Customer Reviews for

City of Thieves

Average Rating 4.5
( 303 )
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(25)

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(11)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves is a coming-of-age voyage (to find a dozen eggs no less) in the war torn city of Leningrad, Russia. It is the winter of 1941 and the German Army has besieged the city. Rations are non-existent, citizens are dying by the hundreds, and everyone lives in fe...
City of Thieves is a coming-of-age voyage (to find a dozen eggs no less) in the war torn city of Leningrad, Russia. It is the winter of 1941 and the German Army has besieged the city. Rations are non-existent, citizens are dying by the hundreds, and everyone lives in fear of being overrun by the enemy. They have no alternative but to fight for survival. Lev and Kolya, young teen-age Russians, are arrested, Lev for looting a dead paratrooper, and Kolya for desertion. With their arrests both are destined to take a short trip that ends with their backs poised against a wall brushed with blood. But before their execution in the face of a firing squad they are given a reprieve by the city's acting military commander. They are ordered on a mission to find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. They are given less than a week to complete their task and their ration cards are confiscated. Without a means of obtaining food what else can they do but try and fulfill the task. But in a city that has resorted to cannibalism where could they possibly find what they search for? The story develops as the two young men head off in search of the prized components.

Based on the true-life adventures of Benioff's grandfather we are transported to a city that has fallen on the hardest of times. Starvation, desperation, and self-preservation are the only law in Leningrad and that image of desolation and destruction lays the groundwork for the rest of the story. The quest for eggs takes them to a private whore house in the woods, to Russian partisans in the rural outskirts of the city, and to a German military camp where the final stand-off is played over a chess set. Benioff explores the grief and indifference of the characters while they hide from snipers, infiltrate a line of captured prisoners and eventually find what they were looking for. Peace!

This is a true heart-rending story written with love, care and consideration. Well worth the read.

4 ½ stars out of 5

http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/

posted by The_Alternative on September 5, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Good balance of comedy and tragedy

This book has all the makings of a coming of age historical foreign movie (makes sense, the author is also a screenwriter). I can actually picture the movie in my head and watching it. It's something I would watch. It's both funny yet certain parts remind me of the horr...
This book has all the makings of a coming of age historical foreign movie (makes sense, the author is also a screenwriter). I can actually picture the movie in my head and watching it. It's something I would watch. It's both funny yet certain parts remind me of the horrors of war still thriving within the city. The story is told in the point of view of Lev who's young and stays behind while his mother and sister move away from the city. His father, is most likely dead, as he gets arrested and is never seen again. When he meets Kolya, the charming deserter who seems to have a tale for everything and has to say something every waking moment, they make a comical duo. Lev is very surly at first and is annoyed frequently by Kolya, who doesn't really care what he thinks of him and keeps on going with his little quirks and stories of his various romantic conquests and how he hasn't gone to the bathroom in a very long time.

I liked this book because of its' interesting mix of comedy and drama set in a rather serious and sombre setting. Come to think of it, I haven't even read a book set in World War II where there is comedy in it. In fact I think it's quite a rarity, yet this kind of rarity, and written and executed well, makes it a rare gem. I have to admit, I liked Kolya from the start. You could tell he was the comic relief of the duo here. He provided the light hearted side of the story and actually had very funny and interesting things to say. It was hard to like Lev. I don't know what to make of him. Surly, hard to like, easily angered (really all the makings of an angsty teenager) although on the other hand, he knew how to survive on the streets which had made him mature faster while Kolya was more of the child of this twosome. However towards the end of the book where Lev actually does grow up both mentally and physically, I started to rather respect him more as his character developed.


The things I didn't like about this book? well for starters, there were some very graphic and gruesome parts that aren't for the squeamish and some parts even made me squirm uncomfortably. Lev rather annoyed me because he wouldn't stop thinking as how Vika would look naked (and those moments increased towards the end of the book) it got annoying and stagnant. One other criticism, what happened to Kolya was rather predictable in the end. I figured that out at least before halfway of the novel. (Which is why I said it had all the makings of a great foreign movie).

