Publication Date: September 9th 2014
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
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 . . .
When two authors whom I really admire come together and write a novel in a similar environment to Harry Potter, how could I not take the chance?! However, I will admit that I had heard quite mixed things about this book, but going into it I put all negative judgements aside and reviewed it for what it was. So what did I think of it?
Well this novel is an incredibly easy read - it wasn't complicated to follow at all. Being aimed at middle grade readers, the story was fluid and whilst included complex elements, never felt confusing or beyond it's target age group. This story had many twists and turns in it that definitely kept me on my toes whilst reading, and whilst I felt immersed in the story, I always felt kind of hesitant as to what to expect next!
This book takes a really interesting take on the magic system - something that is forever changing in every magic book you will read. In the magisterium series, the magic system is very much focused on the controlling of the elements - air, fire, water, earth ect. I really enjoy when books take this approach to magic because I was a huge Avatar: The Last Airbender fan when I was growing up and I loved the way the bending was handled, so finding something similar fills me with delight. However, this book took a turn that I haven't necessarily seen done before in novels of it's kind. It focused a lot on control and willpower of the magic instead of just jumping in and it becoming out of manageable control. Quite often as soon as somebody tries magic, they can automatically do it multiple times and I'm sick of this approach. In these worlds, magic is a delicate and yet extraordinarily powerful substance and seeing newcomers waltzing in and fiddling with it without any control infuriates me. I'd much rather see it blow up in their face than them grasping it automatically on their first try.
In this novel we follow Callum's journey. It's his story and that much is made completely clear from beginning to end. But, what I did not expect in the slightest was the way in which the focus or 'chosen' child was handled. In stories, especially MG and YA we expect the main character to be different in some way and it usually about to them being this almighty chosen child. Harry Potter is a prime example of this. Whilst I am not against this route in any way, after a while it can be worn to the ground and is no longer original. What Holly and Cassandra did was take this assumption and completely flip it on it's head, making Aaron the focus child or the 'hero' of the school and making Callum the antagonist! How freakin' amazing was that? It's such a different and extremely unique way to take the story and I am ridiculously excited to see where this his story is going to go on from here!
Now obviously being compared to Harry Potter it was inevitable that I was going to see some parallels, especially with this being a middle grade novel. However what I was pleased to see was that these parallels only really occurred in the beginning of the book and whilst the plot progressed, the similarities to our favourite boy wizard did not, which I was really happy about! The Iron Trial really stands out from the magic crowd and becomes it's own individual story. One of which I am extremely excited to be continuing with!
Now no book can go completely unflawed in my opinion, and with this book there were definitely a few things I would have liked to have seen. Specifically, I would have liked to have seen more engagement in the other classes and the monthly trials. They're very briefly mentioned and touched upon in a few chapters, but in the whole story arc (especially for a first book where you're setting up the school) I would have liked to have seen these included more often, without becoming repetitive. Obviously we are going to encounter further classes in the upcoming books, but I just felt they were mentioned and then side glanced over to the main reason Cal was at the school. I would have also liked a few more hints to suggest Drew's motives. It all felt very sudden and ended just as quick as it was revealed. I really enjoyed Drew's character and I think there was definitely room for some initial character development to be branched out across the story. I also hoped that his character would have lasted longer than he did as I was really coming round to enjoying him. Such a shame, but perhaps we'll get a cameo in the future, even if it's just flashbacks or a mention.
So overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Iron Trial. It was a wonderful start to what looks to be a very promising series, both with the beautiful writing and plot the authors are weaving together but also for the very dramatic shift on the 'norm' that they have introduced. It definitely looks like something that is going to turn people's heads! I award The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black a 3 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. If you like magic with a twist, definitely pick this one up!