Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

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I received this book for free from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly BlackThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Published by Scholastic on September 9th 2014
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle-Grade
Source: Scholastic
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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

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.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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24 Responses to “Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black”

  1. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Well this sounds like a rip-off of Harry Potter. I’m okay with a few similarities as well, but you’re right. There’s only so much that you can stomach. How disappointing!
    I wasn’t looking forward to reading this, but I’m probably not even going to give this a second look. It’s a shame that you weren’t even attached to any of the characters.
    Sorry this was a disappointment, Giselle, but great review!

  2. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    Wow I agree with you so much is not even funny. I read half of this book and I was so bored that I had to put it aside. And the Harry Potter similarities bothered me so much! I just couldn’t deal with it. It was kind of impossible to get attached to the characters when they were not original. It was just a weird feeling. Great review, Giselle.

  3. Steph

    Oh no, I am so sad that this was a disappointment. I understand being frustrated about the Harry Potter similarities though, sometimes you need something original (at least to a certain extent).

  4. Soma Rostam

    Well, this is disappointing. Although I have never read a middle grade book, I wanted to try. And although I haven’t read the Harry Potter series, but i have watched all the movies, and this sounds so similar. I hate it when this happens
    GREAT review, though
    Your reader,
    Soma R.

  5. Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    Aaww, I’m sorry that this book just felt like one big Harry Potter rip-off. How unfortunate. 🙁 I don’t blame you for only giving it 2 stars. However, from your review I gather that the twist does have potential, so hopefully book 2 will not be a J.K. Rowling carbon copy.

  6. Tina

    Ugh what a let down. I read Clare’s series TMI and there was a ton of Harry Potty similarities in there as well that annoyed me half the time but was bearable enough to read. This sounds maybe too much. Maybe for the grade school kids they won’t even care and have another magic school book for them to read?

  7. Missy

    Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t like this book!
    I had this book very high on my TBR list, but with all the controversy I’m hearing about, I might knock it down the list a bit.

  8. Katherine

    This really does sound like a Harry Potter rip off. I’m probably not going to pick it up because I’m not a fan of either Holly Black or Cassie Clare, but I’ve also been waiting to see what reviews say so far.

  9. Kris @Imaginary Reads

    I’m sorry that this wasn’t for you. It sounds like a fantastic book from the synopsis, but it sounds like the characters and plot are lacking. And it doesn’t help that it invites comparison to such a big-name series.

  10. Calla

    I was a huge fan of Cassandra Clare a few years ago, but then I gradually grew very disenchanted with her over time. I can’t remember right now whether I have read a book by Holly Black, but I know she’s tight with Cassie, so it doesn’t surprise me they decided to write a book together.

    Despite my bad experiences, I might have given this book a try because the blurb sounds interesting, but after your review I feel very unenthusiastic about picking it up. I might give this one a pass, unless I can get it cheap!

  11. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    But but but that premise is EXACTLY Harry Potter. How are they allowed to write that?! Dang, I have high hopes for this book because this year I’ve suddenly got really fond of both Cassandra Clare AND Holly Black’s writing, so both of them together looked like awesomeness come true. Now I’m a bit worried. I really get frustrated reading a book and thinking, “But haven’t I read this before…” Dang.

  12. Rashika

    I have to say.. I am not all that surprised by the mention of the similarities this book has with Harry Potter but I am disappointed.

    It really sucks though since you’re a fan of Holly and weren’t able to enjoy the book all that much! There is hope that you might enjoy the sequels thought, right? Especially since the twist caught your attention 😀

    Lovely review as always, Gee!! 🙂

  13. Chyna @ Lite-Rate-Ture

    Yikes! I had a bad feeling about Iron Trial from the beginning. Cassie Clare is losing her touch and as for Holly, I’ve never liked her books. Cassie has this obsession over harry potter, I’ve even heard rumours of her copying of it for TMI. *sigh*

  14. Kristen @My Friends Are Fiction

    Well, that’s disappointing 🙁 I’m not sure I’ll ever read this one though I won a copy. From what I’ve read I think if be so annoyed if not enjoy it. Such a shame it is so like HP. You’d think with both their imaginations they’d have come up with something original.

  15. Henrietta

    I usually don’t mind books that share similar parallels with Harry Potter but I can understand why you felt you couldn’t stomach all the similarities. Call sounds okay, so I’m adding this to my wish list. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I was really excited for this book, but it seems that it’s not getting great reviews. I will still probably read it, but I’m not in a rush. It does sound ridiculously similar to HP and it will probably end up bothering me too. Fab review!

  17. Pili

    I’ve just started reading this one and as you said some things are different but others are a bit too familiar, even more since I’ve been listening to the HP audiobooks recently.
    Thanks for the warnings and your very honest review, Giselle!

  18. Cambrie

    I’m getting ready to write my review of this book, and I’m thinking the most I’ll give it is up too 3 stars. I totally agree that the similiarties with Harry Potter are sooo annoying 🙁

    I would love for you to check out my review of this book! It should be up soon 🙂

    – Cambrie @ and so the book begins (