Sunday, October 11, 2015

City of thieves, David Benioff

City of Thieves"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.

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