The Dogs of Raqqa – Trygve Kalland

Norwegian title: Hundene i Raqqa

Hi book friends!

I’ve just had such an amazing reading experience! I was hooked from the very first page and had troubles putting this book down! If I hadn’t had other obligations, I would have finished this way faster than I did, but in many ways, I’m glad I had stuff to do because it made me look forward to picking up the book again! Thank you so so much Aschehoug for sending me this copy! The synopsis is translated from Goodreads:

Things become difficult for the Norwegian Police Security Service (NPSS) and the Norwegian Intelligence Service when a Norwegian volunteer worker, Hege Kvalvåg, is taken prisoner by ISIS in Syria. At the same time, they also receive information about a planned terror attack aimed at the Parliament in Oslo which is supposed to happen in the near future.

Sjur Larsen was lonely until he met Somali Gaal whom he befriends and trusts despite their many differences. Gaal convinces Sjur to convert to Islam and join a brotherhood named The Patient Ones located at Grønland in Oslo. For the first time in his life, Sjur experiences a fellowship and a sense of belonging, but when the group starts to plan a terror attack in Oslo things become difficult for Sjur. Things get further complicated when NPSS in secret decides to send Sjur, of all people, to Syria with the mission to save Hege Kvalvåg.

The Dogs of Raqqa was such a thrill to read! I was curious about the storyline from the very first page and Trygve Kalland throws us right into the heart of the Caliphate with all its action and drama. By doing this he is sure to capture the reader’s attention from the very first moment, and I’ll guarantee you, you’ll be hooked! The fact that Kalland is a debutant author makes this even more impressive! After our first meeting with the Caliphate, the action doesn’t stop until you close the book about 500 pages later. Trust me, it does not feel like 500 pages! There are a good balance and flow between action and the slower parts of the book, however, the slower parts don’t seem too slow because you constantly obtain important information which makes you want to keep on reading. Like I wrote above, the book was over way before I would have liked it to be, but at the same time, Kalland makes sure not to drag the story on for too long either. This is important because I think the book would have lost some of its magic if it had been much longer than it is.

Stavanger Aftenblad, my local newspaper, gave this book 4/6 and one of the journalist’s points was that the book was too long (I don’t agree, obviously) and that it was rather flat and lacked depth in its descriptions. Now, if you know a lot about this conflict, how it came to, and what has happened in the last couple of years, then maybe this is correct, but I wouldn’t know because I know fairly little about this conflict except for the very mainstream kind of knowledge. Another thing is that the journalist is a professional reviewer, and I’m not, hence we may not look for the same things when reading a book. I find this book to be very well researched and maybe also personal experience play a role to some extent when it comes to describing the surroundings of the storyline. Kalland is an officer himself and has been deployed several times. Stavanger Aftenblad and I agree that this lays a great foundation for trustworthy descriptions of the surroundings of the storyline.

The chapters have different lengths. Sometimes they’re short and sometimes longer. It depends on where you are within the storyline. I found this to be another factor that kept me highly engaged whilst reading the book. In this book, we alter between three different perspectives: Hege, Sjur and Mairam. Mariam must be my favourite character! She works as an analytic for NPSS and is quite fresh in her field of work. She is a true firecracker that makes sure to cause a lot of noise compared to the old boys in her group, Einar and Petter. These three relationships show how older, established, and stable workers like Einar and Petter gets frustrated and annoyed with the up-and-coming generation, Einar more than Petter definitely! I think this is a reality in many workplaces around the world today, and this scenario will always exist to some degree in my opinion because society, technology, and workplaces are constantly changing. Since I’m closer to Mariam in age I understand her frustration and annoyance quite well, but if you asked my dad he would probably relate more to Einar and understand his points of view. Another important factor in these relationships is that their workplace is not your regular workplace which probably gives everything an extra edge, and I’m glad that edge is there. It gives a very different perspective, and especially since terrorism and threats towards national security everywhere is a hot topic in today’s society. The story would definitely not have been the same if it had taken place within the health sector. Not saying anything against the health sector, but you catch my drift.

There are many other interesting characters in this book, but if I dive into those as well this review will become far too long, and you won’t bother to read it all. What I will say is that this book with its characters gave me an eyeopener for what it means to truly believe in something and the importance of how you define this ‘something’ for yourself and those around you. Sjur has his fair share of experiences with this ‘something’ and you may or may not agree with him at all times. I know I certainly didn’t, but hey, what would be the fun in that?

The Dogs of Raqqa is going to be my Christmas present-book this year (let’s hope nobody in my family reads this specific review, haha). Last year I picked Warrior’s Peace by Lasse Gallefoss, another debutant author, which was another book I really enjoyed so this seems like it is becoming a trend for me. How lovely! I love it when I can give away good books as Christmas presents to family and friends!

The Dogs of Raqqa will not be translated yet, but I’ll cross everything I have (*ehmehm* Aschehoug) that it will happen, rather sooner than later, because I know that this is a story so many of my friends in the book community would enjoy! I know I have enjoyed it immensely, and it has quickly become one of my favourite reads this year alongside Those You Do Not Know by Hedda Tollefsrud who is another Norwegian debutant author. So, to conclude it all, if you haven’t read this book, I hope you now have found your next read and that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

Published: 2019

Genre: Crime fiction

Theme: Terror, national safety, international relations, hostage drama

– The Book Reader

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