• City of Thieves

  • A Novel
  • By: David Benioff
  • Narrated by: Ron Perlman
  • Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (6,568 ratings)

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City of Thieves

By: David Benioff
Narrated by: Ron Perlman
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Publisher's Summary

From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour and When the Nines Roll Over and co-creator of the HBO series Game of Thrones, a captivating novel about war, courage, survival - and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime. 

During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya 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. 

By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, the New York Times best seller City of Thieves is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.

©2008 David Benioff (P)2008 Penguin

Critic Reviews

"The novel tells a refreshingly traditional tale, driven by an often ingenious plot...[Benioff] shifts tone with perfect control - no recent novel I have read travels so quickly and surely between registers, from humor to devastation.” (The New York Times Book Review)
 

“This spellbinding story perfectly blends tragedy and comedy.” (USA Today)

“Splendid...Benioff has produced a funny, sad, and thrilling novel.” (Entertainment Weekly)

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What listeners say about City of Thieves

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    4,814
  • 4 Stars
    1,318
  • 3 Stars
    303
  • 2 Stars
    83
  • 1 Stars
    50
Performance
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    4,286
  • 4 Stars
    802
  • 3 Stars
    206
  • 2 Stars
    41
  • 1 Stars
    11
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    4,069
  • 4 Stars
    945
  • 3 Stars
    237
  • 2 Stars
    57
  • 1 Stars
    29

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Great story . . . too much lowbrow writing

Fifteen reviews so far and nothing less than a 4-star? I bought the book because of the great reviews, the storyline and time period, and from the perspective of Russia. I was looking forward to the read. After 2 1/2 hours of listening, I had to hit the bail button.

I am continually astonished that writers that have a great storyline and something to say, proceed to poison the story by dragging it through the gutter. What purpose does it serve? Is the story enhanced because profanity is embedded into the whole thing? Oh, maybe a dose of graphic sexual situations will appeal to a broader audience? It is ridiculous! Good stories can stand on their own - period!

I mean, what does this have to do with anything: The two guys are watching the officers daughter ice skate in her fur coat and one of them is picturing her naked so later he can masturbate about her. What does this tell us about the guy? He is horny? Yeah, so what is new. How many ways do you have to tell us about a penis and the multiple slang terms for it? How many times do you have to use the "F" word?

Since books don't have ratings (like movies), I must make decisions on purchasing them from other reviews. Unfortunately, none were offered from this perspective. Ultimately, I am a little torqued that I spent my money to help support this book. Maybe our society is a little desensitized by this, but frankly I am sick of it. From what I have read of this story, if you removed the graphic vulgarity and sexuality, the story would NOT suffer.

I hope that authors would do us all a favor and continue to focus on good stories and keep the unneeded adjectives out... keep something to the reader's imagination. I hope this review would at least make other potential readers aware of what they're purchasing, and give another perspective because so many of us find this type of writing completely unnecessary.

92 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A Story To Savor

This is "plot-driven" fiction at its finest and a superb audiobook. Highly literate, compelling characters, riveting story line set in the vicious German siege of Leningrad in WWII, and laced with wit and humor. The construction is the classic 'quest', a mismatched couple of underdog heroes set off on an impossible task under appalling conditions. We see the story unfold through the eyes of bright, naive Lev but it is his companion Kolya who you fall in love with, a bombastic, pretty boy Cossack with irrepressible charm.
The story gallops along and there is no fluff or filler, though you wish there was because it is over all too soon. There are cinematic touches -it is easy to believe that Benioff is an accomplished screenwriter - but none that bothered me. I appreciated the historical accuracy and insight in a story so lively, entertaining and rich in humanity. I also like the teasing hints that this is a true story passed along from the author's grandfather. And Ron Perlman's narration is very good.
I still hold The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty as the best audiobook I've listened to, and I've been impressed by Bryce Courtenay's stories, but City of Thieves is a very close number two.

54 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Stunning Tale. Great Narration.

1st, Ron Perlman (Hellboy)is a real suprise. Excelent reader, great tone and pacing. Is he Russian? Story is very engrossing, the details make the book. Grim tale and plenty of misery, don't listen if you've just gone off your meds, but worth the effort for the real emotional attatchment you build w/ the players.

