Literature: The Circle

"The apocalypse begins in Bergslagen"

The Circle (Swedish title Cirkeln) is a Swedish young adult fantasy novel written by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren and published in 2011. It is the first part of the Engelsfors trilogy. It was published in the US in 2013.

The novel takes place in a fictional rural town in Bergslagen in central Sweden and follows a group of six teenage girls, Minoo Falk Karimi, Rebecka Molin, Anna-Karin Nieminen, Ida Holmström, Vanessa Dahl and Linnéa Wallin. They have little in common until they discover that they all are witches chosen to save the world from an otherworldly evil. The authors have cited Twin Peaks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural as some of their main influences. The book was quite a big success in Sweden, being nominated for the prestigous annual literature prize "Agustpriset" in the young adult category. It has been sold in over 20 other countries. A film adaptation was announced but was halted due to conflicts between the authors and the production company Filmlance, who wanted to make certain changes to the script that the authors felt uncomfortable about. As of 2013, this has cleared up as Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame) has stepped in and bought the rights from Filmlance. The film will be directed by Levan Akin, with a script by Levan Akin and Sara Bergmark Elfgren. Filming started in early 2014, and was released in 2015 to largely postivie reviews. Benny Andersson wishes to produce the second and third novel if the first film is commercially succesfull.

The sequel, Fire, was released in 2012 and the third and final part, The Key, in 2013. There is also "Tales from Engelsfors": a graphic novel by different artists that fill the gaps and previewed two scenes from "The Key". The graphic novel is canon and most prominently features the first apperance of Walter in a segment showing Adriana's backstory. It also introduced Richard in a segment about Olivia.

Be advised that since the series has a lot of shocking twists, subversions and surprises, there are a ton of spoilers below.

Needs Wiki Magic Love

The Circle provides examples of:

