In the tradition of City of Thieves and Child 44, a troubled World War I veteran races across the frozen steppe of 1930's Ukraine to save a child from a shadowy killer with unthinkable plans.
Luka is a war veteran who now wants nothing more than to have a quiet life with his family. His village has, so far, remained hidden from the advancing Soviet brutality. But everything changes the day a stranger arrives, pulling a sled bearing a terrible cargo. When the villagers’ fear turns deadly, they think they have saved themselves. But their anger has cursed them. In the chaos, a little girl has vanished, and Luka is the only man with the skills to find the stolen child and her kidnapper in these frozen lands. Besides, the missing girl is the best friend of Luka’s daughter, and he swears he will find her. Together, with his sons, Luka sets out across lands ravaged by war and gripped by treachery. Soon they realize that the man they are tracking is no ordinary criminal, but a skillful hunter using the child as bait in his twisted game. It will take all of Luka’s strength to battle the harshest of conditions and all of his wit to stay a step ahead of Soviet authorities. And though his toughest enemy is the man he tracks, his strongest bond is a promise to his family back home.
©2013 Dan Smith (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
Smith could have chosen any of the characters in his story to be his main character. He might have made it a "coming of age" tale and chosen one of the sons. Or a sinister tale of desperation and sorrow by choosing one of the children who were stolen. These days, it's become popular to have an "anti-hero" and make the villain the protagonist; in which case he might have picked the Baba Yaga to tell the story.
All of those plot lines have been done before, however, and some of them are getting quite tired. Instead, Smith chose to tell the story from the perspective of Luka, a father and retired Russian soldier living in the Ukraine- the result surprised me. Luka is one of the most well written characters I've ever come across.
Still, it's not just Luka's story. There is tremendous depth and subtlety everywhere you look here. It's clear how much thought Smith put into crafting this. Even the setting cold, quiet, and dangerous- is given a personality. The result is an utterly unique tale that is haunting me days after finishing it.
As for Bronson Pinchot- I fell in love with him as a narrator while listening to Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles (for which I hear he's been nominated for an Audie- well done, sir). I cannot imagine a better actor to voice this story. In the beginning, the thick Ukrainian accent threw me. By the end, however, I could not help but marvel at how absorbed I became in the story- completely thanks to Pinchot's abilities. He successfully creates distinct men, teenagers, soldiers, women's and children's voices without distracting you. He voiced both the bark of command and the choked crack of despair during this novel- I really can't praise his work enough.
You will want to listen to this book. You will want to re-listen to this book. It is that good.
I don't review every book--only books I feel strongly about--hence the many 4-5 star vs 1-2 star reviews. Just my opinions--hope they help.
I chose this book because other reviewers compared it favorably to Norwegian By Night--another book I really enjoyed. I can't agree completely with those comparisons. To me, the flavor and tone of The Child Thief had very little in common with Norwegian By Night. Instead, this title reminded me of Solzhenitsyn's One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich crossed with a healthy dose of the thriller by Sam Eastland--Eye Of the Red Tsar. A fairly complex--but intriguing and interesting mix.
At first I was disarmed by Pinchot's narration. It was so soft and quiet that I wasn't sure I would be able to tolerate being whispered at for 13+ hours. After about 15 minutes it all clicked, I adjusted to the voice and thought it was perfect for the story being told. It makes you feel almost as though you are inside Luka's head hearing his thoughts. An excellent narration that added positively to the book and the listening experience. Always a good thing.
Heart pounding storytelling, gruesome detail, edge of your seat action and thoughtful commentary on personal perspective, soldiers and war made this a wild ride. The book is definitely a thriller but at the same time it is much more than that. There is a strong thread of self-reliance and gratitude for the tiny bits of "luck" you find in your life. A tale of love and duty in a harsh, cruel and loveless time in Russia. I listened captivated absolutely every chance I had and recommend this book if you want to be swept up into a different world entirely. A winner.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
The opening scene in The Child Thief, the slow, portentous approach of a mysterious stranger across a frozen landscape, is riveting and absolutely perfect. Incredibly, the book manages to sustain the same mesmerizing, understated quality throughout until the last words of the story, prepared for and half-expected and yet still immensely powerful, leave the listener breathless.
Even as I was drawn inexorably into Dan Smith's dark, harrowing narrative, I had initial misgivings. It seemed to me that some of his characters acted in ways which were too foolish or ignorant for me to credit them even in a remote Ukrainian village paralyzed by fear of the imminent arrival of Stalin's GPU. Before long, however, these considerations had become irrelevant. Even though I occasionally doubted an action, I always believed and understood the emotional truth of the character, and the irresistible momentum of the events established their own logic and carried me along, completely fascinated and captive to the storyteller's voice. The result was the briefest thirteen hours I have ever spent listening to a book
There are a few author/narrator pairings which strike me as extraordinarily "right." Richard Ferrone reading John Sandford's "Prey" novels; Jo Nesbo's work read by Robin Sachs; Steven Pacey's masterful command of Joe Abercrombie's fantasy novels all come to mind. Bronson Pinchot's hypnotic, absolutely bone true first person voice telling Luka's story belongs in that company. It is as fine an example of voice acting as I have ever heard-- restrained, measured, almost painfully quiet and richly expressive of the man and his profoundly moving experience.
