Book Review | City of Thieves by David Benioff

28 December 2017

| goodreads |
Sometimes there are books you know you're destined to love. You get so excited seeing it on your shelves, anticipating to be blown away and amazed at its genius. But sometimes, those expectations aren't met and you're left extremely disappointed.

City of Thieves by David Benioff is a book set during a frigid Russian winter in the midst of World War II. I've read so many books based in World War II. It was such an important and heartbreaking time in history. So many different people were affected by it, and I'm always on the hunt for new narratives about the time period to learn more about how The War touched the lives of the people who lived through it.

I hadn't read anything set in Russia before, but Russian history is extremely interesting to me. I had also heard great things about the author, since he's a writer for the Game of Thrones TV show (which I haven't seen yet. Yes I am a disgrace). All in all, this book was a recipe for a new favorite for me.

The two most important factors for me when it comes to stories are characters and plot. If a book excels at at least one of these two things, I will love it. Unfortunately City of Thieves underwhelmed me with both.

The characters annoyed me from the very beginning. I could understand them to some degree, since they were living and experiencing some very hard things, but they were so extremely whiny and I just could not stand it! The two main characters, Lev and Kolya, were often very crude or inappropriate in their conversations. I didn't care for them at all. When something bad would happen to them, I simply didn't care.
As for the secondary characters, they were many interesting ones that I wanted to get to know deeper, but they were all very fleeting. The reader never gets to see them as more than two-dimensional shadows of personality.

The plot was my other big problem. The initial objective for the characters that's promised within the first couple chapters is not carried through very well, in my opinion. The characters get sidetracked so many times, and it was hard for me to keep up with what the heck they were trying to do. They weren't focused and I couldn't understand.

My favorite part of the novel, honestly, was the prologue where the author describes some of his grandfather's experiences during The War that inspired the book. David Benioff is an amazing writer. There were many quotes throughout the whole story that I loved, and the way he describes things is beautiful.

This book, despite the problems I had with it, is a good window into World War II Russia, which I appreciated. I do feel like I learned through this reading experience, and even though it wasn't what I expected it to be, I think it's worth a shot for anyone who might be interested in reading it.
“Perhaps a hero is someone who doesn’t register his own vulnerability. Is it courage, then, if you’re too daft to know you’re mortal?” 
― David Benioff, City of Thieves


  1. Oh no, I’m sorry that this book was so disappointing! I’ve read a bunch of good books set in WWII too. Have you heard of The Boys in the Boat, Seabiscuit, Unbroken, or Bomb? They’re SO GOOD. For me, the two things I need are characters and writing. That quote at the end is amazing, but the unlikeable characters probably would ruin it for me.

    1. I will admit that the writing in this book was incredible, but unfortunately it couldn't cancel out the other problems I had.
      I'm actually reading Unbroken right now and am absolutely LOVING it!
      Thanks for your comment, Annie! :)