Monday, 8 September 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Publication Date: September 11th, 2014
Pages: 400
Series: Magisterium #1
Source: Netgalley/Publisher
Rating: 4/5
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Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown.

Alright, let's get this out of the way. Yes, there are a lot of glaringly obvious similarities between Harry Potter and The Iron Trial. No, I'm not going to list them. That will do no good. I tried really hard to separate my Harry Potter drunk brain from this story. It's definitely hard to turn off that part of my thinking, but once I could eventually stop pin pointing every similarity I got much more enjoyment from The Iron Trial. The thing is, for us that grew up on Harry Potter and especially the ones like me that are still obsessed, we are always going to find similarities in any book that's magic based(with witches and wizards of some sort), with tween age children taking place at a boarding school. We've pretty much conditioned our brains to find and locate these books. That being said, there are plenty of differences that make The Iron Trial far from a rip-off of Harry Potter. I'm sure a lot of teens and older readers will be picking up this book solely based on the authors(they're clearly hugely popular authors), but there's also going to be a whole lot of younger readers that didn't grow up on Harry Potter and who don't know Black and Clare's previous books that find The Iron Trial an epic magical fantasy series following a group of adventurous kids.

Call has grown up with the knowledge of the magical world. He may live and go to school like a normal kid, but he's aware that there is magic in the world. Although his dad is very anti-magic. Tragedy struct their family when Call was an infant. There was a war between Mages and Call's mother was one of the people killed. Call's leg was also shattered at this time and it took a lot of surgeries to get it whole again. That left Call with quite a limp and very insecure about his physical abilities. Of course that also made him an outcast. Picked on constantly. He's kind of an angry guy. Which I found understandable. We meet Call when he's twelve. Which means he's to take part in the Iron Trial. The Iron Trial is where a bunch of kids compete for entrance into the Magisterium. Some kids knew about this upcoming trial having grown up in a magical family and some are surprised to find that they have some magical elements running in their blood. The thing for Call is his father has not trained him for this trial. In fact he has continually reminded him he must fail. His father is very bitter and angry towards the school and Mages. He doesn't want Call involved in that world. So Call shows up at the trial with every intent to fail. But the problem is the Call fails at failing and ends up being chosen as one of the pupils to enter the Magisterium. So we than travel with Call to the school and watch as adventure and chaos ensue.

Call is a pretty bitter, angry and sarcastic kid. Of course life has not been wholly on the positive side for him. Also having his dad's bitterness constantly whispered into his ears doesn't help either. Call doesn't even have one friend to confide in. He's an outcast. And that can do wonders on your confidence and mood. But in the end he's still a good kid, life just hasn't been kind to him. Call goes through some great character growth over the course of the book. Upon entering the Magisterium he's still very unsure and thinks he's going to get himself thrown out. At first he's mean and distant with the other kids. Until he's quickly called out for it by Aaron and Tamara, his roommates and classmates(the three of them have been chosen by the same Mage and will be working as a close trio for their schooling years). He also starts to realize he kind of likes the magic thing. He's not terrible at it and his professor, Rufus, and friends believe in him. There's quite a few heart warming moments between Call, Aaron and Tamara. They're a good team and quickly learn to trust each other. Of course Call's life at the Magisterium is far form uncomplicated. He's not friendly with everyone. And there's a lot tricky business going on at the school and in the magical world. Call isn't privy to all that information but it doesn't stop him and his friends from becoming involved.

There's a lot of pretty cool elements that Black and Clare have created in this fantasy world. The magic system is elemental based. Each Mage usually finds a stronger infinity in one of the elements; air, water, fire and earth. There's also chaos. Which is virtually unheard of. But when a Mage finally shows signs of chaos they are worshiped and treated as a hero. They are given special lessons and treatment. So why is chaos such a covenanted magical element? Because it is all powerful but also because of the bad guy. The Enemy is what he's known as in The Iron Trial. He's an all powerful chaos Mage who has been raging war against the good Mages for years. Right now there is a treaty and all has been quite from The Enemy for a few years. But they know something is brewing and another chaos Mage will be the only one to save them from another eventual war.
Reading along I was pretty sure I knew where the story would go. I figured I had Call's fate figured out. From different clues and information thrown my way I was pretty much sure of what would be reveled. Well turned out I was wrong. As I should have known I would be. I should never have thought that Clare and Black would keep even a middle grade book simple and predictable. There was a fantastic twist thrown at the reader. I honestly didn't see it coming. It's a great play on the regular good and evil trope. I am now beyond excited to see how this plays out. As a Clare fangirl(I need to read more of Blacks books) I have complete faith that this series will take some really unpredictable turns in the coming books. Call, Aaron and Tamara are surely in for some hardship and big decisions along the way. Their friendship and magic will be tested time and time again. Like seriously, that twist guys. It's a good one.

Overall, I think this a very strong start to what is going to be a five book series. The magic system is fun and interesting. Call and his friends make a great bunch of kids that I can't wait to follow on all their adventures. And the surprising twist on good and evil will surely continue to surprise me in the future installments.

Happy reading!



  1. I am just put off reading this and I admit that part of the reason are the similarities between it and Harry Potter. With series like Percy Jackson, it doesn't bother me so much because I know it's intentional. This one bothers me because I know that Cassandra Clare used to write HP fanfiction, has been in trouble for plagiarism before and it isn't the first time she's had a lot of similarities made between one of her books and HP. I also don't do well with middle grade books, my rereads of Harry Potter are probably the only middle grade I read now. I have started Percy Jackson though, and I quite enjoy that.

    I am glad you enjoyed it though, and that you are going to continue the series. I'll be excited to see your reviews for the sequels.

  2. I have not heard of this series, but it sounds amazing and I absolutely love Holly Black! I have to add this to my TBR!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

  3. I loved this book so much! It's really not that similar to Harry Potter, but I feel like the similarities that are there, magic school, trio, etc. will turn people off from the book. Here's my review in case you were interested: