Customer Reviews for

City of Thieves

Average Rating 4.5
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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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  • 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.

    5 out of 5 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.

    3 out of 3 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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  • 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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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Amazing book

    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 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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  • 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 26, 2013

    Gripping story

    Very seldom have I had a book pull me in like this one did. Even when I wasn't reading this book I was constantly thinking of the characters and couldn't get back to reading it. I laughed out loud and found myself in tears in many parts. This book isn't for someone who is easily offended which made it even better for me. Do yourself a big favor and buy this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2013

    Great story and book to share!

    I really enjoyed reading this and it was recommended by a friend of mine. I'm so glad he did and I have been able to put it on my favorite books to read list ! I couldn't put it down and kept reading until I would either fall asleep or convince myself to stretch it out longer because I enjoyed every chapter.

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  • Posted April 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Page turner! Some time ago, I picked up City of Thieves by Davi

    Page turner!

    Some time ago, I picked up City of Thieves by David Benioff at the urging of my sister, who loved it. What I didn’t know until I wrote this post is that Benioff is the co-creater of the blockbuster show Game of Thrones, which I don’t watch – but I might now that I know he’s involved! Anyway, back to the review – I wasn’t in the mood for a serious read at the time, though, so I put it down after a few pages. But then I was picked to be a World Book Giver, and my book to give away is City of Thieves, so I knew I had to read it before I started handing it out.




    This book follows the story of two young men who are arrested in Leningrad during WWII and are given the option to avoid death by procuring a dozen eggs for an NKVD officer within a week. Despite the virtual non-existence of eggs in the city under siege, the boys take off on an adventure that tests their will to survive, friendship, and loyalties.




    I really enjoyed this book. Some of it was hard to read because, even though this book is fictional, the events within it were real for many people during WWII and it broke my heart and turned my stomach. But the mark of a great book is that it leaves a lasting impression, and this is one of them. At times darkly humorous, City of Thieves is a classic example of the word “page-turner.” I understand now why it was chosen as one of the choices for World Book Night.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    Great story

    Dark an dinteresting

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  • Posted December 14, 2012

    A compelling story and worth the read

    Wonderful story on the coming of age of a Russian young adult in the throes of WWII and the hardships of the times. Great exchange between characters and a solid understanding of trials faced by those in this situation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2011

    Great story

    This book was a great representation of how the Russians felt in WWII. The charachrers and plot are great and the friendship that grows between Lev amd Kolya is great to watch.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Original and Fascinating

    David Benioff's training as a screenwriter has paid off big time in this fascinating tale. The action and adventure are well-paced and his descriptions of cold and starvation in the besieged city of Leningrad paint a picture of war that is sober and horrifying. The juxtaposition of a planned wedding feast in the midst of such human suffering sets the stage for an almost believable, albeit quirky, trio of heroes.
    As an educator, I am constantly searching for good literature that can be used in the classroom. This novel, I hoped, would provide an excellent opportunity to interest students in a variety of subject areas including physiology, health, history, and literature. Unfortunately, Benioff missed the mark and chose to have the main characters fixated on sex to such a degree that I cannot recommend it for secondary classroom study. Gratuitous sex may sell movies but it won't sell to schools. However, I personally enjoyed the novel and recommend it highly to other adults.

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    A truly enjoyable read

    This book was really enjoyable to read. The writing is easy. The story is fast paced. The characters are engaging. The author moves the story forward with each scene, so that even during the lulls (dinner scenes, etc.) the narrative progresses. It is witty and engaging. We read this for a book club I am in, and this was one of the few books everyone - without exception - enjoyed. It has set the standard for our book club. I particularly liked the historical element. While a novel, there is a significant historical component to it. It teaches the reader, through snap shots, some elements of living in St. Petersburg during WWII. The tone of the novel is a bit whimsical, as if the events are almost beyond belief (which they are, considering the realities of WWII). But instead of being a dreary read, the suffering is mitigated through wit.

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  • Posted March 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Very Enjoyable and Well Written!

    I'm not really sure what caused me to download this e-book, but I'm glad that I did. It's a book that has both humor and some tight spots as well. I really enjoyed the read!

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Most Improbable Tale, Well Told and Compelling

    This is a simple story, about two young men on a journey to find an item that might save their lives. Yet it is complex - in their relationship, the historical context, the events along their journey. I admire this author's writing style. He kept me immersed in their story, with detail and emotion subtly revealed. If you're looking for the proverbial "good read," consider this one. I look forward to reading more by Mr. Benioff.

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Well written historical fiction with a heartfelt ending.

    Wonderful story with real-life characters.

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