Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Historical fantasy
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Phyllis LeBlanc has worked as an avenging angel in Manhattan for a long time. She left her family—and her previous identity—to work as an assassin for one of the most dangerous men in that shady underbelly of the city. But after ten long years, she’s had to give up almost everything she holds dear and she’s tired. Her hands grow restless, and when they urge her to take the life of her boss, she’s forced to face what leaving this glamourous and bloody life will mean.
With a chance to start life over with her once lover Dev, she’ll have to decide what she’s willing to give up. But the past isn’t so easy to walk away from, and eventually, she’ll have to face the ghosts that haunt her.
** Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with an eARC of this book**
This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but honestly what I got was even better.
I absolutely adore Phyllis, she’s such a great character, and think so complicated in all the right ways. And Dev and Tamara are just as well crafted. Their character arcs are absolutely fascinating and in places heart-wrenching. A particular character that I loved was actually Walter Finch (known as Red Man). Now I’m gonna be honest, at first I literally flinched because fuck… but I was glad to see that the author actually engaged with it and that Walter was a fully realized character with a backstory, and a family and in the end I really did love him.
And that world building. It’s a perfect mix of familiar with just a touch of magic. I love the concept of the hands. This is one book where the tone and atmosphere are just absolutely on point. It nails the gritty tone of a noir book, while remaining character driven at its core and having sweet moments of pause. There’s the pressing claustrophobia of the impending second world war, and the tangle of racism and trying to navigate in world that works against the characters. And then on the other hand are these quiet beautiful and poetic moments. It’s a book that absolutely captures the multi-faceted ways in which being non-white is so complicated.
Part of why I enjoyed this book so much, is that it was a little quieter than I expected. It’s the kind of book that tackles really important topics in a captivating whisper, and shares important insight into intergenerational trauma, justice, racism, the struggle of passing privilege and so much more.
I absolutely would recommend this book, it’s so much more than a book about assassins or a love story, it’s the kind of character driven book that wriggles into your head and makes you feel in powerful ways. Anyway, fully recommend.
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