Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review: The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mat Strandberg

{Actual rating- 4.25 stars}

“If the salvation of the world depends on their ability to work together, well, unfortunately things looked pretty fucked.”

The Circle is Skins UK with witches.

Because although it is definitely a paranormal book, it also had a big focus on real-world elements. It discussed bullying, suicide, eating disorders, abuse, student-teacher relationships, and self-medicating. This is one of the few urban fantasies that actually seems urban, and where the teenagers act like actual teenagers. This book would be an easy five stars, however, it is a translation from Swedish, and sometimes that was quite obvious because the writing style became awkward and choppy.

If you’re looking for a paranormal-contemporary mix, I would definitely recommend The Circle. The characters were real and had flaws, but managed not to get on my nerves too much, the plot was well-developed with twists that I never saw coming, and there was never a slow moment.

The Summary:

“Life won’t get better. Might as well end it now. Spare yourself the pain. Spare yourself the betrayals. It never gets any better anyway, Elias. Life is just a humiliating struggle. The dead are the lucky ones.”

These are the worlds that Elias Malmgren hears as a force compels him to take a shard of glass from a broken mirror and slit his wrist in the school bathroom, only to be found dead by his best friend, Linnea, and the school’s goodie-two-shoes, Minoo, the next day. Elias’s death is immediately ruled a suicide. He had a history of depression, self-harm, drug abuse, and had attempted suicide once before. But Linnea thinks there’s more to Elias’s death. Only a couple minutes before he killed himself he called Linnea, saying he would come over to her apartment that evening to explain why he relapsed the day before.

Meanwhile, various girls around the school are developing strange powers. Vanessa wakes up one morning and finds she’s invisible. Assuming she’s only dreaming to proceeds to tell her mother’s boyfriend, Nicke, what she really thinks of him. Until a day later when she’s at her boyfriend apartment she turns invisible again. And at the memorial assembly for Elias, Rebecka makes a light fall next to Ida, the most popular (and bitchy) girl in school, who was reading a poem on to honor Elias, even though she was one of the people who bullied him. And Anna-Karin, nicknamed the B.O. Hoe, manages to make her disconnected mother stop talking just by ordering it in her head.

And then one night, when there’s a blood red moon in the sky, Linnea, Minoo, Vanessa, Rebecka, Ida, and Anna-Karin are all drawn by a mysterious force to a park. And there they are met by Nicolaus, the school janitor. Apparently all the girls are the Chosen One (don’t worry, they’re confused by it too) and Elias was a Chosen One too. And the Chosen One is meant to fulfill a great prophecy. Basically all the girls have to manage to find a way to play nice because if they don’t stay together another one of them will die. And to make things more complicated, a two hundred year old witch possesses Ida’s body to inform them that they must all fight against a great evil that’s hunting them and that killed Elias

“I am you. You are me. We are one. The Circle is the answer.”

And despite how this sounds somewhat stereotypical, it’s not. Trust me.

The Powers:

This book had a really interesting magical world. Each witch has one element. Only there are actually six elements, fire, water, air, wood, earth and metal. And there are seven witches. So one of them doesn’t actually have a power (more about that later). The fire user can generate lighting. The water user can creature storms. The air user can before invisible. The wood user can shape and control living material. The earth user has the power of compulsion and is very strong mentally. And the metal user makes the perfect medium and has the gift of fortune telling.

The Characters:

The Circle is told in third person POV from all the Chosen Ones perspectives minus Ida and from the perspective of an unknown witch who is locked in a prison. The authors managed having seven perspectives really well, and you were never confused about who was telling the story.

Linnea was one of my favorite characters. She was Elias’s best friend and took his death pretty hard. But even before that she was depressed. She copied Elias’s ways in the sense that she also spent a good amount of her spare time getting drunk.

“Are you alright?” Minoo asks, before they go in.
“No.” Linnea answers, with her hard little smile. “But I never am.”

Despite this she was one of the smartest girls in my opinion. She managed to figure out things that none of the other girls could. If I could change one thing about the book I would add more about her background. She lived in her own apartment and therefore clearly had issues with her home life, though they were only mention a couple times, very briefly.

Anna-Karin had been bullied her whole life and was now trying to stay invisible to avoid this. She never talked to anyone, wore shapeless, gray clothes, and did her best to blend into the walls

“There’s something heart-wrenchingly hopeless about Anna-Karin.”

