The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg is the first in a new series about Swedish teenagers who discover that they have magical powers.
Drama begins in the small town of Engelsfors when troubled student Elias Malmgren is found with his wrists slashed in a toilet cubicle of the high school. He has seemingly smashed the bathroom mirror and used a shard to cut himself, appearing to everyone that he has committed suicide. It is well-known that he had a lot of personal issues so suicide seems the logical cause, but there are a select few students who can’t accept that he had reached that point.
The book is cleverly told from the perspectives of six different girls, each of which are entirely different from each other and don’t mix in each other’s social circles. They are all aware of each other, but don’t realise they are connected until all are drawn to a fairground in the middle of the night, with their bodies moving there against their will.
It is here that their mysterious ‘guide’ Nicolaus reveals to them the nature of the powers that have been awakening within them, and that they are all the Chosen Ones. They must protect the world from an unknown threat, but Nicolaus isn’t quite sure what war is coming, as he can barely remember who he is. I have a feeling more will be revealed about his character in future books, as he wasn’t really focused on that much and I sometimes felt as though he was being used for plot convenience (e.g. handy adult with a car).
These six girls must find a way to work together, or each could be picked off, one by one. Their personalities inevitably clash, and it was really interesting to read how each girl develops over the course of the novel as they slowly grow closer together. I also liked how each girl is given their own perspective and so each takes an equal role in the book, with there being no single specific main character.
I won’t go into endless detail on each of the girls, but I will summarise each in a sentence or two:
- Minoo – A highly intelligent girl who struggles to fit in. Her power is unclear for the majority of the novel as it doesn’t manifest itself in the same way as the others, leaving her unsure of her purpose.
- Rebecka – Popular girlfriend of Gustaf, whom she is deeply in love with. She struggles with an eating disorder which she can’t bring herself to share with him, and takes it upon herself to try and bring the other girls together.
- Anna-Karin – The girl who has been bullied by the popular kids and since faded into the background. She is paranoid all the time but develops the power to influence others to do whatever she likes, which she doesn’t use for the best purposes.
- Vanessa – She is ignored at home as her mother always takes her stepdad’s side, and she frequently gets drunk with her layabout boyfriend. Her powers manifest in invisibility, which she must learn to control.
- Linnèa – Best friend of the deceased Elias, who has a lot of personal issues and likes to keep to herself. She is an outsider, but is incredibly tough and sometimes differs in opinion to the other girls, demonstrating darker tendencies.
- Ida – The school bitch who seems to care for no-one but herself and has often bullied the other girls. She has important visions and dreams of events that have happened or going to happen, with her insights proving vital to the group even if they don’t want her around.
From these descriptions it may seem that each character conforms to some kind of typical teenage stereotype, but it didn’t feel like that when I was reading the book as each character seemed to complement each other, especially when they all begin to pair off. Admittedly there were some elements to the book that had teenage qualities, but that was to be expected and didn’t really detract from the story.
I was surprised by how well this book worked considering its length and the number of characters it had to focus on, as each character has a lot of their own personal issues to overcome but it was surprisingly easy to empathize with each one. There was some shocking moments, with the ending being particularly unexpected as I really hadn’t expected what happened. Different characters are cast into suspicion throughout the book, with particular emphasis on headmistress Adriana, who isn’t all she appears. This leaves the reader unsure of who to trust and what secrets are left to uncover, with some unanswered questions to lead on to book two.
This book was a great read, especially as it questions all previous stereotypes of witches. Each girl’s power manifests in different ways and the threat they face is scary as it can invade their mind and make their body do things against their will. This tests their mental power as much as much as their physical strength, and when paired with their other dramas there was a lot to keep me interested in reading on. I found the idea of not being in control of your own thoughts and actions to be particularly scary, and this is what made the book really stand out for me as a horror story.
This book was one of those that I just couldn’t put down, and despite its size I found it to be a really quick read. The characters were all so different and yet still fit together in their own way, and I was truly shocked by some of the events. I loved the fact that the book wasn’t too teenage despite taking place in a high school, as the characters have genuine problems to overcome with each trying to find their own way to cope with their powers. A great read, I’m really looking forward to book two!
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- The Circle
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