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City of Thieves [Paperback]

David Benioff
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 Jun 2009

From the writer of the award-winning Game of Thrones series for HBO based on the books of George R. R. Martin.

Four months into the siege of Leningrad, the city is starving.

Seventeen-year-old Lev fears for his life when he is arrested for looting the body of a dead German paratrooper, while his charismatic cellmate, Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested for desertion, seems bizarrely unafraid.

Dawn brings, instead of an execution squad, an impossible challenge. Lev and Kolya can find a dozen eggs for an NKVD colonel to use for his daughter's wedding cake, and live. Or fail, and die.

In the depths of the coldest winter in history, through a city cut off from all supplies and suffering appalling deprivation, man and boy embark on an absurd hunt. Their search will take them through desolate, lawless Leningrad and the devastated countryside surrounding it, in the captivating journey of two men trying to survive against desperate odds.


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City of Thieves + The 25th Hour
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (1 Jun 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340977396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340977392
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Complex and compelling. . . a thought-provoking novel that leaves its own lingering , haunting presence in the reader's imagination'

(Waterstone's Books Quarterly )

'This gut-churning thriller will sweep you along and, with any luck, propel Benioff into bestseller land' 

(Kirkus - starred review)

'Told with compelling power'

(Sunday Telegraph) 'Expert tone. . . fine sense of pace. (Financial Times );

'A hard-to-put-down novel . . . Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser'

(Publisher's Weekly ) --x

'Complex and compelling. . . a thought-provoking novel that leaves its own lingering , haunting presence in the reader's imagination'

(Waterstone's Books Quarterly )

'This gut-churning thriller will sweep you along and, with any luck, propel Benioff into bestseller land' 

(Kirkus - starred review )

'Told with compelling power'

(Sunday Telegraph )

'Expert tone. . . fine sense of pace." (Financial Times )

'A hard-to-put-down novel . . . Benioff blends tense adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age and an oddly touching buddy narrative to craft a smart crowd-pleaser'

(Publisher's Weekly )

Book Description

A thrilling novel from the critically-acclaimed author of THE 25TH HOUR and one of Hollywood's brightest screenwriting stars.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does 12 eggs make 5 stars...? 7 Jun 2009
Format:Paperback
David Benioff's "City of Thieves" is something of a coming-of-age tale with a twist. The twist is the fact that the tale is set in the besieged and starving city of Leningrad in January, 1941. It is a city at war surrounded by the German army, in the middle of a bitter winter, where the last resort becomes commonplace.

The story begins in modern day America, with a brief narrative of the author's own life as a writer and then evolves into him asking his Russian grandfather to tell the story of his experiences during the war.

The main protagonists of this tale, Lev and Kolya, are each picked up by the Red Army for crimes against the state - Lev is caught on a trumped up looting charge (taking a knife from a dead German soldier), and Kolya for desertion. Although both crimes are capital offences, the boys are given an unusual lifeline - a `secret mission' by a Red Army Colonel, who agrees to grant their freedom on the condition that they steal a dozen eggs - even though eggs have not been seen in Leningrad for months - within 5 days to make his daughter's wedding cake. All they are equipped with to complete the task is their (somewhat misplaced) perceived skills in thievery, 400 roubles and their curfew waived - If they fail, they will be hunted down and shot.

It seems like the most bizarre premise, so why did I award 5 stars to City of Thieves? Well, there's a number of reasons for this, for a start, it is a very well written and very readable book, as one would expect from an author known for screenwriting. In a previous review, I criticised one book for taking the best part of 200 pages to fully set the tone of the book - David Benioff managed it in less than 10 pages (I would be surprised if a screen-writer would draw it out further).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Siege of Leningrad as Coming of Age Story 4 Aug 2008
By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I read Benioff's first novel, The 25th Hour, when it came out -- and loved it. I read his short story collection, When the Nines Roll Over, when it came out -- and loved it. I just finished this latest novel from him -- and loved it. As a storyteller, Benioff's got the complete package: mastery of setting, pacing, plotting, psychology, and especially dialogue. Here, inspired by his Russian grandfather's murky experiences during the siege of Leningrad during World War II, he creates a captivating story of adventure, hope, survival, and humor in a tautly effective short novel.

