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  • Three distinct parts

    Written in three parts from three different POVs, Trouble the Saints is both a commentary on racism and societal rank; as well as a fantasy story that questions the ideas of fate, religion, and free will. Comparing it to The Night Circus really rubs me the wrong way as Night Circus is one of my favourite books ever. While Trouble the Saints was okay, it was no five star read. Flow & Cohesiveness The flow just isn't smooth, I believe I would have liked this better if Alaya Dawn Johnson flipped between our three character POVs. Even if that meant the story had to alternate timelines and wasn't presented as the segregated mess it becomes. I'm glad I didn't give up on this one as the last POV was my favourite. Trouble the Saints lacks a cohesiveness between the three parts and the main plot. I struggled to feel like I was even reading the same book at times. We go from beautiful descriptions in part one to frame jobs that could belong on Sons of Anarchy in part two to a commentary on racism in part three. For this reason I think it would have been better to tell the story between all three POVs (and timelines). Hopefully then I could have pieced together important events or tidbits that I was supposed to with the parts separated. What am I Missing? I really want to read the books that come before this one... there isn't any; but it felt like there should have been. A lot of content is told to us by our characters. The main plot stems from events that happened years before. Unlike Game of Thrones or another 'typical' fantasy series where there is a large backstory and history, but the current story is just as good, Trouble the Saints lacks something in it's current setting. I kept thinking I wish I was reading the story about XYZ event that was being explained or described from the past. While any good (complex) fantasy novel will have a solid backstory I think authors need to be careful that the backstory isn't better or more interesting than the one they are currently telling. Morals All that said there is one thing that is excellent in this book. Johnson explains, portrays, and discusses sexism, prejudice, racism, etc. as though she is a woman twice her age. The insight and eloquence with which Johnson lays out these social issues is brilliant. With quotes that challenge the reader to really think, like: <i>"Does just avoiding bad things make you a good person? Don’t you have to do good things for that?"</i> We are given a platform in which to really ask ourselves tough questions. The discussion and bantering of our characters in part three lends itself to a really interesting book club (or English class) conversation. I definitely want to read more of Johnson's opinions and takes on social issues (be it in non-fiction or fiction) in the future. And lending her some street cred (if you will) she is not a snowflake and can pull from her own genuine experiences; something many authors (including my white self) cannot do. Overall Johnson is certainly a writer to watch for in the future. While Trouble the Saints isn't without it's pitfalls and issues; there is a lot of promise here that can be seen under the surface. This is her first book with a significant publisher (TOR) and I can absolutely see their amazing editorial team only improving on the talent that is clearly there. I will definitely read future Johnson in the hopes that some of the more amateur issues here are improved on. Lastly, it was a huge mistake to promote this book as The Night Circus in my opinion. I might have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn't expecting something different than what was delivered. A good reminder that blurbs matter. Unfortunately they are rarely written by the author, and yet blurbs are the first entrance (besides the cover) that we have to get a sense of what the book is all about. I really love TOR books 90% of the time. They do have the occasional miss from an author but they are rarely wrong about the author having potential or promise. Let's hope TOR invests in Johnson and we see more from her in the future. Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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