Customer Reviews for

City of Thieves

Average Rating 4.5
( 303 )
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(166)

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(25)

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(11)

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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 December 14, 2011

    Phenomenal

    Loved the book start to finish!

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  • Posted March 24, 2010

    A great read

    Couldn't put it down. If Spielberg doesn't make this a movie then the world has come to a pretty pass.

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  • Posted March 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Eye Opening

    This is really fast read. Every day you can't wait to see what is happening. This novel is quite unusual for many reasons. This has a different perspective on the war and survival. The author has an uncanny talent to mix comedy with tragedy, but don't let the comedy keep you from buying this book, i've never read a more perfect mix!

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    Great read!

    We enjoyed this book and have given it as gifts several times after reading it. I would recommend it.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Riveting!

    This fast-paced book keeps you on the edge of your seat. A very moving story with twists and turns that definitely keep you guessing right up to the very end (but don't read ahead!). Our book club chose this as January 2010's selection and I know it will generate a lot of discussion when we get together. From comments I've heard so far, everyone enjoyed it. And we haven't even had our meeting yet!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    extraordinary thriller

    thrilling and touching, well writted

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  • Posted November 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A book for the ages!

    I didn't know what i was in for when I started this book. It's tragic and beautifully written. You connect with the present day heroine, Julia, and live her life through her. You want to find out the answers with her.
    You can read this in a few days and will definitely recommend to all!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    captivating storyteller

    I did not know much about the siege of Leningrad, this book was very interesting from that perspective. Story was full of unbelievable surprises but was a very good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2009

    good history lesson

    this book was entertaining and well written. if you want to get a brief history what was going on in the times of Leningrad, this book will be a good insight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Trip Back in History

    City of thieves is one of the most spell bounding books I've read in a long time....not only does it capture your imagination, but retells an important part of history

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Like a long walk with the 19 year old soldier grandfather you never got to meet

    This is a fantastic book. You will love the two main characters as they travel thru war torn Russia in the search for eggs. This isn't a thriller that runs you ragged by the seat of your pants; it's more like a long walk with the 19 year old soldier grandfather you never got a chance to meet. What a glorious story and of course a glorious Sh*t in the end.

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  • Posted June 26, 2009

    Superbly written!!

    This book was beautifully written. It has a humorous wry style but still reveals profoundly disturbing and sad themes. Reminded me slightly of "Everything is Illuminated" and "The Aventures of Kavalier and Clay". I will definitely have to read his other books. NYTimes review also loved this novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2009

    I loved this book!

    Very original. A great plot but with some humor. Who would have thought a story about the Lennigrad Revolution could be funny at times? I would recommend for all those who want to learn a bit about the war in Russia.

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  • Posted April 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent read! Dark comedy with a strong anti-war message.

    I was extremely fortunate to find this amazing gem grouped together with the staff picks at the local Barnes and Noble. Though a fictional account, Benioff does an excellent job of recreating the horror of the Leningrad siege (one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War) seen through the eyes of two wonderful characters: Lev and Kolya. The novel raises several major moral and political questions, as we experience the horrors of the Stalinist and Nazi regimes through the actions of our cast of characters.

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  • Posted February 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A great tale...

    David Benioff is a great author, I highly recommend all his books, but "City of Thieves" is my favorite!

    This book has a little bit of everything, friendship, hard times, cannibals, Nazis, sex, snipers, chess, and legendary bowel movements.

    The story is funny, sad, heartbreaking, action packed & more..

    Two young men living in Leningrad during Germany's siege find themselves suddenly thrust together to perform a task for which their lives depend: find a dozen eggs in a city in which everyone is starving.

    The characters are great, the storytelling is excellent, read this book!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2008

    Kept me reading right through dinner

    After reading a review in a magazine I ordered this book. Never knew the author and now I can't wait to see what else he has written. The story really grabbed me and I loved the characters and their relationship to each other. You keep wanted to know what comes next.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2008

    Pushkin-like treasure!

    I'm not much of a fiction reader, but the NYT wrote a good review, so I picked up this fantastic book! The characters, plot and Pushkin-like twist to the story made it fulfilling for me. Couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2008

    City of Thieves- Riveting!

    This is one of the finest books I have ever read. I dreaded coming to the last page. City of Thieves combined the heartbreak, suffering and sacrifices of war with the enduring human trait of friendship that rises above mans inhumanity to man. The author weaves a love developing between the two main characters while at the same time describing the horrors that were everyday occurrences in Leningrad during WWII. The fact that Lev and Kolya remain the same thoughtful, loyal and caring men even after their wartime experiences is a brilliant message that good will prevail. Bravo, Mr. Benioff!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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