City of Saints & Thieves

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
City of Saints & Thieves Book Poster Image
Captivating trio fuels thought-provoking Africa thriller.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

City of Saints & Thieves spotlights the issue of "blood gold," precious metals mined by slave labor and sold by criminal gangs. It shows the plight of young girls captured by these gangs. Includes a glossary of Swahili words.

Positive Messages

Young women can find the strength to confront those who would harm them. Revenge is ultimately a futile pursuit.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tina is a survivor, living on the streets and running with the Goonda gang. She's initially focused on getting revenge on the man she believes killed her mother. Gradually, she sees the errors in her thinking and learns to trust friends who want to help her. She decides to remain a thief but to work on behalf of the poor.

Violence

Young women are kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery; those scenes are handled with sensitivity. Tina watches a video in which her mother is killed. During the climactic showdown, a character sustains a skull fracture from a rock, another receives a nonlethal gunshot wound, and one is fatally shot.

Sex

Tina and Michael exchange a few passionate kisses, but there's little time for romance.

Language

"Hell," "damn," and "s--t" are used three or four times each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Someone gives Tia a drug that causes her to lose consciousness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that City of Saints & Thieves is a contemporary thriller set in Kenya and Congo. It features characters who are gang members, cybercriminals, and traffickers in "blood gold." The novel focuses on the plight of young women kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery, as well as other crimes against women. (Those scenes are dramatized with restraint.) Other violent scenes include a gunfight and a fight that leads to a skull fracture. Strong language is limited to a handful of uses of "hell," "damn," and "s--t." Sexual content is limited to a couple of passionate embraces.

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What's the story?

In CITY OF SAINTS & THIEVES, 16-year-old master thief Tina has been living on the streets for years following the murder of her mother. She's part of the Goonda gang and has devised an elaborate scheme to exact vengeance on Roland Greyhill, the man she believes responsible for the crime. But when she breaks into the Greyhill home, she's not only captured by his son Michael but forced to consider whether someone else committed the murder. With Michael and gifted computer hacker Boyboy in tow, Tina sets off on a search for the truth, a journey that will put her in danger almost every step of the way.

Is it any good?

Readers looking for an exciting read with some extra thematic depth will be entranced by this thriller. City of Saints & Thieves addresses important contemporary issues, and with its action-packed, tightly plotted murder mystery, it stands out from the pack of run-of-the-mill thrillers as it depicts a young woman's quest for revenge in contemporary Africa. Author Natalie C. Anderson has worked for a decade with the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations on refugee relief and development, and her expertise and depth of knowledge give the twisty plot added impact. Tina, Michael, and Boyboy are a captivating trio of truth seekers, and their interplay offers much-needed relief from the often grim developments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how City of Saints & Thieves depicts current events in Congo and Kenya. What kinds of human rights violations occur in those countries? What can be done to help the women and children displaced by violence?

  • How is violence used in City of Saints & Thieves? Is its use justified or condemned?

  • How is the subject of revenge addressed in the novel? Is vengeance shown to be a productive activity?

  • Tina, her mother, and her mother's friend all suffer tremendous trauma. How do people heal from such situations?

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