47 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Very Mixed Feelings

I was very torn reviewing this book. I thought the narration was very un-even. His dialogue narration was far better than is 'story-telling' narration. That being said, I found his narration extremely monotonal. I also found the sexual language and sexual/romantic storyline to be very primal and base and not romantic or loving at all. I know that I am certainly out-numbered on this issue: I guess the base and sexually implicit language might have been pertinent to the story, but I mostly found it to be offensive and vile. It is a well written story, but not worth the accolades, I've certainly read & listened to far better WWII novels

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

You Will Cherish Your Next Omelet

Leningrad, in winter, is brutally cold. Real hunger is a gnawing beast. Relief from either, as welcome as it may be, merely releases the exhaustion that the pain of cold and the ache of hunger had kept at bay.

We know this, not because David Benioff told us, but because we experienced it through the remarkable characters of City of Thieves. Benioff crafts his characters so deftly, and with such originality and empathy, that we are drawn into his story completely. We don't read it; we live it.

City of Thieves is a character-driven tale set in Leningrad at war. We travel with Benioff's protagonists, Lev and Kolya, through this besieged city, on a quest that is both trivial and life-threatening, to find a dozen eggs. Their fear, their hunger, their rage, their hope, their grief ... these aren't emotions we read about. We feel them, and empathize because Benioff has drawn his characters so robustly.

Benioff has done this, in large part, through the little details he has sprinkled so generously throughout the narration. In many ways, the details carry us forward, through a very tight plot, that never really loses intensity. The details create the mental images that endure ... the *giant's" rooms, the city's defenses, the Colonel's petty corruption, the Nazi's instances of unimaginable cruelty, and much, much more.

What might otherwise be a soul-crushing story, is made bearable (and even somehow ennobling) by regular injections humor ~ often war-weary or cynical ~ but real enough and creative enough, that you will find yourself smiling and laughing much more often than you would expect. At least I did.

Even the profanity is wildly imaginative and, far from being gratuitous, is an important, and welcome, part of the story.

City of Thieves is narrated wonderfully by Ron Perlman. Here, the narration really does add to the story. Characters are presented faithfully; their voices ring true and are just what you would expect for them. Pace is flawless; pronunciation equally so (something that is increasingly rare in audiobooks these days)

City of Thieves is more than worth the time and the credit. This one is a keeper. Do yourself a favor.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

At first, I wasn't sure I would like this because the narration seemed so flat, but it totally grew on me and fit the book and story perfectly. The story is compelling and memorable; the characters will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

terrific!

One of the very best audiobooks ever! Shocking vignettes of war-torn Leningrad combined with laugh out loud humor and real excitment. Heart rending characters. Ron Perlman does a wonderful job narrating. This is an easy 5 star. Terrific.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining WWII view from Leningrad

If you have any Russian blood in you, as I do, this story will reverberate for you. During the war, two waifs find their way through almost incomprehensible famine, destruction, bombing by the ubiquitous Germans and winter's cold, on a mission from a Russian general to find a dozen eggs! One is Jewish, although only half, and the other is pure blond-haired, blue-eyed Cossack. This is the perfect duo. They stumble through enemy lines and eventually the Jewish boy, who is seventeen, finds himself playing chess with a monstrous Nazi Oberleuitenant (forgive my ignorance of German; perhaps it is understandable). The Nazi has murdered so many Russians, in such vile ways, that he must be killed. Along the way our boys pick up Vika, a tiny woman who is the best sniper around. She is so bony that she passes for a young boy, and Lev falls in chaste love with her. The writing is smooth and true. The narrator is an actor who knows how to use his voice. There are a few funny scenes, particularly one in which our boys, looking for eggs, find a scrawny what-they-think-is-a-chicken. They are in for a surprise. You might expect the book to be depressing, as much WWII stuff is for me now, but the author and the narrator make it rise above the Russian suffering. We know the horrendous losses that Russia sustained, but the book is worth reading for its insights into Russia. Only Martin Cruz Smith can do this better, and he is truly in a league with only one member.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

My Best Yet

I thoroughly enjoyed, "City of Thieves" what a great story. Great charachters, I could picture myself in in St Petersburg under siege fron the Germans. This has been my favorite audiobook so far and inspired me to go see Russia in November. You'll never regret this one!

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful Book

Because so much has been written about this book, I just want to note that it is everything that its supporters say it is. I found the ending touching, without being overly sentimental or maudlin. The author is a talented writer and the narrative proceeds swifly and economically. It would be difficult not to be taken with the two main characters, and the WWII Leningrad locale lends historical interest to the novel.

The narration was excellent and added greatly to my enjoyment. The length was perfect for the intermittent listening that I do. An altogether satisfying listening experience.

13 people found this helpful