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Literature / The Circle (2011)

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"The apocalypse begins in Bergslagen"

The Circle (Swedish title Cirkeln) is a Swedish young adult fantasy novel written by Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, 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 prestigious 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. In 2013, this was cleared up as Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame) stepped in and bought the rights from Filmlance. The film was 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 positive reviews but lackluster box office performance.


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 appearance 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.


The Circle provides examples of:

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     The Series Overall 

  • Ambiguously Brown: Minoo is described as having black hair and dark eyes, and her name is Arabic (a language her relatives speak). But her race is never mentioned.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Minoo has some signs of having Aspergers syndrome, like having problem with eye contact, being socially inept, feeling like her peers are alien, her above average intelligence and special interest in literature. Despite not being addressed by the authors or discussed in the books, this muted reaction is carried over/emhpasized into film-only scenes where she is seen sorting books and her parents commenting/discussing on her outwardly response to Elia's apparent suicide, whereas in the book version she cries in her mother's lap at the end of the day.
  • 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.
  • An Aesop: Other people are more complicated than they seem at first glance. Also, never trust an authority figure.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The apocalypse will begin in a tiny town in Sweden with a population of 13,000.
  • 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.
  • Betty and Veronica: Ida is the cold, manipulative Alpha Bitch Veronica to Minoo's withdrawn Betty. Subverted in that Ida was never actually an option for Gustaf, and he ends up dating Minoo.
    • Rebecka is also the Veronica to Minoo's Betty, but she would be the Betty to Ida's Veronica.
  • Beta Bitch: Felicia and Julia play this role to Ida's Alpha Bitch.
  • 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 with Vanessa and Ida.
  • Broken Bird: Rebecka, who tries to hide this using Stepford Smiler tactics.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Most witches in the Council are far weaker than the Chosen Ones individually, but the Council still presents an overwhelming threat due to the sheer number of witches serving it and its centuries of experience with putting those numbers to good use.
  • Brainy Brunette: Minoo is dark-haired and intelligent.
  • 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.
  • Control Freak: Ida has shades of this, particularly in her social group.
  • Cool Big Sis: Rebecka wants to be this to her four younger siblings.
  • Cool Loser: Linnea and Elias. Though they do have an abundance of mental health issues, which might explain their social status.
  • 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 addressed 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 believe the Chosen Ones are the Chosen Ones which may very well lead to the 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...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Linnea and Vanessa, and to a lesser extent Minoo.
  • 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 / Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: 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.
  • Ephebophile: Max's interest in Minoo fits right into this Trope. Averted considering the only reason he's attracted to her is that she looks like his adult dead girlfriend, who he's still in love with.
  • Ethical Slut: Vanessa isn't ashamed about the amount of guys she's been with, and remains a good person nonetheless.
  • 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 humorous 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).
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Vanessa's gorgeous, captivating and popular with not only the boys but Linnea as well. They end up dating.
  • 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
  • Finns With Fearsome Forests: Anna-Karin is of Finnish origin and in the third book develops super strength
  • 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 useful 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 a hidden power which is similar to the ones the demons have. Because Minoo likes clear-cut 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.
  • Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies: Averted. Horror flicks are Vanessa's movie of choice, particularly the cheesy or badly-written ones.
  • Good Is Not Nice
  • Good with Numbers: Minoo is a straight-A student, but she says math is the easiest for her as the answers are less ambiguous.
  • 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.
  • Idol Singer: Ida, though her classmates have mixed opinions as to whether she's actually good.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Lots of these feelings goes around.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Rebecka, though it's significantly downplayed. She doesn't actually act on this much, but she's afraid to express her sadness or tell Gustaf about her eating disorder because she's worried he wants a happy girlfriend.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Minoo feels as though it's hard to interact with other teenagers because she's significantly more mature than them.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: 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 utter villain ( Walter).
