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The Key by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren

The Key by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
5
Book Name: The Key (Nyckeln)
Author: Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
Publisher(s): The Overlook Press (US & UK) Rabén & Sjögren (Sweden)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: October 30, 2015 (US & UK) October 23, 2013 (Sweden)

This review contains spoilers. Read with caution if you have yet to finish Fire (Eld) and The Key (Nyckeln).

Engelsfors has been saved from the cult of positivity that attempted to take it over, and while one might think an event of the magnitude of the climax of Fire (including the better part of the town being brainwashed by a metal witch, a mass human sacrifice nearly occurring, and a sudden display of electrical magic) would wake the townspeople up to the reality that they live on what is essentially the Hellmouth, those of us who know fantasy (or are at least familiar enough with Buffy the Vampire Slayer to see Engelsfors for what it truly is as a Swedish Sunnydale) will know that no such thing is likely to happen.

At the beginning of The Key, the final book in the Engelsfors Trilogy, we learn that a massive reset button has been pushed, and the townspeople know nothing about what happened. A slightly flimsy explanation has been collectively dreamt up, and life can now return to normal. Or as normal as it ever can be. As with Fire, the protagonists are deeply affected by the events of the previous book, not least because they have lost another of their own. Ida has died this time, helping to save the town, and the remaining Chosen Ones are the only people who know the truth about what happened to her.

However, Ida isn’t as gone as the others think. Interspersed through the rest of the book, with the narrative of the surviving Chosen Ones, are little sections of her as a ghost. If the other girls weren’t so well-written, these would be the most fascinating sections of the book. For one thing, we learn more about the history of the demons and the Chosen Ones, of which not all is quite what it appears. For another, Ida has proved to be a remarkable character. She started out as a quintessential Mean Girl, and while she hasn’t entirely lost her pettiness, her character has gone through quite a bit of growth, coming from both her circumstances (it’s likely very hard to save the world without growing as a person) and from the chapters in her point of view, which show us the pressures laid on her and the fact that she has her own struggles to face.

The Chosen Ones don’t know about this, and even if they did, they would have their own problems to deal with. The demons still haven’t been entirely defeated, and the final battle draws closer and closer with each day, and magic has begun to run wild in Engelsfors. Max, the teacher Minoo fell for, who proved to have been working with the demons, wakes from his coma while the Chosen Ones are at the hospital, once again filled with the demons’ magic. The encounter is terrifying, but not because it leads to an epic confrontation in the hospital. Instead, the demons’ power overwhelms Max’s body, already weak from the coma Minoo put him in, and he has only just enough time to tell Minoo that nothing is what she thinks before he dies.

As with the rest of the trilogy, the Chosen Ones are given no time to investigate this before another complication rears its head. The Council has decided to continue working in Engelsfors, this time sending a new set of witches to team up with Minoo to form a new Circle. Minoo’s loyalties are soon torn between her old friends and the duty the Council has laid on her to work with them in order to save the world.

I’ll be perfectly honest: This is the hardest of all three books to follow. While I didn’t get lost in the intricacies of the plot strands, there was enough happening at the climax that I found myself mystified at some points. This isn’t a book that can be as easily sped through as the other two, even though it’s just as quick a read for the most part.

The authors continue, however, to get everything as right as they did in the first two books. The girls’ friendships and other relationships move organically rather than feeling forced, and the continuing romance between Vanessa and Linnéa is sweet and heartbreaking. Don’t be deterred by the size of the book or what I said earlier about the climax. The read is definitely worth it, and it’s a fitting end to the series. The ending is satisfying, and it’s exactly the sort of ending I like to see in fantasy novels (though I’ll refrain from saying more, for fear of spoiling it; it’s the sort of ending that you ought to read for yourself).

The Engelsfors Trilogy is an excellent addition to YA fantasy, and I’m glad to see books from other languages being translated into English for American teens (and YA fans of any age) to read. With luck, we’ll have plenty of other translated works to follow, both for their stories and so that we can bring a little of the outside world into our lives.

After all, isn’t that what fantasy is supposed to do?

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Rating: 7.0/10 (6 votes cast)
The Key by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren, 7.0 out of 10 based on 6 ratings
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