It is difficult for me to imagine a listener who would not be caught, entertained and often thrilled by this recording. I strongly recommend that you add it to your wish list, and I suggest you begin it when you have a nice stretch of free time so that you can savor it with few interruptions.
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
If you want to capture someone’s attention, don’t shout – whisper. In the midst of so many thrillers that shout – with fast action, chases, violence and gore - The Child Thief is all the more riveting because it is so quiet. Even Bronson Pinchot’s narration is hushed, compelling you to hang onto every word. The search for the kidnapper is quiet in a landscape muffled with deep snow that silences footsteps, but captures footprints, and the chase is a dangerous chess game of “come and get me if you dare”.
While the landscape is vast, the viewpoint is small and detailed, as if even a person’s soul can be seen through the sniper’s scope on Luka’s rifle. A study of good and evil and of individuals struggling to save what is human in themselves through the search to save someone else. To me Luka is heroic in the best sense – someone who stays true to himself and his family in the face of mob madness, danger from the Red Army, and unthinkable evil from the child thief. One of the strongest characters I have read in a very long time.
Addicted to books, both print and audio-.
This book is simply mesmerizing. I bought this based on the positive review of one of the reviewers I follow, and am so glad I did. The setting is bleak: Ukraine, Winter, 1930. Soviet repression, neighbor turning on neighbor. But Luka, whose viewpoint we inhabit, is, in his imperfect way, ultimately compassionate and humane, and he fosters this humanity in the people he loves and in those he comes across by chance and misfortune. It's a remarkable book, and Bronson Pinchot more than does it justice. The narration is some of the best in the Audible universe. Take a good, long, deep breath before you begin listening, because you may not be able to exhale until it's finished. Very, very highly recommended.
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
This is both a great thriller as well as historical thriller. Set in the Ukraine during WWI and WWII it is much about the child thief as it is about the terror of living in Stalinist Russia. This was the period of collectivization, where peasants were forced off the land they had sometime worked for generations. The hero of the book spends as much time hunting the child thief as he does dodging the Stalinist officials. It also can be considered as a survivalist book because the hunt takes place in the frozen forest of Russia in the middle of winter. The story does bog down for a few chapters with page after page of torture scenes. This is one of my more favorite listens of the year.
I don't often write reviews, just do the ratings, BUT this novel is so good I had to write a review. When I started listening I was not sure about the narrator, but before I knew it I was completely pulled into the story. The characters are so real as is the story, and its full of twists and turns - raw and real and unforgettable - you feel as if you are there - in the snow the cold, in a brutal environment. You feel the sorrow and hardship and pain that people in Stalinst Russia experienced - from a very personal perspective. You get to know and understand the characters, see both there is both bad and good in people - and weaving in and out of the this very human story is the suspense that evolves and takes surprising turns. This is a mystery, a survival tale, a human story, a snapshot of history, all woven together so expertly and narrated so perfectly! Broke the run of same old mystery/suspense story doldrums i seem to have experienced lately with so many of the books i purchased!
I normally listen at about 1.5x speed, but after a few chapters of The Child Thief -- I wanted to savor every bit of this story and switched to 1.0x...
From then on, it just got better and better. Bronson's performance here makes me think there should be an Academy Awards category for audiobook performances.
Speaker, Coach, Author - in Reno, NV (A GREAT place!) I've been an avid Audible fan for several years. Listen on my iPhone many hours each week.
I have been telling people about this book ever since I started listening - and have told everyone to LISTEN rather than read it. This narrator was brilliant and brought Dan Smith's amazing story up to another level. I didn't want to miss a sentence in this book and if I thought I had, I went back. Tragic and yet hopeful. Painful and yet inspiring. One of the best books EVER from Audible.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
This book sat in my Library much too long after I purchased it. I knew it would be good, but I had no idea it would be so compelling and well done.
Briefly, the story takes place in the Ukraine during the 1930's. Luka, a veteran of two wars, is quietly trying to raise his family, his wife Natalia, his twin almost-adult sons, and a younger daughter. They live in a small town hidden away in the mountains, ever hoping the town will escape notice of the brutal, invading Stalinist troops. Everything changes upon the arrival of a nearly dead man pulling a sled with two dead children. The towns people over-react to the man, which adds to the tragedy. Subsequently, a neighbor child goes missing, Luka's young niece who is around 9 years of age and who is also his daughter's best friend. Luka and his brother-in-law along with the twin sons go after the child, as Luka is the only one who has the experience to be able to find and hopefully rescue the young girl.
This is a very suspenseful story. It is a coming of age time for Luka's sons, who are very different from one another. It is a history lesson to an extent. It is a love story, the love of a family for one another. It is an adventure. All the while, Bronson Pinchot, gives the narration of a lifetime, which elevates the story to even greater heights.
This book is not to be missed. I highly recommend it. It is unforgettable! It is the best of the best in story-telling.
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