Monday, April 20, 2009

City of Thieves by David Benioff

I had never heard of David Benioff, I hadn't read any reviews of this book, no hype, nothing but this one had me at the cover. Something about it's Adrian Tomine-esque artwork and it's Charlie Brown pine tree just grabbed me and told me the story inside was worth reading. Then I read the 5 page intro. Three times because I couldn't believe how pitch perfect it was.

It's 1942, the siege of Leningrad. Bleak, cold, desolate. Lev, a 15 year old boy and Kolya, a Russian soldier, end up in a jail cell together, pleading innocence of their individual charges. A colonel makes them an impossible deal: in exchange for their freedom, the boy and the solider must find one dozen eggs for the wedding cake of his daughter who is about to marry. During the Siege of freakin' Leningrad!

Part buddy picture, part coming-of-age tale and certainly part "horrors of war" story, Benioff has created a masterful novel that is wildly funny, deeply moving and profoundly meaningful. The characters are rich, history is respected and Benioff has the ability to make you feel a part of the story; like you're there in this freezing, Russian winter, hungry as hell, scared, with your very freedom just within reach despite the absurdity and impossibility of what has been asked of you.

This will be the book against which the rest of his upcoming books will be measured and it will be no small task to best this one. I wish him luck and look forward to more.

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