City of Thieves by David Benioff

I’m going to start off by saying this novel has lots of violence and coarse language related to sex, so if that makes you uncomfortable I would not suggest reading it. I was immediately drawn to this novel by the plot. I know that’s usually how people decide on books but I say this because I don’t really like reading about war. This novel is about two young Russian men who are given a task by a Soviet general to find a dozen eggs to use in a cake for his daughter’s wedding or see themselves executed at the end of the week. This takes place during the Nazis’ siege of Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg) in World War II.

We could not fight them in moderation. We could not fight total war with half war. The partisans would continue picking off Nazis; the Nazis would continue massacring noncombatants; and eventually Fascists would learn that they could not win the war even if they killed thirty civilians for every one of their dead soldiers. The arithmetic was brutal, but brutal arithmetic always worked in Russia’s favor.

I have to be honest and say I am pretty lost as to what to write for a review. I can say that I found it to be a smart, engaging, and powerful novel. I don’t read enough historical fiction to know if this follows a standard way of writing about war but I found it to be original. I also wouldn’t call it funny but it has humorous moments that come at just the right moment to cut down on the tension. I definitely have a thing for a good prologue and the prologue in this book gives away nothing but sets the scene perfectly with a few teases. You know an intriguing story is coming from the set up but it’s impossible to imagine what will happen. I suggest re-reading prologues or the first chapter of a book after you’ve finished it, like I did for this. It’s a fun reminder of where you started and where you ended.

I was cursed with the pessimism of both the Russians and the Jews, two of the gloomiest tribes in the world. Still if there wasn’t greatness in me, maybe I had the talent to recognize it in others, even in the most irritating others.

If you like historical fiction about war then I highly recommend this. If you like a book with an unexpected adventure and wraps up in a satisfying way then I also recommend this book.

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