CKG review: Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

With just 24 hours to go until the winners are announced, we continue our reviews of the CKG 2018 shortlisted titles. Here Emma shares her thoughts on Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick:

What the publisher says…

A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Saint Death


What we say…

Saint Death is absolutely gripping from start to finish. It’s a pulsating narrative and the pace and urgency of the plot, along with the increasing desperation of the main character, Arturo, are perfectly reflected in the structure of the story, in which short chapters are interspersed with newspaper cuttings, quotations and thoughts.

The setting is one of the main things that really stood out for me with this book. Sedgwick is uncompromising in throwing the reader straight into the harsh reality of Arturo’s world.

Just as the city of Juarez (which pulses off the page) has an unceasing hold over Arturo, this book had a hold over me – I read it in a day and continued thinking about it long afterwards. This is a really immersive novel that highlights some big issues around immigration, inequality and hope / desolation; and definitely meets the criteria of “having gone through a vicarious, but at the time of reading, a real experience that is retained afterwards.”


See Marcus Sedgwick talk about Saint Death here:

View the full CKG 2018 shortlists here:


What We’re Reading Wednesday: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands is the debut novel from Canadian-born author Alwyn Hamilton. The first of a trilogy, the book promises “an epic story of love, swirling desert sands and revolution” and is described by Alice Swan, commissioning editor at Faber, as “the most original, genre-busting YA novel I have ever read.”

So the big question in my mind as I started this book was, “will it live up to the hype?” I’m now around two-thirds of the way through and my answer so far is definitely yes! 

First of all, this book pulls no punches. The very first scene sees the heroine, Amani, take part in a shooting contest (whilst disguised as a boy) in the “no good” town of Deadshot – her aim is to earn enough money to leave her oppressive uncle’s house and make for a new life in the capital city, Izman. This is a huge gamble for Amani – with no living parents she is effectively “owned” by her uncle – he has plans to make her his wife and the punishment if she is caught trying to escape would certainly be severe, possibly even fatal.

Thus Amani is marked out from the start as a remarkable heroine – brave, intelligent, strong, quick-witted and none too shabby with a rifle! 

Also taking part in the shooting contest is mysterious “foreigner” Jin who is wanted by the Sultan’s army. After capturing a Buraqi, a mythical horse-like beast, Amani and Jin flee Dustwalk together and here the adventure really begins. 

This book really does have it all: mythology; fantasy; rebellion; romance (but not too much!) and suspense. And speaking of suspense, I’m afraid I must end this post here as I need to get back to the book and find out what happens next!