Despite these faults, I enjoyed reading the book and following these two on their dangerous journey to find eggs. The whole finding eggs bit does make it comical but on the other hand it's mixed so well with the horr

posted by Sensitivemuse on November 13, 2009

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    City of Thieves by David Benioff

    City of Thieves is a coming-of-age voyage (to find a dozen eggs no less) in the war torn city of Leningrad, Russia. It is the winter of 1941 and the German Army has besieged the city. Rations are non-existent, citizens are dying by the hundreds, and everyone lives in fear of being overrun by the enemy. They have no alternative but to fight for survival. Lev and Kolya, young teen-age Russians, are arrested, Lev for looting a dead paratrooper, and Kolya for desertion. With their arrests both are destined to take a short trip that ends with their backs poised against a wall brushed with blood. But before their execution in the face of a firing squad they are given a reprieve by the city's acting military commander. They are ordered on a mission to find a dozen eggs for the colonel's daughter's wedding cake. They are given less than a week to complete their task and their ration cards are confiscated. Without a means of obtaining food what else can they do but try and fulfill the task. But in a city that has resorted to cannibalism where could they possibly find what they search for? The story develops as the two young men head off in search of the prized components.

    Based on the true-life adventures of Benioff's grandfather we are transported to a city that has fallen on the hardest of times. Starvation, desperation, and self-preservation are the only law in Leningrad and that image of desolation and destruction lays the groundwork for the rest of the story. The quest for eggs takes them to a private whore house in the woods, to Russian partisans in the rural outskirts of the city, and to a German military camp where the final stand-off is played over a chess set. Benioff explores the grief and indifference of the characters while they hide from snipers, infiltrate a line of captured prisoners and eventually find what they were looking for. Peace!

    This is a true heart-rending story written with love, care and consideration. Well worth the read.

    4 ½ stars out of 5

    http://thealternativeone.blogspot.com/

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Can't Wait for the Movie!

    Perhaps the finest work of historical fiction I have read in decades. The author draws the reader in via a slick bit of writing that sets the stage for a leap back to wartime St. Petersburg. There follows a development of characters that is truly exceptional. This is a book that hooks the reader in a fashion that moves from not wanting to put it down to can't put it down.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2012

    Excellent book

    I have read many books set in World War II since I find that time period fascinating, however, most are set in Western Europe. This story took place in Leningrad and involves the unlikely friendship between an accused deserter of the Russian army and a seventeen year old Jewish boy. The story was, in turn, humorous, sad, horrifying and touching. Definitely worth reading.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2011

    My Gracious

    This was such an exciting read; I couldnt put it down. I was hooked from beginning to end. Easily my favorite book on Earth. You are missing out if you dont read this book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2009

    The horror of war captured through the eyes of a teenage boy in Leningrad

    City of Thieves by David Benioff is the fictionalized story of the author's grandfather's experiences in World War II Leningrad. Lev Beniov has remained in the city during the siege by the Germans, despite the evacuation of his mother and sister. Living in an apartment building with other teens, they've become a family of sorts, but when he is caught looting the body of a German paratrooper, Russian soldiers take him to prison to be executed. His cellmate for the evening is Kolya, a soldier accused of deserting his post. In the morning, instead of facing a firing squad, Lev and Kolya are ordered by a general to find a dozen eggs in five days time for his daughter's wedding cake. In a city that has resorted to eating the paste out of library books for the protein, this is a Herculean task, but if they don't succeed, the men will be hunted down by the general's men and lose their ration cards, either outcome meaning certain death. The two travel the city in the quest for eggs and come across horrific scenes of depravity along with startling compassion and generosity. Their quest for the eggs becomes something more, elevating and teaching Lev and Kolya about what it means to be human and to fight for something bigger than themselves.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very enteraining book!!!

