The intricate relationship chess that sets the opener of this teens-vs.-demons import apart really takes over in the projected trilogy’s middle volume.
The five young Swedes previously given paranormal powers and designated by enigmatic “guardians” as Chosen Ones (The Circle, 2013) are thoroughly enmeshed in emotional turmoil fostered by the sprawling cast of questionable boyfriends and ex-boyfriends, vicious bullies, troubled parents and hostile townsfolk. This so preoccupies them that both the arrival of an investigator bent on punishing any unauthorized magic working and the imminent prospect of the world’s destruction by otherworld demons seem mere distractions. Still struggling with personality conflicts as well as grief months after the murders of two confederates, the five survivors are slow to notice that a “Positive Engelsfors” movement is turning nearly everyone in the town into zombielike conformists—blind to, and even participating in, a rising tide of sudden deaths and vandalism. Eventually, following an eye-opening round of bespelled mutual body switching, the teenage world savers narrowly avert a mass killing that would have touched off the apocalypse and in the process, form bonds that leave them at least somewhat readier to face the final reckoning to come.
The fantasy elements remain as murky as they are inessential to a story that is really more about high schoolers poised to emerge from tough adolescences than magic. (Fantasy/horror. 13-18)