Details & Summary:
I picked this book for two main reasons: 1) the blurb enticed me. It promised a story about a girl who does not exist, a thief living in the shadows of Sangui City who’s looking to revenge her mother’s death. Strong female character who’s a thief? Set in Kenya? Yes, please. 2) It’s a thriller / mystery. I don’t usually read anything but contemporary YA novels, but in my 2017 goals, I mentioned I wanted to read more widely, including more genres, so there you go.
The first few chapters didn’t disappoint. Tina is a strong-willed, sometimes stubborn, teenage girl who knows what she wants. And what she wants is to ruin Mr. Greyhill, whom she believes killed her mother. With the help of a few members of her street gang, the Goondas, she breaks into his house to steal data from his hard drive. Everything seems to go smoothly…until she gets caught by Mr. Greyhill’s son and her former friend, Michael. Michael refuses to believe his father could’ve killed her mother and wants to stop her from ruining his father. The only way to do that is to find the real killer… together.
“People don’t look for revenge to make them happy. They do it because they must.”
I loved the first part of the story. The characters are well-developed, the rich details about the unique setting are fascinating, and the plot is enticing. It’s easy to sympathize with Tina, who wants revenge for her mother’s murder, but also with Michael, who desperately wants to prove his father’s innocence. And then there’s Boyboy, Tina’s accomplice and IT guy, who provides much needed comic relief.
The book deals with serious, real-life issues in Kenya and Congo such as human rights, politics, war, and street gangs, and I really appreciated all the research the author did to make it a believable story.
And while I recognize the importance of the book, I didn’t “connect” with it. I think a lot of it has to do with the pace of the story. Sometimes it’s fast and a lot of things are happening at once and other times it’s really slow and, to be honest, boring.
The City of Saints and Thieves was off to a quick, thrilling start, but the rest of the book didn’t quite deliver what it promised. Since it was pretty obvious from the start that Mr. Greyhill most likely didn’t kill Tina’s mother and there weren’t a lot of other suspects who could’ve done it, I knew almost right away who the real killer was. As for the thriller aspect of the book, there were a few surprises along the way and several action-packed scenes that helped build suspense, but I never had that I-have-to-keep-reading feeling. I wasn’t staying up late to finish the book or biting my nails, desperate to know what was going to happen next. In fact, it was easy for me to close the book and get back to it later.
While City of Saints & Thieves has several good elements such as well-developed characters and a unique setting, and the writing was decent, it wasn’t the page-turner I expected it to be. In the end, it wasn’t a mystery or a thriller, but a coming-of-age story about a girl learning about herself and her mother’s past.