City of Thieves is about many things, but at it’s core it’s about friendship. It’s wartime, and circumstances thrust Lev and Kolya, two young men who are nothing alike, together in search of a dozen eggs for a wedding cake. This mission is the only reason they were kept alive, and if they fail they’ll probably get the death they had coming to them originally.
Benioff uses this set-up to take Lev and Kolya on a journey that brings them places, and introduces them to people, they never would’ve thought they’d come across. Before long, it stops being about the mission and starts being about these two surviving and growing together.
Eventually, their minds turn back towards what they were sent out together to do, but it’s mostly just out of obligation, as well as the fact they happen to luck into a situation where they have a change of completing this fool’s missions of theirs.
Likewise, love is also brought into the fold, and yet it never moves above second billing. The only love Benioff really cares about is the brotherly love between two young men who, to their surprise and chagrin, fast become friends.
Which makes the ending seem like even more of an insult to the reader. I won’t spoil it for you but, suffice it to say, everything turns out to have all been for naught. All Lev gets out of his time with Kolya is the woman who would go on to become his wife.
And that’s all that’s keeping me from giving City of Thieves the 5 it deserved up until that point. Your mileage may vary, but I’ll never forgive Beinoff for that damned ending.
Travis Smith’s blog, containing this review, as well as others, photography, and more, can be found here.