I didn’t notice anything in the writing or the narration that made me think that this was poorly written. Could I tell it was a debut from the writing? No, not necessarily. But I think I could tell it was the author’s first time writing mystery. If that was indeed her intention, you can tell if this is her first time writing mystery because I didn’t think that the suspense was built up as much as more accomplished mystery authors. As far as world building, this is a contemporary. It’s set in the real world so she’s not like building a world from scratch but with a real-world setting you can still ask things like did she convey that location and bring it to life like just through text alone? Again, you know I have never been to Kenya and I can’t tell you guys this is an accurate portrayal of that but to me it felt like she wrote a story that evoked that location so I think that her world building was fine. The characterization however is where I feel like this book strongest strength was. I did really care for the main character of Tina and the two side characters Michael and Boyboy. I liked their backgrounds and their dynamic interacting with each other and I cared about them. Other characters besides them, I didn’t think were like super well developed or anything but the main three I was invested in and that’s why I kept reading the book, so I did enjoy her characterization for the characters that had the most page time. My next debut question that I have is would I read this author’s next book? And my answer to that is I probably would not seek it out but I’m also not going to avoid this athor completely. Like if her next book or some book down the road has an interesting premise I would definitely give it a chance. Like, if it speaks to me and I want to know more about it I wouldn’t hesitate to pick that up, but I’m not like itching to read whatever she writes next. The next thing I’m going to cover are just like my list of pros and cons, the things that I liked about the book and the things that I did not like, and some of these will just kind of be a recap of some of the previous things that I have said, but the things that I really liked – I liked the characters and the characterization. I did care about the main characters. I also loved that the main character Tina was very loyal to her sister Kiki, Kiki does not play a large role, she isn’t often on scene but a lot of what Tina does is driven by her care for her sister. The thing that I liked the most about this book was the setting. I did enjoy reading a book set outside of areas of the world that I am used to reading about. As far as the cons, or the things that I did not like that much about this book, the thing that I really didn’t like was that it wasn’t the type of mystery that I want. The writing didn’t capture that mysterious vibe that I look for when I’m reading a mystery or thriller so that is a con for me. That was a big thing that lowered my rating of it because it just didn’t deliver what I was wanting from it. However, another thing that I really did not enjoy about this book was how prevalent rape was. So much of the plot of this book hinged on the rape and sexual assault aspect of it, like it couldn’t have been taken out but I also didn’t think that these things were handled with very much purpose other than to show that the world sucks. And although that is realistic and not all readers need a purpose to these things – I’m not saying that this is a fault of the book or that authors are never allowed to write about these topics – it just was an unpleasant reading experience for somebody who doesn’t like reading about that. So if you have a sensitivity to that, if you would consider that to be one of your triggers, that is in this book and I do wish that I had known about that and been warned about that before going into it. If you don’t like reading about that, that could color your experience reading this story and that’s kind of what it did to me. The last question I have for myself that I’m going to talk about in this video is would I recommend this book? I would recommend this book to readers who are looking for a book that is set in Africa or in an international location. I would recommend it to you if you’re looking for a book with a strong female lead. Tina is strong in many ways, not just like physically. She’s very emotionally strong, I love heart loyalty to her sister. I would also recommend this if you are looking for a book that does have representation of teenage poverty and homelessness, which is something that I don’t see a lot of in YA books but I’ve heard several people recently saying that they wish they saw that represented in books. And I would recommend it if you like stories where the main character is kind of finding out more about where she comes from and her family roots because that does play a large story in it. I would not recommend this if you’re looking for a mystery though, because it didn’t check those boxes for me. Because this is not an own voices book and I personally don’t identify with the representation in it, I have no idea if it is good or bad representation. I have tried to look up reviews by own voices reviewers that can kind of give me some insight into it but at the time I’m doing this video there aren’t that many reviews out there of this book yet so I haven’t come across anything that says that this is horrible representation but, you know, keep in mind I am not the authority on this representation in this book and do seek out reviews if you’re picking this book up at a later time. So that’s all I really have to say about City of Saints and Thieves. I hope that this review has been helpful for you guys to know if this is one that you want to pick up or not. If you have any other questions about the writing, or the story, or the content, or anything that I did not cover in this please ask me down below and I will answer you there. Thank you so much for watching and I will see you in the comments. Bye! [music only]

7 thoughts on “City of Saints and Thieves | Spoiler Free Review

  1. I joined your YA Debut group ๐Ÿ™‚ excited to check it out. I think it's so great that you support brand new authors like you do. Great review!

  2. I loved the format of this review! you ask and answer some great questions. I have a copy of this I need to read or return to the library and this helped me make a decision.

  3. Aww that really sucks with the whole mystery aspect. If a book was marketed as mystery and I went into it knowing that but having it fall flat would be disappointing for me as well.

  4. I appreciate you explaining the criteria of your rating of this book and explaining what went into your rating. I think if other readers approached this book knowing it's not a mystery, they may have a better experience than you did reading the book.

  5. I started reading City of Saints and Thieves. Unfortunately, I had to give it back as I ran out of time reading it. (Slow reader, here). Like you, I felt the story was rather slow and not as thrilling as mysteries usually are. Although I did like the characterizations of Tina, Michael and Boyboy as well as the setting. I'd like to try to continue it once I get from the library again. But thanks for the warning on the topic of rape. Did you see the novel was acquired by Kerry Washington? After reading it, what are your thoughts on it being a film?

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