    It was a very good book. It is a work of fiction, but still has a lot of historical events that took place. The characters were very believeable and there was a good story line. I am trying to get my teenage kids to read the book, just so they can see what World War II might have been like in Russia. It had funny moments, a few scary/tight spot moments and even had a little romance in it. A very entertaining book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Incredible Writing Style

    David Benioff needs to write another book, as I'm impatiently waiting! City of Thieves was fabulous. I can't say enough about his writing style. Great character development, great storytelling that moves forward, humor and emotion often in the same sentence. He's incredible. After reading this, I grabbed his other books without even seeing what they were about. I can't get enough.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good balance of comedy and tragedy

    This book has all the makings of a coming of age historical foreign movie (makes sense, the author is also a screenwriter). I can actually picture the movie in my head and watching it. It's something I would watch. It's both funny yet certain parts remind me of the horrors of war still thriving within the city. The story is told in the point of view of Lev who's young and stays behind while his mother and sister move away from the city. His father, is most likely dead, as he gets arrested and is never seen again. When he meets Kolya, the charming deserter who seems to have a tale for everything and has to say something every waking moment, they make a comical duo. Lev is very surly at first and is annoyed frequently by Kolya, who doesn't really care what he thinks of him and keeps on going with his little quirks and stories of his various romantic conquests and how he hasn't gone to the bathroom in a very long time.

    I liked this book because of its' interesting mix of comedy and drama set in a rather serious and sombre setting. Come to think of it, I haven't even read a book set in World War II where there is comedy in it. In fact I think it's quite a rarity, yet this kind of rarity, and written and executed well, makes it a rare gem. I have to admit, I liked Kolya from the start. You could tell he was the comic relief of the duo here. He provided the light hearted side of the story and actually had very funny and interesting things to say. It was hard to like Lev. I don't know what to make of him. Surly, hard to like, easily angered (really all the makings of an angsty teenager) although on the other hand, he knew how to survive on the streets which had made him mature faster while Kolya was more of the child of this twosome. However towards the end of the book where Lev actually does grow up both mentally and physically, I started to rather respect him more as his character developed.


    The things I didn't like about this book? well for starters, there were some very graphic and gruesome parts that aren't for the squeamish and some parts even made me squirm uncomfortably. Lev rather annoyed me because he wouldn't stop thinking as how Vika would look naked (and those moments increased towards the end of the book) it got annoying and stagnant. One other criticism, what happened to Kolya was rather predictable in the end. I figured that out at least before halfway of the novel. (Which is why I said it had all the makings of a great foreign movie).

    Despite these faults, I enjoyed reading the book and following these two on their dangerous journey to find eggs. The whole finding eggs bit does make it comical but on the other hand it's mixed so well with the horr

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 30, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Outstanding

    There's something about reading how so many people struggled during World War II, that gives you an appreciation for the smaller things in life. Like eggs! It may not be David Benioff's intention to evoke thought of your own vulnerability, but his story does. And does it well. I found myself feeling for the characters and wondering what it would be like to be Lev. To be thrust out of your comfort zone and into such dire circumstances. We all have a Kolya in our lives. That person we love to hate yet hate to love! Someone who, after all they put you through, can show you their weakness and you do nothing but tell them it'll be alright.
    This story brought me to a place that I haven't been to in a long time and kept me there until it was over.
    A very good read in my opinion. Worth checking out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Darkly Funny

    This dark comedy makes it mark with its origina, absurd plot: a teenage Jew and a Red Army deserter pair up on a mission to find a dozen eggs in a starving, barbaric city with their lives at stake. This novel has very memorable characters, with events to match. It will make you laugh, only to wipe the smile off your with the horrors on every page. A resonant novel to be read by all. Benioff holds nothing back.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will want to join Kolya and Lev on their quest to find the Holy Grail: a dozen eggs.

    During the Nazi siege of Leningrad, seventeen year old Lev Beniov remains in the city alone as his dad "officially" vanished several years earlier and his mom and sis were evacuated. However, he is unable to stay in hiding as he needs food, but he is caught looting. The Germans execute looters on the spot. Yet Nazi Colonel Grechko offers Lev and equally guilty twenty year old Russian army deserter Kolya a chance to live. They are to obtain twelve eggs in five days for his daughter's wedding cake; failure means death.

    They quickly know the black market has nothing for sale. Thus the duet works their way behind the Nazi line as they assume nearby farms are their best bet. Lev and Kolya stumble onto a Nazi death squad sexually abusing Russian women and help the partisans kill the Nazi beasts. As they witness more atrocities, the unlikely duo becomes friends while Lev is attracted to kick-butt partisan sniper Vika.

