The Iron Trial
Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle-Grade
Publication date: September 9th 2014
From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.
From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will -- is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It's a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil
-A copy was provided by Scholastic for review-
I really wanted to love this one, and I could almost give it a 3-star after the fascinating twist at the end, but I just can’t. For the most part, I couldn’t stop seeing the glaring parallels with Harry Potter which annoyed me endlessly. I’m not one to roll my eyes at similar storylines – I don’t curse all MG novels about magic school for being Harry Potter rip-offs, but there are only so many similarities I can tolerate.
So let’s see, we have this kid, Call, who was marked at birth by the most evil of its kind – someone corrupted by his desire to become immortal (called the Enemy of Death but I call him Ed, sounds much more ominous don’t you think?). When Call gets to magic school, the best of the masters takes him under his wing, telling him how he has a hunch that he will be something special. Then he teams him up with a boy and a girl, telling them they were chosen to form this special combination (probably because he saw it in a Harry Potter movie). There were more, but smaller similarities throughout, like how he finds a small creature that bore resemblance to Dobby (not in appearance, but in quirkiness and general oddity of a friend), their whole setup for meals (with magic food) and general atmosphere of the school, things like that.
Parallels aside, the plot kind of bored me for the most part. There’s a lot of time spent on character building that ended up just being boring. A number of chapters wasted on sorting sand (not kidding!) for instance, followed by exercises or tests that ended up being quite pointless for story progression. Ok fine, we get to explore the school grounds and learn some interesting history which helped expand the world building a bit, so I do give it some credit, but I felt as if everything that happened, everywhere we went were just detours designed to give further hints towards an eventual twist. A twist that was surprisingly really intriguing, but easy to predict after all those not-so-inconspicuous *winks*.
As far as characters, the cast was diverse and engaging enough, but I didn’t feel especially attached to any of them. Nor did I feel as if I really got to know them, aside from maybe Callum. I know the role they each have to play in the story, but I couldn’t even recall most of the side characters from one sitting to the next. The world could have also used a wider scope. How they find students for the Iron Trial had me a bit confused, especially as it said some kids don’t even know themselves they have magical abilities. It seems like it would be easy for a kid to to fly under the radar. At any rate, the entire mage history/purpose is briefed in a mere 2 pages…
Am I sufficiently intrigued to want to continue with the series? I think the twist offers something new and thought-provoking enough to make me want to know where it will go from here, so I will be highly tempted, but I’m not sure this one will even be memorable enough for me to care by the time it’s released. Either way, I will always be a fan of Holly Black, but this one left me feeling disappointed.