Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Guest Book Review: City of Thieves by David Benioff

Hello Cornerfolds readers! I'm overjoyed to be coming to you as a guest blogger today! I'm fairly new to the book blogging community and it didn't take long to realize that this community is filled with such friendly people! So when I heard that the lovely ladies from Cornerfolds were looking for help during a very busy time in their lives, I jumped at the chance to help out. Some quick info about me: My name is Shanah (AKA Bionic Book Worm), I live in Ontario Canada, I have 2 amazing children and a loving husband, I have an obsessive (and probably unhealthy) relationship with coffee, and I read to escape the craziness of my life! I read a mix of YA and adult books with fantasy and historical fiction being my favourite genres. And it's my love of historical fiction that pushed me to spread the word of one of my favourites - City of Thieves by David Benioff.

Fun fact - His name may not immediately ring a bell, but I bet you know of his work! Aside from being an author, David Benioff is also a producer, director, and screenwriter. He's most known for being the co-creator and writer of Game of Thrones!

Title: City of Thieves
Author: David Benioff
Publication Date: May 15, 2008
Publisher: Viking / Penguin

Pages: 258
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From the critically acclaimed author of The 25th Hour, 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, 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. 

Set in Leningrad in 1942, Lev, who is arrested for looting, and Kolya, arrested for desertion, are thrown into the same jail cell as they await their execution. But instead of being brought before guns, they are brought before a powerful Soviet colonel and are given an unexpected second chance. Their mission? Bring him a dozen fresh eggs to make a wedding cake for his daughter. In the middle of the unforgiving Russian winter, these two men embark on an impossible mission. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, they are forced to travel across enemy lines to fight for their chance to survive.

The first thing that grabbed me about this book was their mission. As soon as I heard that it was about two men challenged to find a dozen eggs in the middle of WWII, I was like WHAT?! It was so absurd and unique I just knew I had to read it!

This book lends an angle of humour and absurdity to a time that was nothing close to funny. The two characters were polar opposites of each other. Lev is a shy, quiet, and awkward boy while Kolya was a handsome, confident, and sometimes (well most of the time) arrogant man. Neither of them was pleased to be working on such a quest together, but as time went on they bonded to form this beautiful friendship. Their dialogue was so funny at times that I caught myself laughing out loud along with them. As an outsider who will never experience the horrors of WWII, I find it so strange that people could find humour in the face of such travesty. This book depicts the need to find light in the face of darkness with flying colours.

The character development was absolutely fantastic. As I said above, these two characters were so far apart in their personalities and none too impressed that they had to work together. It was such a joy to read two characters who wouldn't normally be friends coming together to find common ground in a difficult situation and forming a relationship out of it. Not only were the main characters well written, but the side characters were as well. They met so many people along their journey to find the eggs. Some they knew, some were strangers, some were friendly, and some were enemies. You were given the chance to fully grasp their connections, fears, strengths and determination to survive. I also enjoyed the fact that you got to see the suffering from so many different perspectives. Each characters lives were so different and so was their perspective on what they held close to their hearts.

The writing style is something that I really appreciated, especially when it comes to this subject matter. The way he wrote was very descriptive and factual - but in the best way possible. He didn't try to write long, unnecessary or flourishing descriptions of a scene or event to impact your emotion. The way he wrote was very stark, raw and factual which, for me anyway, only increased the severity of the events and surroundings, and made them all the more powerful. Leningrad toward the end of world war 2 was a desolate and unforgiving place. They had been cut off from all supplies for over a year and people were starving. And by starving I mean they were reduced to eating candles, paper, and paste from book bindings just to get something into their stomachs. And that's what made this quest all the more impossible. Through this mission they were forced to rely on friends and strangers alike. But more importantly they had to rely on their instincts and trust in each other. With everything that they had been through to up to this point, I could only imagine that trust would be the most difficult thing to overcome. I went into this expecting it would be all about their journey in finding the dozen eggs, but it was also a journey through friendship and humanity.

I wish that I could say more about this book but I wouldn't want to spoil anything. This is really a journey that you need to experience for yourself.

I would recommend this book to both adults and young adults alike. It's not an easy read - it's heart breaking and will hit you right in your emotions. But the humour sprinkled throughout this novel gives the subject a fresh new perspective that I've yet to come across in any other WWII historical fiction. This is a story of friendship, desperation, strength, and determination. I hope you get the chance to pick this one up and I hope you like it as much as I did!