She was one of the most interesting characters, because there were so many elements that made up who she was. One the one hand she was a vulnerable bullied girl, who wanted nothing more than to fade into nothing.

“She thought so many times how easy it would be to end it all… For eight years she’d thought about it everyday.”

She had a difficult family life, too. Her father left when she was young, and her mother is depressed, and disconnects herself from Anna-Karin’s life as much as possible. The only positive aspect of her whole life is her grandfather.

“Anna-Karin. The B. O. How. The fat kid. The country bumpkin. The girl who had to use magic to make her own mother care about her.”

But she thought that because she was a victim she was on a pedestal, that since she had been bullied she was allowed to do whatever she wanted, no matter how much it might hurt other people.

“Why shouldn’t it happen to her? Who is more deserving of magical powers than Anna-Karin Nieminen, the eternal victim? Isn’t this perfect justice?”

Rebecka was another Chosen One. She had nice, popular friends and the dream boyfriend, Gustaf. She had a seemingly perfect life. But on the inside she was fragile and vulnerable, constantly doubting herself and her thoughts were constantly plagued by an eating disorder she’d had since middle school

“It started in sixth grade when she and a few friends went on a diet together. The other’s gave up after just a few days, but Rebecka discovered that she was good at it. Way too good.”

She was most insecure about her boyfriend. She was constantly worried that he would leave her, however the authors didn’t make it annoying or whiney, but real and relatable.

“She’s afraid he’ll disappear. How could he stand to be with someone who’s in such pain? Who’s so disturbed she won’t eat, then eats too much, throws it up and goes back to not eating. Someone who lives in constant fear of falling apart.”

Despite this she still had a will to live even if she would be in pain.

“But I want to suffer!” She shouted, “I want to live!”

Vanessa was another complex character. Her mother got pregnant with her when she was only sixteen from a one-night stand. Since her mother was so young, she was also really irresponsible. Vanessa’s mother lived with her boyfriend, Nicke. Nicke was described as annoying, arrogant, stupid, and any other awful adjective Vanessa could come up with. Every so often she would stand up to her mother about her choices and I think those were my favorite moments. They truly showed what a strong character Vanessa was.

“You got pregnant with me when you were sixteen, for Christ’s sake! With some at a conference in Gotvandaren! You were so drunk you couldn’t even remember his name.”

She spent most of her time with her older boyfriend, Wille, who was a drug dealer along with his friend, Jonte. Because of this she got drunk a lot and did anything else to help her forget about her family problems.

“God, she loved being drunk. All the sharp edges disappear and the problems fade to insignificance.”

Ida was a the bitch of the group. She spoke her mind and didn’t really care about what harm it did. She was popular but only because she scared everyone at school.

“I read that poem because I wanted everyone to believe I cared. But I don’t care. I think it’s just as well that people like Elias commit suicide.”

There were small moments where the book portrayed her as having a nicer side, but not very many. I hope that in the next book we see more of that side of her and find out more of backstory, and maybe have some chapters from her POV.

Minoo was the most average girl in the group. She was unpopular, but not bullied. She was a straight A student, but had no friends. But she still managed to captivate you. She was vulnerable, but buried all her emotions into her studies only showing them every once in a while.

“Suddenly tears are streaming down her face. She becomes afraid of losing control completely.”

She had a crush on her teacher, which the authors managed to pull off well, by plot twists involving their relationship and only focusing on it occasionally.

The Romance:

One of the great things about this book is it didn’t fall into the giant category of romance books disguised as fantasy. Two characters had boyfriends at the beginning of the book. Even though the relationships where discussed, it was minimally and didn’t take away from the storyline. There was one developing romance between Minoo and her teacher, however it ended up being part of the storyline and there wasn’t too much focus on it.

The Friendship:

Despite having the somewhat stereotypical plot line of six girls from different school groups coming together the end result was unique. The girls never really became friends. They stayed how they were, which is actually quite realistic. The only times they seemed to come together was when they needed to lean on each other emotionally.

“Minoo and Linnea put their arms around each other. It just happens. Minoo isn’t the type to hug people, and senses that Linnea isn’t either. Right now, all they need is to feel the closeness of somebody else, someone alive.”

And after those moments they went back to how they were before. So if you’re worried about this being a stereotypical, friendship read, you don’t need to worry.


The Circle is a fun, exciting book with relatable characters, unexpected plot twists, and a great plot.

No comments:

Post a Comment