Customer Reviews for

City of Thieves

Average Rating 4.5
( 303 )
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5 Star

(166)

4 Star

(94)

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(25)

2 Star

(11)

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(7)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

12 out of 13 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2012

    Engaging about a dozen eggs?

    One of the best books I have read this year a must read. The story of two young men and a mission to get a dozen egg to save there lives. The premise alone will get you hook and non-stop read through it to get to the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Creative, Clever and Crude at times

    The story and David Benioff's writing style kept my interest throughout the book. But I could have done without reading the crude sexual boyhood descriptions and I really dislike it when I am forced to read the "C" word when describing females, but luckily that wasn't too often. So aside from that, it was a good book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    Best book ever!!!!! Highly recommended

    So I read the overview and it sounded like a good book, but I was wrong it wasn't just good it was like the top of the top of greatness of all books. I wouldn't recommend it if your in like elementary school cause it's got some adult stuff in it... If you know what I mean. But if your looking for a good book and can't find one then this is the book for you. You won't be disappointed , trust me I know!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    quick read

    Picked this up at the library this afternoon and I am halfway thru the book - easy reading; good characterization if a bit simplistic. I haven't read much about the siege of Leningrad but the scenes seem true to life and realistic; makes me wonder how Americans would have survived if war had reached our cities.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    Great book

    I couldnt put it down. I loved it!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012

    Great book

    I love reading about Russia and this book is well written. I enjoyed the relationship between the 2main characters. I wish it were longer. I wanted to know more and for the story to continue. I would recommend this book. A short easy read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2012

    Okay, but inadequately developed characters

    Simply stated, the book was readable, but that’s the best I can say for it. Despite its potential to be a gripping story, it was not. It did not draw me in and I was not engaged. I finished it because it is a book club selection. In the end, I did not give a hoot about the characters - not the mark of a great book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2011

    Very good.

    Enjoyed it... a diamond in the rough

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A Fantastic Quick Read

    An unexpected offer saves the lives of two "thieves" who could not be more different in their attitudes and approaches to life during World War II. They must fetch a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a Soviet colonel's daughter from the stripped landscape of Leningrad. The younger boy, Lev, is jumpy and untrusting of individuals, which contrasts sharply with the charismatic and charming Kolya. Together they escape cannibals, hide out with abducted women, and fend off German Nazi's, ultimately tackling the one game which could save their lives.
    This obscure novel offered a humorous look at the gambles people take to save their own lives and the lives of those they come to trust and love. I highly recommend this book as a quick and entertaining read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2011

    what a treat

    almost surreal in it's ability to engross and enthrall.the characters and scenarios can't help but engage you.when you finish you wonder if it was a fairy tale....

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2011

    Loved it

    Could not put this down! Completely entertaining. Read it about a year ago, have not read another book since that I enjoyed as much as this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    We both Enjoyed it!

    My husband read this first and told me I had to read it. He was right! There was something in it for both of us and we had a lot of great discussions around it. I love the humor in the book and the main character's perceptive to the world going on around him. It is obvious that Benioff works in the TV and movie industry because he created a story that can easily be imagined on the big screen. He paints a picture that can effortlessly be visualized but does not bog you down with unnecessary detail or dialog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    Enthralling

    Many had suggested itwish i would have read it sooner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Life during wartime

    Wartime. The good guys vs. The bad guys. Our guys vs. the enemy.
    But what about life outside the actual battles. Does everything just stay a wartime version of routine? Or...

    This story happens to two unlikely compatriots. One a 17 year old Jewish son of a 'politically disappeared' poet and the other a Red Army deserter in pursuit of female companionship.
    Thrown together in The Crosses, a fortress like prison so ominous that its mere mention is enough to keep unruly children in line.Each deals with their sense of the coming doom in their own way, but both are certain of what awaits them come morning.

    But once again fate has a hand to play and they are sent to see 'The Colonel'. This man, a grizzled veteran of the military offers the two a chance to earn their freedom. Remote yes, but a chance. They set off with a safe passage letter in their pocket to complete their task.

    These two people, strangers the night before must depend on each other completely. They navigate through Leningrad/ St. Petersburg and surrounding countryside during the Nazi siege of the city. They encounter remnants of war everywhere they go. Can they survive and navigate long enough to complete their task?

    This novel was a quick read, but surprises lurk behind every turn. Nothing can be taken at face value. War's horror continues to shock us even today over 50 years later. If you are interested in war, or just human behavior you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. You'll be glad you did!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Fantastic

    Without a doubt the best book I've read so far. One of my all time favorites. Deserves more than 4 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2011

    Best book I've read this year.

    I read City of Thieves on the recommendation of a friend. I just finished it last night and I can't wait to tell others to read it. Well written and compelling.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Narrative Masterpiece

    The city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) survived one of the longest and most devastating sieges in history. During World War II it was besieged by German forces for 900 grueling days. The fact that this city managed to survive the onslaught of German Wehrmacht is the testament to the resilience and spirit of its citizens. The story of "The City of Thieves" focuses on one extraordinary episode in the lives of two young protagonists, seventeen year old Lev and his unlikely friend Kolya who were given a task of finding a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of the daughter of NKVD general. In a city that has not seen any fresh food supplies in months, this turns out to be a highly nontrivial task. Their adventures turn out to be extremely dangerous and increasingly daring, and the reader is continuously held tight in the grips of very exciting and poignant narrative. The story is based on actual events, and at the start of the book we have been told that Lev is no one else but the author's own grandfather, now living in the US. The original story apparently had many gaps and inconsistencies, so the author has taken a healthy dose of artistic freedom and woven the event into a tight and compelling narrative. The fictionalized story is told so masterfully that we never for once stop to wonder how much of it is actually true. All of it has more than a solid ring of plausibility to it, and the reader is transported into 1940s Russia. Although the story has many bleak and frightening moments, there is also a strong dose of basic optimism about life and the world that pervades it throughout. One of the things that really impressed me was the skillfully constructed narratives that had a very convincing ring to them. The words and thought of characters really felt like they were translated into English directly from Russian. Once I started reading the book, it was impossible for me to put it down. I stayed up one night well after the midnight in order to finish reading it. In the light of that, I would strongly recommend that you set aside a significant amount of time before you venture to read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2010

    just read it

    its the type of book you get excited to lend others

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An Unexpected Gem

    I found that the title and the summary on the back of the book do not do the story justice. The book is just so much more and I actually didn't come to this conclusion until the last few pages of the book. Do not forget to read the introduction before the story, and you should definitely read it again after the story. It's a pretty fast read so if you can dedicate a weekend to it you'll be very very happy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Great Book

    This book was very well written and I definitely enjoyed it's ride. This adventurous book keeps the reader entertained while offering glimpses of WWII St. Petersburg. I was very sad when this book ended because I wanted to continue reading this adventure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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