Review: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya.
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.

I struggled with City of Saints and Thieves when I learned that the book wasn't written by a Kenyan, or even someone from Africa for that matter. The book was written by a well meaning white lady who wanted to do her part to bring to light the types of lives that refugees experience. I struggled because I wondered, if by reading and enjoying this book, I was reinforcing the idea that books written by minorities about minorities (in this case refugee Africans) weren't being published or considered, and this white lady (who don't get me wrong, she seems to have paid her dues), writes about their lives and gets praise and recognition. It incites the same feeling as when someone says my coily natural hair is fun, beautiful, different, and great, and then says "but I wouldn't want it, I wish I had beach waves like Lauren Conrad though". It's all a mess. True story folks. That being said, I was going to read this book because I've been to Kenya. I belong to an organization (American Friend of Kenya) that trains folks who want to bring literature to their communities by starting community libraries and library (type) programs. We go to Kenya once a year to train those who want to be a part of this mission, and send a GIANT shipping container of donated supplies once a year as well. I'm very passionate about it, and I love reading about Kenya, so I read this book, and I'm going to be honest, I freaking liked it.

There was so much to like in this book. There was a very positive relationship between two sisters. This book touched on themes such as trust, friendship, and redemption. I'm honestly not sure where to start.  Lets start with the cover art. It beautiful. I will always love a book with a brown face on the cover. That being said, I wish her face wasn't camouflaged behind the red design. That's called white washing, if anyone was wondering.

The rules of being a thief were pretty awesome. For such simple sentences, they went a long way toward providing insight to Tina's mindset.

This is going to sound weird,  but I also kind of like that she joined a gang after her mother was killed. Now, I know how that sounds, but if you put yourself in the mind of a young person, in a third world country (heck of even less desirable parts of America), who's mother has just been killed, potentially by some rich white guy with stupid amounts of money and connections, and you have no idea what to do, (gotta love this run on sentence) it makes more sense to turn to another group of big, bad, powerful guys, than to magically figure it out on your own... which is what happens in a lot of other books (I'm looking at you Divergent). People tend to join gangs for family, safety, and security, which is exactly what Tina was looking for. (She didn't really trust them, but she did need them.) She's unlike a lot of other female characters floating around, and I'm always a fan of the unusual.

Boyboy is squad goals. Just saying.

I really liked that I had NO idea who killed her mother. None what-so-sever. I had a theory and my theory was blown out of the water. It was crazy.

Again, I struggled with the book, because I wondered how many minorities or refugees proposed a story just as great as this one, and was turned down. I hate that this is what the world has become.

Read the book. Read this book, but then read books similar to this that are "own voices" please. Thanks.


  1. I saw this one, but hesitated for the same reason. Whenever I see a book about a POC by a white author, I wait for reviews by POC bloggers. I've been more picky lately when it comes to books about Latinxs for example. I want to support Latinx authors, but in the past I've been so desperate for Latinx representation and for a while, the only Latinx protags I stumbled across were written by non-Latinx authors. Now it finally feels like the publishing world is interested in stories about marginalized MCs, but we still have the issue of who is writing these stories and it's so important to address the lack of POC authors (despite the fact that we talk about diverse books more these days) in accordance with these books about POC protagonists. Who is controlling the narrative and are these white authors, like you said, taking a slot that would be better given to a POC if we're ever going to see real change in the industry. Sorry I'm being a little rambly, but I get where you are coming from.

    1. You're exactly right though. I think that SOME people can write about characters who don't look like them. I think they can do it well if they do the research and ingrain themselves in that world to the best of their ability like this author did. The Sun is Also a Star was a great book Nicola Yoon, one protagonist is black and one of her protagonist was Asian, and his Asian heritage plays a part in his character. Is it okay that she did that even though it isn't "her voice"??? Who knows? It's a very interesting debate.

      Thanks for dropping by and having so many interesting things to say.

  2. Oh wow, I didn't know that this wasn't own voices, that is good to know. I hadn't looked into it much because it lost me a little at the comparison to "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (I haaaated that book- which is maybe not fair to this book but... when a comp title is a turn-off for me, it's hard to be interested after!) Love that there was a prominent sister relationship though! And I agree, sadly, joining a gang does seem like a thing a teen in a bad situation would do- especially when they are offering the things she so needs. This does sound quite good, but it's hard to get past the point you made about real refugees or Kenyan authors having the chance to write this. Lovely review, I am glad that you liked it!

    1. Ugh. I hated Girl With the Dragon Tattoo too, this is nothing like that. I'd give it a try if you find the time. Although I wish this book was written by someone who'd lived the experience, I think this was a good book that's worth reading.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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