I read this in a buddy-read with Rachel from Life of a Female Bibliophile. We initially planned to read The Devourers by Indra Das together but after a few pages in, we realized it wouldn’t work well for a buddy-read. The pace was ploddingly slow, it’s character-focused, which I usually love, but neither one of us were interested in the characters. The story is interesting and my curiosity about what will happen next makes me tempted to complete it, but — ugh! — I really am not feeling it.
So we switched books. Rachel suggested City of Saints and Thieves and I decided to try it since I’d never heard of it or its author before. Unfortunately, the library branches close to my house didn’t have it in stock but eventually I was able to procure a copy from a different area.
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. (Goodreads)
So. I’m not a fan of revenge stories. I get quickly annoyed by protagonists who are motivated by revenge and that’s exactly what happened while I read this. I just do not like revenge as a motivator. I think it gets stale very quickly and becomes easy for the character to run out of steam. I do not like it.
I can’t remember if I read the synopsis before starting the book (probably not), so I didn’t realize Tina, the protagonist, was seeking revenge for her mother’s death until I was well into the story. Back then in those early chapters, I didn’t care. I liked Tina’s attitude as she tells us how best to be a thief and how her confidence that bordered on arrogance. I liked that the story is set Kenya, the descriptions of the settings, the characters, the hints at the current political climate, and that the story touches on corruption, so the revenge plotline didn’t stand out to me then. I was enjoying myself reading the book.
But then it did. It began gradually. Tina comes off as a cocksure character, especially when she compares herself to Greyhill’s teenage son (I forgot his name), so I was lured into believing that Tina was sure of all she believes. Now I don’t mind unreliable characters or characters who are operating on limited information, but I do get annoyed by characters who act like a badass and believes they know all but overlook major obvious things that will later bite them in the ass. That happens a lot in YA stories and it always annoys me. I wouldn’t say it’s a major fault with this story; it’s just a big pet peeve of mine that, with this book, I realized I can’t bypass. So, after realizing that Tina isn’t the badass she believes herself to be and that after a point the story became very predictable, I started to skim the book.
I no longer cared what became of the characters or how the plot unfolded. I was tempted to give up on the story, but I wanted to know who murdered Tina’s mom, so I skimmed the book until I found that out. However, I wouldn’t say this is a bad book. It’s well written, the story immediately draws you in, and the plot is fairly fast-paced. It just didn’t work for me because my pet peeves annoyed me.
Overall: ★★★☆☆ 1/2
Pet peeves aside, it’s a decent read and an engaging story set in Kenya that focuses on refugees and corruption.