I chose this book because I loved the cover and I love Astrid's work. I don't read a lot of fantasy as a rule, but in small doses, I'm all for it. This book is no exception. NB: The story ends at Page 67 and you get a bonus chapter of another fantasy author's work at the end. This worked well for me because - small doses. Treat the book as a taster for a bigger story, rather than a complete story in itself, and you won't be disappointed.
Bashir was a likeable character who had been through a lot. A Somalian immigrant who moved with his family to Sweden, he has been accustomed to prejudice and misunderstanding, as well as trying to fit into a new life. Bad luck follows as he is shot after confronting the drug dealers supplying his little brother, but he's offered a second chance by the leader of a group of bear shifters.
The author does a great job of portraying the shifter community as any other community, suspicious of incomers, AND for highlighting the alienation immigrants feel when they finally reach a country of safety. As well as being a fantasy, it offers a sobering dose of reality for some sections of our community. The book doesn't shy away from using harsh facts and language to portray the different characters' beliefs and ignorances, yet comes down firmly on the side of acceptance and teaching facts without feeling as if the reader is being lectured to.
I'd describe it as a shifter book for people who don't like shifter books. As a YA book, there are no rippling muscles and sex scenes, but an emphasis on family, trust and overcoming systemic racism. All things which are especially relevant in today's climate. The storytelling felt fresh and non-confrontational, with a quick pace and a feel-good vibe despite the tough subjects of racism, drug abuse and bigotry.
For me it was a fascinating read and an insight into a much bigger story, told in the author's inimitable style.
There’s nothing much more life-changing than a bullet to the neck... While he contemplates death and the consequences his will bring for his family, Bashir is offered a chance at a new life by the Swedish police officer who finds him in a dark alley of Gothenburg’s infamous north-eastern suburb. Bashir’s new life comes with the surprise that nothing is as he previously believed: magical creatures exist, and preying on the weak are forces far more sinister than the drug dealers he’d contended with before. But if becoming a part of Sweden’s hidden underworld of shifters weren’t enough, Bashir’s discoveries are upended when he meets Milena: the last Vasa.
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