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Saints - Gene Luen Yang

After reading "Boxers", my expectations for "Saints" were pretty much set. I expected a fairly strong main character, underdeveloped secondary characters, and a fantastic justification for the Christian missionary side of the Boxer rebellion. Unfortunately, this is not what I got.

The main character of "Saints", Four-Girl, is rather easy to dislike. She is not really a very good person for most of the book, and her dedication to her faith is more out of self-imposed necessity instead of belief. Unlike in "Boxers", "Saints" gives us a few additional characters which are also rather well developed. Several members of Four-Girl's family, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Won are rather well fleshed out as a supporting cast. I really enjoyed the fact that none of the people in "Saints" are all bad or all good, they seem to live in that grey area in between. This made them feel more real, but also made them very frustrating.

Unlike in "Boxers", "Saints" lets the whole justification for the Christian missionary side of the rebellion fall to the wayside in a very loose explanation. In "Boxers", the plight of the Chinese peasants is rather well argued. They are being attacked and pillaged by government-sponsored foreigners, so they take matters into their own hands. In "Saints", you would think we would get some insight.  I expected to see the overwhelming faith these missionaries have in their God and why they want to share that love with the world. At the very least I would expect to see some of the foreign government officials justifying why they are essentially bullying China from a tactical perspective. Unfortunately, we are given a very brief, underwhelming explanation of only one missionary's experience. This didn't seem like a sufficient amount of information to me.

Once again, as with "Boxers", I am in the minority by not being totally blown away by this book. This series has been nominated for tons of awards. Maybe it is because I do not read graphic novels very often so I went into this with the wrong expectations. Maybe I just didn't have enough prior knowledge about the rebellion to understand the book properly (as I discussed previously in my review of "Boxers"). For whatever reason, this portrait of the Christian missionary side of the Boxer Rebellion felt very unfinished to me. I am glad I read this series because it has piqued my interest in the Boxer Rebellion, but I would not say this is in my top reads so far this year by any means.

If you've already read "Boxers", you should definitely take the time to read "Saints" just to round out the series. I'd recommend this series to fans of historical fiction, graphic novels, and Chinese/Christian history.