  • Legacy Character
  • Light Feminine Dark Feminine: Vanessa is the Light to Linnea's Dark.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted
  • Living Lie Detector: Viktor.
  • The Lost Lenore: Max has one in the form of his dead girlfriend Alice. Turns out he killed her because she left him.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted. Rebecka tries to be this Trope to Gustaf (because she thinks it's what boys want), but it falls apart.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Anna-Karin: Since when can you do that?
    Ida: Since right now.
  • Nice Guy: Though at one point it looks like it might just an act, Gustaf is genuinely this.
  • Odd Friendship: Linnea and Vanessa, who are outwardly different but become friends as the series progresses. Later turns into Odd Couple.
  • Official Couple: Linnéa & Vanessa and Minoo & Gustaf.
  • 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.
  • Opposites Attract: Gustaf and Minoo, who are different in both personality and social status. Also Linnea and Vanessa.
  • 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.
  • Perky Female Minion: Julia and Felicia.
  • Personality Powers: Generally averted, and even subverted with some characters. 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 with Fire: Both Rebecka and Adriana has this power to an extent. Which means that later on, Max has it too.
  • Plucky Girl: Vanessa. Lampshaded by Linnea, who calls her a "perfect heroine".
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Ida shows shades of a Female Misogynist, and frequently hurls homophobic remarks about Elias.
  • Power Incontinence: Most of the Circle, to an extent. Ida can't decide when she is possessed or gets her visions; Linnea also can't turn her ability off when she first gets it; Vanessa keeps turning invisible by mistake. But the worst of it goes to Anna-Karin. At first it seems like she has the best control, since she is the first to use her powers voluntarily and does it the most...until the effects start to get incredibly out of hand. (Like her mind-controlled mother putting her bare hands in boiling water because she was told to wash the silver.) And when she tries to stop, things just get worse.
  • Power Stereotype Flip: Socially awkward Anna-Karin gets super-charisma, shallow, oblivious Ida becomes an oracle, and flamboyant Vanessa gets the power to keep from being seen.
  • Principles Zealot: Alexander Ehrenskiöld. He got somewhat better.
  • Psycho Electro: Olivia.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Alexander, to a certain degree. Everything he does is because the Council tells him it's the right thing and he is devoted to them to the point of fanaticism. Since the Council has tried to cover up their mistake by passing off The Prophecy as one among many that were not taken that seriously. If they had not, Alexander would have likely helped the Chosen Ones. When he comes to Engelsfors, he thinks of himself as cop investigating a crime. Viktor by default since he is just doing what Alexander told him and starts to doubt the Council's position the more he finds out.
  • 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 squeaky-clean tends to turn out to be a villain. note 
  • Tsundere: Olivia.
  • Romantic False Lead: Wille for Vanessa, Max for Minoo, Jari for Anna-Karin, Rebecka for Gustaf (and Gustaf for Ida).
    • Also Wille and Jonte for Linnea.
  • 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.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Anna-Karin and Minoo.
  • 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.
  • Stepford Smiler: Rebecka, who uses a happy face and a Plucky Girl persona in order to hide her psychological issues.
  • 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. Unfortunately, he's also evil, and it's implied he's only attracted to her because she looks like his dead girlfriend. Who he murdered.
  • Telepathy: Linnéa's primary power.
  • Their First Time: Both Vanessa and Linnea & Minoo and Gustaf in "The Key". Ida has her in Fire. And it's terrible.
  • 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 montage when the girl prepare for a final showdown. How and why is not explained.
  • Adapted Out: Nicolaus, Mona and Jari. The latter is turned into a composite character. There where appearently scenes with Mona that where filmed, but edited out.
  • Composite Character: Kevin takes over Jari's role as the object of Anna-Karin's desires.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The end credits feature a summary of the history of Engelsfors.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Minoo is portrayed as one in the film.
  • Demoted to Extra: Gustaf only gets about 8 lines in the entire film, Matilda is only in one scene and gets one brief monologue, 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 perhaps one. Note that Minoo's father, Matilda and Ekberg are played by well-established and in varying degrees well-known actors but were probably lost in the editing.
  • Motive Decay: Max's backstory and reason for falling in love with Minoo is adapted out.
  • Ms. Exposition: Adriana becomes this in the film version.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Benny Andersson composed the music and produced the film.
  • 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 creating a weapon rather than producing a truth serum.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner:
    We belong together
    No, I belong with them!
  • We Can Rule Together: Max invokes this to Minoo when she questions his irrational decision to help the demons destroy the world. Max says that they will be given a world all of their own.

Alternative Title(s): Fire