City of Thieves coverReading David Benioff’s City of Thieves:  A Novel (2008), I couldn’t help compare it to The Book Thief (2004).  While The Book Thief was a bit superior in structure and story, I think the characters in City of Thieves were more charming and memorable.

The City of Thieves is a story of unlikely friendships–relationships forced by the German siege of Leningrad during World War II.  Kolya, a Red Army soldier, and Lev, an abandoned street urchin, receive an odd task from a Soviet colonel.  This task sets them on an odyssey through the war torn streets of Leningrad, its countryside, and a German prison camp.

The reading of City of Thieves is quick and despite its subject matter, manages to pull it off without melodrama.  There’s a tension that holds the book together.  This is a tough country devastated by war.  People are trying to survive and yet some are some how finding a way to make the best of the situation.

The book especially compelling reading for those of us with grandparents who served and whose tales are now lost.  The elder Lev tells his grandson, the author, that since he’s a writer he should fill in any gaps in the story.

What the reader receives is a very cinematic story, rich characters, and scenes that will linger long after you put the book down.