     The Series Overall 

  • Academy of Evil: The witches are told straight out that their school is a place of evil. And much of the bad stuff in the novel happens there.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When the circle meets in Linnéa's flat, Linnéa can't help snickering at Ida's first comment:
    Pretty cozy ... if you're a serial killer, that is.
  • Adults Are Useless: And how!
  • An Aesop: Other people are more complicated than they seem at first glance. Also, and more Family-Unfriendly: never trust an authority figure.
  • Anyone Can Die: At the end of The Key, three of the seven witches are dead, as are Nicolaus, Anna-Karin's mother, Vanessa's dog Frasse and Viktor.
  • All Witches Have Cats
  • Alpha Bitch: Ida
  • Apocalypse Maiden: It's hinted that Minoo might be one.
  • Animal Companion: Many witches eventually get one.
  • Back for the Dead: Max and Olivia both turn up for a rematch in The Key and promptly get Killed Off for Real. Elias and Rebecka, who died early in The Circle also appear as spirits in The Key only go to their final rest at the end.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In The Circle, in the heat of the moment, Minoo tells Ida that she wants her to be the next to die. In Fire, Ida actually is the third Chosen One to die.
  • Bi the Way: Linnéa, Elias, Viktor and Vanessa. For each one, it's revealed very casually and no one except a few Jerk Jocks makes a big deal out of it.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The second book sees the Chosen Ones triumphant and closer than ever, but Ida is dead, just as she was starting to get nicer. The third book even more so: the last portal is closed and the two main couples are reunited, but a lot of people are still dead, the world is about to get a lot more chaotic and dangerous, and Minoo, who spent the whole series wanting to be special, is doomed to become the last person in the world without magical powers.
  • Brainless Beauty: Averted
  • Black and Gray Morality: Most characters, including the heroes, are heavily flawed but still with redeeming features. Only the demons and their agents (and one particular Jerk Jock) really are irredeemably evil.
  • Cessation of Existence: This is what happens to Walter. It's implied that there might be an afterlife of sorts since the possesed Minoo notices there is a difference between dying and the destruction of the soul.
  • Cool Old Guy: Anna-Karin's grandfather is, in spite of his declining health, a rare example of a non-useless adult.
  • Corrupt Church: Not really a church because religion is not really adressed beyond the Chosen Ones attending funerals, but the Council which runs the world of the witches. Due to their cover up of the prophecy they do not belive the Chosen Ones are the Chose Ones which may very well end of the world. They are pretty much a bunch of principles zealots.
  • Charm Person: Anna-Karin's primary power.
  • Crapsack World: Addiction, anorexia, bullying, child abuse, depression, parental abandonment, suicide attempts... oh, and there are fascist witches who secretly rule the world and demons who try to destroy it, but that's barely a backdrop to the entirely mundane nastiness. So pretty standard, as Swedish fiction goes.
  • Dark Messiah: Walter, who claims to have been commanded by the protectors to replace the Chosen Ones with his own circle and believes that compromise (including moral compromise) is necessary to get things done. Given the moral ambiguity of the series, it's not immediately obvious whether he's right or not.
  • Dark Secret: Oh, so many to pick from...
  • Decoy Protagonist: Rebecka is charismatic and responsible while at the same being messed up enough note  to fit in with the other Chosen Ones, and everything points to her being the focus character, including the protectors telling her outright that it's her destiny to be The Leader. Then she gets killed and her geeky best friend has to try to take charge instead, despite being much less suited for it.
  • Domino Revelation
  • Doppelgänger
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. Linnéa and Vanessa tell Anna-Karin in no uncertain terms that her planning to mind-control Jari into having sex with her is not okay. Even less okay than all the other stuff she's already mind-controlling people into doing.
  • The Dragon: Multiple examples.
    • Max for the demons in the first book, Olivia in the second. Both are dragons with an agenda.
    • Viktor Ehrenskiöld acts like one for his father Alexander Ehrenskiöld.
    • The Malmgren couple acts like this for Olivia.
    • Alexander Ehrenkiöld turns out to be The Dragon for Walter Hjorth.
  • Drama Club: Used as a cover up by the witches to meet up.
  • Elemental Powers: Though more often as themes than as direct manipulation (though that happens too). For instance, the element of Earth grants "strength of mind and body," Metal is the element of seers and psychics, and Water grants telepathic powers.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Not really. Max only spares Minoo because he was in love with her. The demons agreed with him and changed their deal. That is not going to end well considering the authors are fans of Joss Whedon.
    • A more humerous example, with shades of Take That: The Council is plenty elitist and big on might-makes-right, but the other Council witches still mock Felix for reading Atlas Shrugged (and the fact that he does is an early hint that he's insecure and not as powerful as the others).
  • Evil Versus Evil: The demons want to destroy the world for not being perfect enough. The protectors, who've spent more time in the world and gotten fond of it, think that they can make it perfect enough - by taking over and eradicating The Evils of Free Will. And Matilda claims that if the protectors win, they'll eventually get bored with ruling the world and destroy it anyway.
  • Exact Words: Both the demons and the protectors seem to have an aversion to lying outright, but if either group makes a promise to you, you should be wary of this. Also common in Mona's predictions.
  • Exposition of Immortality
  • Five-Man Band
    • The Leader: Rebecka
    • The Lancer: Linnea
    • The Smart Guy: Minoo
    • The Big Guy: Anna-Karin
    • The Chick: Vanessa
    • Sixth Ranger: Ida
      • Then again, this is subverted. Rebecka dies forcing Minoo to become the leader of the group. In Fire Ida develops into a more usefull member of the group and works along with the others. While Minoo is useless for the most of The Circle, at the end she reveals are hidden power which is similar to the ones the demons have. Because Minoo likes clearcut rules there is a chance that she may become a Sixth Ranger Traitor in The Key. Which she kind of does
  • Flat Earth Atheist: The Council is a secret organisation that governs the use of magic worldwide. Nonetheless, most of its members don't believe in such silly superstitions as demons, protectors, portals and Chosen Ones. Even though the Council was originally founded to assist Chosen Ones. Even though they still use the Book of Patterns, which allows communication with the protectors, as a means of divining the future.
  • Flight: Vanessa develops this power in the third book.
  • Good Bad Girl: Vanessa is a good friend, Cool Big Sis, and generally nice person who just happens to really like boys and also, it turns out, girls.
  • Good Is Not Nice
  • Goth: Linnea and her "brother"/soul mate Elias.
  • Hidden Depths: Just about everyone.
  • Hypocrite: Ida, who was one of Elias' main bullies note  gets up on stage during his memorial and weeps crocodile tears about how sad his death is. Almost everyone pretends to believe her, too, giving an early demonstration that Engelsfors is full of this trope.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Lots of these feelings goes around.
  • Infatuated Teenage Minds Think Alike: Both Linnéa and Viktor claims that it's no wonder they're in love with Vanessa, because, "how can you not be in love with Vanessa?"
  • Invisibility: Vanessa's primary power. Clara Ehrenskiöld has it too.
  • Jerk Jock: All of the bullies.
  • Knight Templar: The demons. Also the Council as a whole, though individual members run the gamut from semi-Reasonable Authority Figure ( Adriana) to Complete Monster ( Walter).
  • Legacy Character
  • Like Reality Unless Noted
  • Living Lie Detector: Viktor.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The Big Bad in the second novel loved Elias and wants to sacrifice the entire school because the demons have said that it will get him back from the dead.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Usually averted, but Ida discovers that she can bypass electrical locks just when the Chosen Ones are breaking into a place that has them.
    Other Chosen One: Since when can you do that?
    Ida: Since right now.
  • Magical Society: There's references to a secret magical society run by a tyrannical council, but it does not affect the plot until the second novel.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The first novel references a blue haired girl at a few points and the inscription "Only the good die young" on a toilet door. These elements becomes very important in the second novel.
    • In the second novel, the sighting of a lynx is mentioned. The lynx is Walter Hjorth's familiar.
  • Nice Guy: Though at one point it looks like it might just an act, Gustaf is genuinely this.
  • No Export for You: The tie-in comic. Not that it is needed to understand the books, but it does flesh out a lot of characters and information.
    • Also the case for the movie at the moment.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Subverted. The protectors can see a lot of the future, but not everything, and their plans are often interrupted, such as by the demons managing to kill some of the Chosen Ones. Later subverted in an entirely different way: the protectors are more or less omniscient, and everything that happened, including the people who died, was necessary for them to achieve their goal of creating a better world. It's just that the protectors' idea of "a better world" is one without The Evils of Free Will.
  • Order Versus Chaos: A constant theme, with the current chaotic state of life portrayed as pretty bad, but the order that some parties want to impose being portrayed as far, far worse.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Walter certainly wants to come off as one.
  • Personality Powers: Averted, and even subverted with some characters. Socially awkward Anna-Karin gets super-charisma, shallow, oblivious Ida becomes an oracle, and flamboyant Vanessa gets the power to keep from being seen. Only played straight with Minoo, who is a rational and rule-abiding person who turns out to wield the power of the protectors, who are also fond of objectivity and order. This is because unlike every other witch, whose powers are naturally occurring, Minoo was custom-made by the protectors to be their avatar.
  • Playing Against Type: The Circle is pretty much a breakdown and subversion of the regular stereotypes for girls in horror and fantasy novels.
  • Playing with Fire: Both Rebecka and Adriana has this power to an extent. Which means that later on, Max has it too.
  • Principles Zealot: Alexander Ehrenskiöld. He got somewhat better.
  • Psycho Electro: Olivia.
  • Pure Is Not Good: The demons consider themselves perfect, and tries to turn every world they encounter perfect. When that invariably fails, they destroy those worlds instead since they can't tolerate imperfection. On a more human scale, any character in series who seems to be too squeeky-clean tends to turn out to be a villain. note 
  • Tsundere: Oliva
  • Six Student Clique: Subverted; with the exception of Minoo and Rebecka, none of the witches hang out or know each other very well.
  • Shallow Love Interest: Gustaf is handsome, friendly and devoted to being a good person, and that's pretty much all there is to him.
  • Shipper on Deck: about half the cast is cheering for Vanessa and Linnea
  • Shock and Awe: Olivia has this power. And fits the trope's tendency towards mental instability.
  • Shout-Out: In the comic tie-in, Olivia has a drawing of the main character in the Swedish horror graphic novel Alena on her wall.
  • Staking the Loved One: Minoo turns the teacher Max into an empty shell after the witches find out he killed Rebecka and Elias.
  • Starts with a Suicide: That's what the baddies want you to think, but it's completely clear this is not a suicide as much as first degree murder with the use of mind control.
  • Sugar and Ice Personality: Linnea. Big time.
  • Super Strength: Anna-Karin develops it in the third book.
  • Take That: The philosophy of Positive Engelsfors seems awfully close to that in The Secret. It leads to very little good.
  • Teleportation: Possible, but with some severe limitations - several witches working for months can set up a single-use teleportation spell to a predetermined location which you can activate at the time of your choosing.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Miloo has a crush on the young, handsome teacher Max and it turns out he is in love with her.
  • Telepathy: Linnéa's primary power.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The novel is told from the perspective of seven different characters and the description of several characters changes depending on the subjective view of the narrator character.

