Wednesday, 5 July 2017

City of Saints and Thieves - Natalie Anderson - Review

Book: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie Anderson
Publisher: Oneworld
ISBN: 9781786072290
Rating: A

Street-thief Tina breaks in to the luxurious house where her mother was killed to steal from Mr. Greyhill and nail him for her mother’s murder. She is caught red-handed.Saved by Mr. Greyhill’s gorgeous son, Michael, the pair set in motion a cascade of dangerous events that lead them deeper into the mystery, and reveal dark and shocking secrets from Tina’s past.Tina and her mother fled the Congo years ago as refugees, trading the uncertain danger of their besieged village for a new, safer life in the bustling Kenyan metropolis. The corruption and politics of the Congo, and the gangster world of Sangui City, are behind Tina’s mother’s downfall. Is Tina tough enough to find the truth and bring the killer to justice?

This was one of the reads that I was most anticipating this year, for a number of reasons, and let me start by telling you that it did not disappoint.

Let's begin with the premise; it's definitely not something usually read, and yet it was what made it so different that made me so interested in it. It's a mystery, filled with gang fare and secrets, but minus any of the typical paranormalcy that usually accompanies those things in YA. Instead, it manages to translate these themes into a riveting and fast-paced novel that grounds itself in the real world. Another part of what intrigued me with this novel was the fact that it was set in modern day Africa. It's both a setting and culture that we rarely see in YA books, and that, for me, was enough to make we want to read it - and again, it didn't disappoint. Anderson gives us this beautiful and descriptive insight into modern Africa, what it is like, and helps us to understand just how different the lives of those living there are to ours. The way she crafted the African setting was both rich and vivid, so much so that I really felt like I was there.

I think part of what made this world so real, and really made me appreciate the life I have and how different it is in England, is how brutally honest this book is. It touched upon dark themes, which are ones that need to be spoken about. It highlights the prevalence of rape and torture in African society, but tackles them artfully, weaving them into the story in a way that isn't too aggressive or 'too much.' I think part of this was what made me love the story even more - because there really was no sugar coating to make it 'teen-friendly' or PC. It was brutal and real, which for me is a winner. This book makes you feel something, and if a book makes you feel something you know it's doing something right.

This, in turn, meant that the story flowed beautifully. Supported by Anderson's masterful writing, the story managed to give me just enough information to keep me interested, but at the same, keep enough secrets to keep me reading. Honestly, I found it hard to put this one down. Anderson's prose was absolutely stunning, and the dedication that has gone into crafting this plot is apparent. She's crafted this absolutely wonderful mystery, with so many different layers; each answer gives you more questions and makes you totally unable to put this novel down.

Following Tina was something I also really enjoyed, as I felt she was a strong and likeable protagonist. She's been crafted in such a way that you really connect with her and understand her emotions, as well as fully understanding, and supporting, the decisions she takes. I also felt like Anderson succeeded in manifesting a really fleshed out and grounded character; there was no vapidity and I definitely felt like I knew Tina enough to be fully invested in her story. This, in turn, makes the novel so much more lifelike, in the sense that I really was pulled in. The others characters, such as Kiki, Boyboy and Michael, all added so well to the novel, making it absolutely perfect. Most characters complemented each other in all the right ways, leading to a world of characters that I felt I both knew and wanted to follow.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed this book and the journey it took me on. Yes, the journey was hard sometimes, in that it was a lot to handle emotionally and in terms of the acts that were happening, but at the same, the story was absolutely riveting. Filled with strong characters and deep secrets, City of Saints and Thieves will have you captured from the first page.

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