THIS REVIEW IS NOT COMPLETELY SPOILER FREE. SLIGHT SPOILERS WILL BE MARKED.
The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Expected Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary: 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 does his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that is 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…
The Iron Trial is the first book written by Holly and Cassie as collaborators. However, they are not new to the Young Adult genre at all. Holly is well known for her Curse Breakers’ series as well as The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Cassie already has two widely popular series under her belt as well: The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Both authors are favorites of mine, so needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to hear about the two of them working together.
The Iron Trial did something to me that I’m not used to… it shocked me. When you’ve read enough books, it is difficult to get tricked by the plot twists. If there is a mystical lost princess or a prophecy awaiting a chosen one mentioned casually in a book, it is usually easy to guess that the main character will fulfill this mysterious role. The remaining part of the book will entail how they ‘found themselves and saved the world.’ It’s an age old concept that traps readers again and again as the basic formula to a successful fantasy book. One thing that I love about both Cassie and Holly is the red herrings they place in their books. Based on the clues given, there is obviously only one possible solution until… wait what? Their books always send me on a wild journey with twists and turns that I never see coming.
I have to say that The Iron Trial showcased what I loved best about both authors. When I started reading, I was actually quite worried. Let me spell it out for you. There’s a magic school that people spend all of their schooling career at. The mother died when our main character was a baby, and said main character has a visible disability/scar because of it. There is an older master/mentor character. Oh, and the main character has two best friends: a know-it-all female and a loyal male. I think after the phenomena that was Harry Potter, readers automatically put the pieces of the puzzle together that it will be exactly like the story that got many of us into reading.
I am so very happy to say Cassie and Holly proved us wrong. Though the preface may seem similar, these ladies took the idea of a magic school and completely made it their own.
The book opens with Callum right before he is about to take his Iron Trial. He has spent his whole life being told magic is wrong. He was led to believe mages only care about themselves, and that’s how his mother was killed. Throughout his whole life, his father trained him to fail these tests. Yet, no matter how hard he tried at failing, Call couldn’t fail. The concept is interesting and something I have never seen in YA lit yet. Usually schools full of magic are glorified for all the good they bring with it. However, this book shone a light on … what if that wasn’t the case?
One thing I loved was the main character Call. If I met him in life, I’m not sure I would be friends with his little twelve year old self. The thing I loved about him was that he was real. All too often, YA books are filled with characters that are supposed to be young… but don’t act it. Callum was mischievous and lacked tact. He was rash in his anger, and he was insecure. It wasn’t a far reach for me to believe that he was actually a 12 year old little boy. Same thing goes for Callum’s two best friends, Tamara and Aaron. Each have motivations and depth. They aren’t at all what they appear to be on the surface. One thing everyone should keep in mind is that this book is written for middle school kids. It is not the most advanced characterization simply because they are twelve. They still have so much time to learn and grow.
Another thing I loved is the world building. However, I still have so many questions about the world they live in. How do they decide what missions are acceptable to send silver/gold years on? What is Alex’s significance? What are the credentials to become a master? How do mages fit in the real world? At this point, I would have liked more questions to be answered, but there are still four more books in the series. If anything, the questions give me something to focus on when reading the next book. However, the part I loved the most was how something as traditional of a concept as magic school was flawlessly made their own. I really loved the idea of the Iron Trial and the handpicked groups from each master. It took the old idea of magic school, reshaped it, and made it seem as if it was something totally new. I LOVE that. I love that such a used concept could be developed into something so original.
One thing that I didn’t love was the pacing. It went really well until the end. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT. The climax and twists were fantastic, as well as the falling action. However, I didn’t understand how Callum, Tamara and Aaron just got to pass the Iron Gate early. There seemed to lack an explanation there. What happens at the end of the year when the rest of the students pass through? Will the next book start with their next year or pick up right after the climax of this book? I just felt that last scene came out of left field, and I am unsure how it will affect the second book of the series END OF SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT
All in all, I found myself loving this book. It was a strong first novel, and I definitely see myself and others getting absorbed into the books and completing the series. Once again, I want to remind all future readers to remember this book is written at a middle school level. It is not written the way some of Cassie and Holly’s previous books have been written (since they are for an older audience). Don’t hold the book up to an expectation that is totally out of its league.
I would recommend this book to all my reading friends as well as younger children interested in reading and fantasy. I can’t wait for you guys to read it, and I hope you enjoy!
MUCH LOVE AND HAPPY READING
“You know what the secret is? It’s so simple. We love books.”