Review: The Brother by Joakim Zander


A tale of loss, anger and the need to belong.

the-brother-coverAbout the book

[from the publisher] Growing up poor, Yasmine vowed she would always protect her little brother from harm. She broke her promise on the day she left home, abandoning Fadi to his life in the Stockholm slums. Now, five years later, Yasmine still carries the guilt of leaving him behind. Then she hears a rumour that he is dead, killed by a US drone in Syria. What happened to turn her sweet-natured brother into one of the CIA’s most wanted men?

The answer will shock her. It will shock you too.

My Thoughts

It is often said that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. This novel shows that often those caught up in the drama don’t have lofty ideals, they just want to make a better life for themselves, to belong. And sometimes they are easily manipulated. Eventually, the novel builds towards a somewhat thrilling and thought-provoking tale. Yet I’m still not sure how I feel the book or the message I took from it.

Zander’s style is interesting, his writing good, and his characterisations believable, but the pacing is slow and the back and forth structure, interspersed with the seemingly unrelated Klara Walldéen storyline, is a little disconcerting. When I read this novel I was unaware of The Swimmer, the first installment of Klara Walldéen. The heavy backstory and the assumption that we would relate to her when it was unclear how she had anything to do with Fadih and Yasmine suggested there had been a novel before this. However, for most of The Brother I was at a loss as to how Klara’s story was in any way related to the troubled siblings. Even when revealed, Klara’s involvement comes across as fairly loose and perhaps unnecessary, except for the fact she is supposed to be the heroine of an intended series.

My issues with Klara’s role aside, The Brother did not engage me until about 70% of the way in. If I hadn’t agreed to review this for Netgalley, I doubt I would have let myself get that far, which would be a shame because there is a lot to like about this novel, especially if you love political intrigue, grass roots terrorism and power plays.

About the Author

Born in Stockholm, Joakim Zander has lived in Syria, Israel, and the USA, before settling in Helsinki where he now lives. He studied law at Uppsala and Maastricht Universities, and his award-winning PhD thesis was published by Cambridge University Press. He now works as a lawyer for the European Union.


The Brother

379 pages

Published July 1st 2016 by Head of Zeus
Rowena Holloway
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Rowena Holloway

Writer, publisher, blogger at
Rowena Holloway considers herself a reformed academic who discovered fiction writing was preferable to the real world. She indulges her love of suspense fiction by writing novels and short stories about Fractured Families and Killer Secrets. Her novels have been nominated for the Ned Kelly Award and semi-finaled in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and her short stories have been included in several anthologies including the Anthology of Award Winning Australian Writing. She also reviews fiction, interviews fellow writers, and blogs about books and writing.
Rowena Holloway
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