I’ve been wanting to read David Benioff’s 2008 novel City of Thieves since it came out in paperback, but just never got around to it. Promoted as a staff recommendation at Powell’s Books, I’ve walked by copies of it several times only to purchase something else. Then not long ago, I noticed it was available through my public library. So with much gusto I borrowed a copy. The danger is there’s frequently a let-down whenever you read a book you’ve been wanting to read for years. However, I’m happy to report with City of Thieves there was no let-down. So much did I enjoy Benioff’s novel there’s a strong likelihood it’s the best novel I’ve read all year.
It’s World War II and city of Leningrad is besieged by the Germans and their Finnish allies. As supplies of food and fuel run out the city’s residents succumb one by one to hunger and cold. One evening Lev Beniov, a local teenager accused of looting finds himself sharing a jail cell with Kolya Vlasov, a young Red Army soldier charged with desertion. Fully expecting to be shot for their crimes they’re taken to meet Colonel Grechko, the commanding NKVD officer. His daughter is getting married in a few days and the mother of the bride believes it’s bad luck to celebrate the girl’s wedding without a wedding cake. So, with the city starving to death Lev and Kolya are given a choice: come back before the wedding with a dozen eggs for his daughter’s cake or be executed. With their lives on the line the two embark on a desperate search for the needed eggs and encounter a host of dangers including cannibals, enemy soldiers and desperate Russians.
City of Thieves is a great novel. Not only can Benioff flat-out write he’s a hell of storyteller. (No wonder he’s co-creator and show runner of the HBO series Game of Thrones.) Reading it I experienced a spectrum of emotions from humor to sadness to anger. Like I mentioned at the beginning, don’t be surprised if City of Thieves is declared my favorite novel of 2018. Please consider it highly recommended.