Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff

4.5 out of 5 hearts

Another random find at my local library.  I have been getting lucky with those.  I had never heard of this book or David Benioff.  Turns that he is an accomplished author (The 25th Hour) and he was a writer on the HBO adaptation Game of Thrones, which I love.  Not only that, he was also a screen writer for the movies Troy (2004) and The Kite Runner (2007).  City of Thieves is a NYT bestseller, holds an Alex Award, and is praised as an ALA Notable Book.  I understand why.

Lev Beniov is a starving, freezing 17 year old, half Jewish boy-man.  He lives in St. Petersburg or "Piter" during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad.  His poet father had been arrested and killed, and his mother and sister fled to Vyazma.  Lev stayed behind in the Kirov, his building of residence in Piter, serving as the proud commander of the Kirov Fifth-Floor Brigade.  One cold night, a German soldier fell from the sky and as he looted the frozen body, he was arrested for breaking curfew.  Normally, he would have been shot on the spot, but his life is spared and he is sent to the Crosses (jailhouse).  There, he meets Kolya who is a soldier arrested for deserting his troop.  The morning after their arrest, they are taken to meet the Commander and are sent on the impossible quest of finding a dozen of eggs during Russia's hungriest times for the Commander's daughter's wedding cake.

Kolya is the complete opposite of Lev, tall, blond, handsome, and confident.  As they trek through the snow-piled Russia, keeping cover from enemy and friendly fire, they form a bond and become best friends.  Their main mission is to find a dozen of eggs and they come across some dreadful situations.  Along the way, they meet a group of partisans and finally get the ultimate chance to heroic patriotism...and the chance to attain the eggs.

As absurd as the plot sounds, with it being focused on a mission to find eggs, it was very believable.  It is set during WWII and European populations were starving.  There were a few scenes that made my stomach turn, but they added to the reality of the war and made this story more believable.  The entire story is told by Lev's point of view and his admiration for Kolya is mentioned often.  They become nonobvious heroes  not a pair that was admired or acknowledge, but normal individuals.  I think that also added to the reality of the war because regular people had to stand up to the Nazis to fight for their freedom.  This is the context of this story.

Another thing I really enjoyed at the end was the battle.  With this being set during WWII, you would think that the biggest battle would be bloody.  It turns out to be a game of chess.  There are some fight scenes that have guns and blood, but this particular game of chess had me hold my breath and on an edge.  In all, Benioff is very talented in making the small things mean a lot.

Please do us a favor and read it!


" was a bad morning, really; one of my worst - but I wanted to live.  I wanted to live and I knew I could not face execution with grace." - David Benioff, City of Thieves
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published May 15th 2008 by Viking Adult
ISBN 0670018708 (ISBN13: 9780670018703)
Edition language:  English

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