"City of thieves" is a wonderful, fun and horrific story based in 1941 Leningrad, a time and a place where you would not want to find yourself. Not even for a minute.
In the hands of the local police, instead of being
executed, two young boys are given a shot at saving their own lives by
complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a
powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city
cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev
and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and
behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
The book is written in a KenFollettish
adventure style - which is not a bad thing, it's just a fast-paced,
action-filled style - and it's unbelievably engrossing. The historic background is
also very credible and well-researched.
Charming and delicate at times, but mainly
dark, grim and repulsive, like a story about the siege of Leningrad
should be. There is some real horror in this story, the stuff of urban
legends, and despite I'm sure it all happened (and worse) during the II World War, the author seems to aim a little too carefully for the reader-shock effect. But he also infused the novel with a lot of sense of humor, and a good number of heart-warming scenes.
The greatest thing about "City of thieves" is perhaps the dialogue: it's so vivid and alive. Benioff is an accomplished
screenwriter (he wrote many if not all episodes of Game of Thrones), and
I think you can hear that in the way he masters each character's unique voice. He also has a special skill at setting up exciting scenes where the stakes are raised and the tension is high.
Unfortunately, among a lot of good work that he authored, he also wrote
one of the very worst movies I've ever seen : "Troy". A rare opportunity to
bring the heroes of ancient Greece alive on the silver screen, completely and utterly
wasted and gone to the dogs. Although, to be fair to Benioff, the main problem with that movie was the dreadful casting. But that's another story.
This novel is so worth reading.
Finally, I have to say I listened to the audiobook,
read by Ron Pearlman. He's got a great baritone voice, and his Russian accent is
realistic. His intonation and expressiveness were great when he read
the dialogue, a bit less so when reading the narrating voice, where his tone
verged on the "tough guy" side, without the need to do that.