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Trouble the Saints: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

An assassin who kills for a soulless crime boss, an enigmatic bartender with a big secret, and a snake dancer grappling for control under the guise of naivety all come together to battle against their own fates in pre-World War II Harlem. Johnson’s narration and dialogue land like a jazz brush on a snare drum, with a slick whisper and poetic rhythm. And the characters embody familiar noir tropes as well: the ruthless femme fatale wrestling her past sins, a disillusioned guy who’s struggling with his own morality and humanity… and the story’s atmosphere itself, which is heavy with oppression, menace, and suspicion. Johnson captures the gritty realism and fatalism of the genre; you know their sins will eventually catch up to them, you just don’t know when. Add to it that the U.S. is on the cusp of entering the war, a dark and anxious energy prickling in the air. Even as our main protagonists harbor certain magical abilities that may seem like advantages, the color of their skin serves as a reminder for them (and for us) of the futility of their fight against the powerful scourge of bigotry, specifically white supremacy. This is a rich, intriguing, and powerful work of art.

— From Karen's Picks


“Juju assassins, alternate history, a gritty New York crime a word: awesome.” —N.K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Season

The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in Alaya Dawn Johnson's timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City, where an assassin falls in love and tries to change her fate at the dawn of World War II.

Amid the whir of city life, a young woman from Harlem is drawn into the glittering underworld of Manhattan, where she’s hired to use her knives to strike fear among its most dangerous denizens.

Ten years later, Phyllis LeBlanc has given up everything—not just her own past, and Dev, the man she loved, but even her own dreams.

Still, the ghosts from her past are always by her side—and history has appeared on her doorstep to threaten the people she keeps in her heart. And so Phyllis will have to make a harrowing choice, before it’s too late—is there ever enough blood in the world to wash clean generations of injustice?

Trouble the Saints is a dazzling, daring novel—a magical love story, a compelling exposure of racial fault lines—and an altogether brilliant and deeply American saga.

About the Author

ALAYA DAWN JOHNSON has been recognized for her short fiction and YA novels, winning the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novelette for “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” which also appears in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy(2015), guest edited by Joe Hill. Her debut YA novel, The Summer Prince, was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Her follow up YA novel, Love Is the Drug, won the Andre Norton Award in 2015. A native of Washington, D.C., Johnson is currently based in Mexico City, where she received a masters degree in Mesoamerican studies and sings in a blues band.

Praise For…

“Juju assassins, alternate history, a gritty New York crime story... in a word: awesome” —N.K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Season

“Beware this magnificent beguilement of a novel: once begun, Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Trouble the Saints won’t let you go.” —Kelly Link, New York Times bestselling author of Get In Trouble

“Johnson’s secret history is a nuanced portrait of racism in all of its poisonous flavors, brutally overt and unsuccessfully covert. In musical prose, she also offers passionate and painful depictions of the love expressed in romance and friendship and the sacrifices such love can demand. A sad, lovely, and blood-soaked song of a book.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Literary firecracker” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250175342
ISBN-10: 1250175348
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Pages: 352