    This deep look at the atrocities of war stars a coming of age odd couple who forge a friendship out of surviving the abuses they encounter in spite of Kolya being a confident extrovert and Lev a self mocking introvert with the latter telling their story. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of action; much of which accentuates the abuses, carnage, and the scarcities the civilian population face. Readers will want to join Kolya and Lev on their quest to find the Holy Grail: a dozen eggs.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2008

    City of Thieves

    Not just another hotshot American novelist, David Benioff also has his hands dipped in the lucrative trade of Hollywood scriptwriting. Aside from adapting his own novel, The 25th Hour, into a Spike Lee film that starred Edward Norton, he wrote the screenplay for Troy and adapted Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner for the big screen. Perhaps that is why, reading his latest book, you get a sense of watching events unfold in a cinematic manner, with enough details about the protagonists to start casting actors in your mind. In the short prologue, Benioff snappily etches out a writer's relationship with his retired grandfather whom he is interviewing for a magazine article. Just enough hints are dropped here to draw you into the main story with the lure of discovering how this Russian Jew killed two Germans before he turned 18. In 1942, with Germany having begun its infamous siege of Leningrad (now St Petersburg), a 17-year-old Lev finds himself alone in a cut-off city, after his family fled to Vyazma. Caught by Russian authorities for theft, he is unexpectedly spared from punishment and instead given a task to undertake with a 20-year-old army deserter, Kolya - to bring back a dozen eggs for the wedding of a colonel's daughter. Now, in the chaotic, food-scarce city, this order is not easily accomplished by visiting the nearest grocer. Rather, it is a suicide mission that will take the duo into the treacherous countryside beyond enemy lines. The symbolism of theft hovers over the entire book - from the plundering invaders, to cannibalistic urban dwellers preying on children, to (as mentioned in passing conversation between the protagonists) the possibility of Shostakovich plagiarizing from Mahler. City Of Thieves is not only a poetic coming-of-age tale and a surrealistic odyssey filled with unnerving encounters and ironic outcomes. It is ultimately a heart-rending study on our rootedness to home, city and nation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 25, 2012

    great book.

    great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2012

    By far the greatest story I have ever read that takes place during a war

    I was looking through the list of books I could choose to read for my schools summer reading homework and I am glad I chose City of Thieves. I couldn't put it down, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Once I got to the end I was sad that I finished the book. I have never felt this way about a book before. I wish the story could have ended a bit differently but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read the whole story yet. But it was still a good ending.
    P.s. I wish I knew someone like Kolya. His character just made me laugh for pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    This story shows the dark side of war, not the Hollywood ve

    This story shows the dark side of war, not the Hollywood version. It is an engaging quest novel that (like most quests) takes the reader through some unimaginative horrors. Only in this novel the monsters are human and the innocent don't always win. The I found the descripticharacters are well developed and they seem like people you would know from work or your neighborhood, but they have witnessed the effects or war. Not only must they obtain a dozen eggs to ensure their own freedom, but they must evade the German army and survive the bitter cold during their search. The cold, bleak atmosphere of the Russian countryside matches the futility of the almost impossible quest.
    The story provokes the reader to think what he or she would do to survive. Even Lev and Koylo were not aware of the reasources within them to survive. Alliances are formed quickly as they have so little time to develop relationships, but know they most depend on one another to make it through another day.
    I found the description of the siege of Leninngrad very interesting. It is part of WWII history that is not often brought to light. The ravaging effects of the war are felt throughout the story. The book captures the imagination and is easy to read although the content is difficult and unsettling at times. Even so, there are some bright and heartwarming moments. And those moments are what keeps th characters and the reader going.
    Very, very good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2012

    well worth a read

    I found this to be a most interesting read. The characters flow well though out the novel. Some surprises along the way. Having read other works of the time, story was very believable.
    would recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    One of my absolute favorite books of all time. If you haven't r

    One of my absolute favorite books of all time. If you haven't read it, you are missing out on something special. When I finished the book, I was left with wanting more. I was sad that the book ended, and you know you've read a special book when you feel like that after finishing. Buy the book, read the book and enjoy the book. Nothing else needs to be said.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Amazing book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    Truly awesome tale

    Not sure what genre to put this in. But, one of all-time best stories I've read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    Nookville moving to nookville all results

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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