     The Film 

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The film has Anna-Karin being captured by Max instead of Linnéa. Anna-Karin is taken somehow during the monatage when the girl prepare for a final showdown. How and why is not explained.
    • The deleted characters may cause these.
    • Gustaf and Minoo don't know each other in the film and hardly interact, which could make their future relationship awkward.
  • Adapted Out: Nicolaus, Mona and Jari.
  • Close on Title
  • Composite Character: Kevin takes over Jari's role as the object of Anna-Karin's desires.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The end credits feature a summation of the history of Engelsfors.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Minoo is portrayed as one in the film.
  • Fan Dumb: When the first image of the Chosen Ones where released many fans of the novels complained that Anna-Karin did not look fat enough.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gustaf only gets about 10 lines in the entire film, Matilda is only in one scene and gets one brief monologe, Minoo's father is briefly in the film and only speaks in one scene and Jonte and Tommy Ekberg are credited and/or mentioned but Ekberg has no lines and Jonte prehaps one. Note that Minoo's father, Matilda and Ekberg are played by well established and in varying degrees well known actors but where probably lost in the editing.
  • Dawson Casting: Some of the actresses are in their early 20's, for example the actress playing Rebecka was 22 when the film was made. At least one critic pointed out that the actresses looked much older than 16.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Rebecka is Mikael Blomqvist's daughter.
  • Motive Decay: Max's backstory and reason for falling in love with Minoo is adapted out.
  • Mrs Exposition: Adriana becomes this in the film version.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The plot is heavily condensed and several characters such as Nicholaus, Mona Månstråle and Jari are left out completely. The purpose of the ritual is changed to creatic a weapon rather than gaining means to produce a truth serum.
  • We Can Rule Together: Max invokes this to Minoo when she questions is irrational decision to help the demons destroy the world. Max says that they will be given a world all of their own.