The brutal siege setting is quickly established in the opening chapter, and when the corpse of a German pilot lands near his apartment, teenage Lev Beniov and his friends quickly rush out to scavenge whatever food they can from the body. By the end of the chapter he's been caught as a "looter," and thrown in the notorious Crosses prison, where his cellmate is Kolya, a talkative and jovial army deserter only a few years his senior. Expecting to be executed the next day, they are given an unexpected reprieve by an NKVD officer, who sends them on an absurdist quest for a dozen eggs.

This takes them across the city, where they encounter people even more desperate than themselves, and rather more dangerous. Eventually, it takes them out of the city into the German-occupied countryside, where they get embroiled with a band of partisans intent on killing the commander of an Einsatzgruppen. As the duo wanders through the scary and slightly surreal winter landscape, they form a classic odd-couple bond. Lev is the uptight, awkward straight man to Kolya's charismatic, charming rogue.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Siege of Leningrad quest tale 4 Jun 2009
By Ichabod J VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
'City of Thieves' is a well-crafted and entertaining novel. It's set during the WW2 Siege of Leningrad and tells the story of two young men, Lev, arrested for looting, and Kolya, arrested for desertion, who are sent on an impossible mission - to find a dozen eggs for a Colonel's daughter's wedding cake, the reward to be their freedom.
A quest against improbable odds is one of the oldest themes in storytelling. This particular quest too, although absurd, has its share of trials that the protaganists must overcome to succeed. Although the tone is often light, the experiences the two young men have, and the very nature of their quest itself, are used to show the reader how cheap and debased life is during wartime.
This is a slickly written and very readable book, as one would expect from an author well known for his screenwriting credits. Indeed, it would be surprising if this story isn't adapted for film as it's a damned fine yarn that would transpose well to the screen.
This novel depicts an appalling but fascinating moment in history; by focusing on the friendship between two characters thrown together, Benioff has cleverly produced a novel that shows us all the horror and human cost of war. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eggsellent! 18 Mar 2013
By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book about the quest for eggs during the siege of Leningrad makes for a cracking read!

Narrator Lev, a callow 17-year old from Jewish intellectual stock, is thrown into a prison cell for looting. There he meets Kolya, his exact opposite: a charismatic and confident Cossack in jail for desertion. As they steel themselves for the firing squad, they are thrown a life line by the NKVD colonel. He promises them their freedom in return for a dozen eggs which his wife needs to make his daughter's wedding cake. Eggs? In a starving city where people are eating cardboard - and worse - to survive? It's mission impossible.

The unlikely pair embark on an adventure that is, by turns, horrendous and hilarious but in David Benioff's deft hands always riveting. Along the way, as Lev and Kolya's mutual respect develops, the young men become friends and I would venture that you'll have to go a very long way indeed to find a more engaging pair of protagonists. My thanks to Julia Flyte whose review led me to this terrific book. City of Thieves was written in 2008 so I cannot imagine what's holding up the film of such a cinematic novel. Do hurry up!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brill.
Published 9 days ago by SRob
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put it down
Top class and hard to put down. Benioff has a very fluid writing style and his story-telling is second to none
Published 13 days ago by David Madden
5.0 out of 5 stars I fell in love with it
Astonishing book, I fell in love with it. I read it in 2 halves, in the same day. The story, language, setting and feel for history are all perfect. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Samuel DA Redfern
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a good tale set against the backdrop of the siege of ...
This is a good tale set against the backdrop of the siege of Lenningrad. Whilst the basis of the story is most unlikely the tale hangs together very well. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, not great
Historical fiction is a tricky beast. While the backdrop of the Second World War offers plenty of opportunity for amazing stories - in truth, a vast amount of non-fictional... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Tony Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable account of the last war from the Russian side
This is arguably a masterpiece. It spares no detail, yet it grips the reader because the principal characters are so totally different and brilliantly drawn. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Badamateur
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but with a few holes in the plot
I found this book difficult to put down. It was well written and moved along at a pace. There were some holes in the plot, some quite obvious, which spoilt it somewhat but,... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ruthy
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
City of Thieves was a book club choice and about half of us, myself included, really enyoyed it and would recommend it to others whilst the rest of our group were not that keen. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pearl
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book and definitely worth a read!
This is a well written novel, both funny and compassionate. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, to the extent that I bought it as a Christmas present for my brother-in-law.
Published 8 months ago by M. Small
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
An interesting exploration of the siege of Leningrad. Realistic portrayal and glimpses of the lives of individuals. Some humour breaks the pain.
Published 8 months ago by Ann Godden
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