Customer Reviews for

City of Thieves

Average Rating 4.5
( 302 )
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(165)

4 Star

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(25)

2 Star

(11)

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(7)

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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 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 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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  • Posted July 15, 2014

    This was a really, really great book with really bad language (u

    This was a really, really great book with really bad language (unfortunately).The fact that it's based on a week of someone's life makes it that much more exceptional. I don't have that much adventure in a year. It's definitely written from a male's perspective, but I enjoyed it none the less. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014

    Awesome

    Awesome

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2013

    Excellent

    Very pleasantly surprised with this book. Loved the characters. The story is interesting. It is a bit graphic/violent, which I don't mind. It is also funny which counteracts the despair and horrific situations throughout.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    One of my favorites!

    I must have seen like a crazy lady when I was reading this book at the T, I was laughing soooo hard! This book made me cry as much as for happiness as for sadness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    First book of his I read but quickly ordered another

    Imaginative story, well written

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Mortis

    *he stands outside the door.* Eternal flame, hear my cry. *he raises his hand, and a jagged burst of red fire incinerates the door.* Mind if I let myself in? :D

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Taylor

    She sat down on the ground quietly

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2013

    Absolutely Stellar

    Can't say enough about this novel; excellent characters, dialog is perfect, funny, sad, totally engaging from the first paragraph to last. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Good

    Great book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Awesome

    One of my fav books. Will keep you glued

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2012

    Excellent!

    A page turner, one of my top 5 all time favorites

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2012

    Jdd

    Ede

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Let me preface this review by saying it has been several months

    Let me preface this review by saying it has been several months since I have read this book. That being said however, City of Thieves was powerful enough to leave a lasting impression.

    City of Thieves is narrated by the young, fictionalized grandfather of author David Benioff, Lev Beniov. Lev is arrested after looting a paratrooper. In prison, he meets up with the charming, charismatic Kolya who has just deserted his army unit. The two of them are given a reprieve of sorts if they can track down a dozen eggs in war torn Leningrad within a week.

    Their mission takes them on harrowing adventures through a Dante-esque landscape. So harrowing in fact, that portions of the book are not for the faint of heart. Some scenes are down right grotesque and troubling, even for this jaded and hardened reader. However, they serve a purpose and only make the ending that much more poignant.

    The ending reveals the brilliance and beauty of the title. Everyone is a thief in war torn Russia, from the bottom up.

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