The Head of the Saint: Book review

How refreshing is it to find a book that is totally out of your usual genres? One of my Facebook group decided to read a book from Brazil and they chose The Head of the Saint.

As per usual, I did not read the blurb before I picked the book. But I had a vague idea what the book was about based on the discussions the other members had. The Head of the Saint is not like anything I have read before. Was it good or bad then? Read more to know.

About the book

The Head of the Saint cover

Book Name: The Head of the Saint

Author: Socorro Acioli, Daniel Hahn

Genre: Fiction โ€“ Magical Realism, Young adult

Setting: Brazil

The plot

A few days before her death Samuel’s mother asks her fourteen year old son to light candles at the foot of three different saints and then to find his estranged father and his grandmother in the town of Cadeia.

During this ill fated journey Samual finds shelter in what he first assumes as a cave. He later learns that it is the head of an incomplete statue of a famous Brazilian saint and is surprised to hear the prayers of the believers from the town of Cadeia. .

Cadeia is what you can call as a dead town with no prospect for development and many people have migrated away to other towns. The few people who stayed back have lost their faith in their saint and their religion. Samuel realizes he can solve the worries of the patrons by simple interventions and thereby restoring the towns Catholic faith inadvertently.

Did Samuel’s little play help the town or make matters worse for him? Where is the line between human intervention and God’s play? This short tale The Head of the Saint will answer these questions and more.

My initial thoughts

Even though I had a vague idea about the subject, The Head of the Saint was a pleasant surprise. It reads like a folklore and all the characters are intertwined.

Though translated from Portuguese, this story set in Brazil will not deprive you of the native settings.

The Head of the Saint has a lots of religious undertones that we do not find in our typical (read as US/UK-centric ) YA books. The book involves several heavy themes like identity, roots, corruption etc.

Things that worked for me

  • The author’s writing helps the novel stay true to the middle grade and Young adult audience despite its themes
  • I love reading about other culture and their folklore, The Head of the Saint was a good choice for Brazil.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • It does feel chunky and it is apparent that it is a translated work at times but it does not spoil the reading experience.


The Head of the Saint is a coming of age, if I can call that, story with intense themes that would surprise you. If you are interested in reading folklore from different countries, you can pick The Head of the Saint for Brazil.

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Let us chat

Have you read The Head of the Saint? Do you like books with religious themes? Have you read a YA book with religious themes? Let us talk.

28 responses to “The Head of the Saint: Book review”

    • I read the ebook and I didn’t give a second look at the cover. But when I saw this one on the hardcover I was floored.

  1. This book seems like it would be really different and unique, but I am most definitely alway up for a unique read! Is it a long book? Because you said it reminded you of folklores I have this feeling that it’s quite a short book, but I’m probably totally wrong. Awesome review!

  2. Great review, now I am very intrigued by this book. I absolutely love reading about folklore, plus I absolutely love young adult and magical realism books. I am so going to try to check this book out one day, it just looks and sounds absolutely fantastic and amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post and putting this book on my radar.

  3. Good for you for venturing into something different. Sometimes I get so cocooned in my favorite genres, I forget to look at anything else.

    • I totally agree. I am more into YA and romance these days, but this one took me out of my comfort zone and I am glad I did.

  4. I haven’t heard of this one before but I was immediately pulled in by that super-original cover! Great review ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Yes I didn’t even think twice about the cover when I was reading it, but seeing how it impressed so many people I kinda like it as well.

  5. Magical realism and me have a love hate relationship. Sometimes the book goes well and sometimes it doesn’t really work for me at all. But it sounds like this one was a surprise you really enjoyed. And you’re right, we don’t really see religion in YA much. The only one I can think of is Dress Codes to Small Towns which has me intrigued in this one.

    • I am gonna have to check that one now. I have not heard about it untill now. And I think talking about religion in books depends on the country it is set in and it would look totally odd if it were in NYC, for example. Or maybe someone will defy me and show a book from a metro city with religious backgorund!

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