“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.”
— David Benioff, City of Thieves
With less, a lot was told. Give David Benioff a 100 word count limit and he’ll make the most of every single word. Not a letter went by without it having a crucial role to play in divulging one of the best historical fiction of all time. It takes a master with words to be able to conceive a novel this short, yet so full of wonders. I’ve honestly never been this awestruck by the ability of an author to tell a story with so many raw and tragic moments that are however coated with pure and genuine moments of comic relief. He effortlessly combines the two polarities in a period of time that one could only see darkness. The mere fact this was successfully done warrants that this novel should be praised in a grand fashion. But how exactly did David Benioff do it? What helped him see that this novel becomes an instant bestseller? The perfect duo that are launched on a goose chase for a dozen eggs in the vicinity of Leningrad right around the time that the Nazis are preparing to invade. They’re the reason. Lev and Kolya easily made this adventure the most memorable one in literature. This is a story that is filled with humor, brutality and hopelessness. Things that were delicately sewn together thanks to some of the finest pen skills in the world.
This novel is not like any other. It’s beautiful, yet ugly. It’s hilarious, yet heart-breaking. It’s kind, yet cruel. From the very first page, this novel will attach itself to you and nothing will help you stay clear of it. It’s so captivating that the addiction will have you fear for your own sanity. The characters are natural, peculiar and absolutely enthralling. While the book covers some very serious themes, it is mostly a coming-of-age novel that brilliantly shows a kid become a man in the most uncanny, yet high-spirited way. To help Lev learn the basics of manhood, he’s condemned to befriend Kolya, unmistakably one of the most interesting personalities in literature. His dialogues always manage to crack a smile in the reader, even in the most darkest moments. He’s wisdom will however enlighten some of the most lost individuals. While carrying the weight of their own backstories, they both meet countless number of folks who suffer through the ravages of the war. There’s not a moment that passes by when reading this novel where you’re not reminded of the brutal siege and the repercussions that a famished population have to live with.
City of Thieves is a ravishing beauty. From witty remarks, tough love to the elegance of the game of chess, this novel simply contained every single thing that I could wish for. Just having it set in World War II, a time period that could embark anyone of a train of dangerous and enchanting adventures, makes this book a treasure to cherish. Every hint of historical fiction that was thrown in, whether it was the simple mention of Zhdanov posters on the leftover walls of Leningrad or the implication of the famous Einsatzgruppen, managed to grasp the horrible reality of Russians invaded by the Germans. City of Thieves had me thrilled because of how simple it was for the story to make everything easily imaginable. The pure ability to make every little detail so vivid and almost tangible made every struggle, one that I would share with Lev and Kolya. The descriptions in City of Thieves was just masterful. It captured the essence of a decaying city, of a suffering society and a future dripping of despair. Simply amazing.
It feels amazing when a story is able to hold on to its perfection till the very last line. City of Thieves is one of those tales. While the objective of our beloved characters is clear from the start, the days to come for them were never as they wished them to be. There was always something that happened and something to learn from. Since Lev Beniov is a brilliant kid who’s roaming the snow-covered streets of his land with a curious yet know-it-all guy, the story brings a lot of depth in the character’s evolution. After all, there’s no better way to learn from life but by experience itself, right? The character development in this novel is easily one of the best to have been put into words. City of Thieves also has a lot of plot twists and amazing secondary stories that bring so much depth to the characters and their relationships. From the most sketchiest people to the loneliest dogs, every living creature will surprise you and catch you off guard. The ending is also one of the most amazing ones ever. Rare are novels that are able to wrap-it up like this one did. An adventure like this one merits only one warning: Get ready for a hell of a ride.
Did you read City of Thieves yet? What did you think about it? Did you know that David Benioff is also the author of The 25th Hour and one of the creator of the Game of Thrones (TV show)? Isn’t too surprising to see that he was able to write such an amazing story anymore, is it?
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