Coming into witchy powers and learning to use them responsibly is complicated by intense teen Sturm und Drang in this doorstopper import.
Heralded by bodiless demons, major evil is poised to break through to this world in the small Swedish town of Engelsfors. Seven high schoolers have been Chosen to fight this evil—which they discover after most are compelled by a never-explained force to meet in an abandoned amusement park—and later develop powers such as the ability to become invisible or to control minds. Their various paths to final, uneasy alliance are embedded in a thoroughly developed, exceptionally complex web of family issues, emotional and sexual entanglements, rivalries, hatreds, inner battles, risky personal choices and conflicting impulses that enrich the story but also make the suspenseful climactic battle with a dangerous adversary seem long in coming. Furthermore, along with killing off some of the Chosen (after they become point-of-view characters too, a knavish trick to pull on readers), the authors lazily trot in a succession of adult witches to explain matters to the survivors. They also dispel rather than intensify the atmosphere of creeping horror by turning much of the potion- and magic-making into clumsy attempts at comic relief.
Muddled but ambitious, with much to please fans of character-driven fantasy; here’s hoping the next two volumes proceed more smoothly. (Fantasy/horror. 13-18)