Review - The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Iron Trial
By Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Released: September 9th, 2014
Genre: Children's Fiction
Source: Purchased
 

The Iron Trial is the first installment in the Magisterium series, which will consist of five novels total.

In this first book, Callum Hunt is living a rather normal and uneventful life, caught between the drudges of middle school and a home-life with an overprotective father. As a baby, he shattered his leg and, as a result, he’s left with a permanent limp and is teased mercilessly at school. He’s tired of always being picked last during games as well as sitting out some of the fun activities in gym. It’s during one the these mundane days at school that he,
as well as a ton of other children from across the states, head to complete The Iron Trial, which is a series of tests to determine if children have magical abilities and whether or not they will apprentice at the Magisterium. While all the other kids might be eager to join their ranks, Call is aware of his magical heritage and he tries his best to fail the Trial. Unfortunately, despite having the lowest score among his peers, he’s selected as an apprentice to Master Rufus, along with two others, Tamara and Aaron.
The Iron Trial covers all three children’s first year at the Magisterium, known as their “Iron” Year. During the time, the children try their best to learn how to control their magic, which stems of the elements around them – fire, air, water, earth, and chaos. Halfway through the year, though, it is discovered that a Makar, a rare person who had control chaos, is at the school – and it’s right in their small group! While coming to terms with being the best friend of the Makar, Call tries his best to fit in and, against his father’s wishes, tries to keep his magic from being bound. Before too long, though, danger threatens the Makar and Call finally learns the history of his past. He’s left with an important decision – continue with magic and possibly hurt those he loves or having his magic bound and forget everything he has learned the past year. And it’s a decision he doesn’t make lightly.
It seems that everyone I know have been pretty split with this book. Either they like it well enough, or they don’t even want to read it because it’s too much like Harry Potter. I can understand why some people might be hesitant to read it, especially those of us who grew up with Harry Potter and adored it, but I feel that that’s a little unfair. Just because Rowling created an awesome world where people use magic, there can’t be other books where children learn magic? I just don’t think it’s fair to other writers or even other readers to limit themselves because ONE series was written about magic. And besides, it’s Cassie Clare. I love her work, so how can I NOT read it?
So, I went into this with an open mind and, for the most part, I’m glad I read it. It was a cute children’s read and I think there was enough variation from Harry Potter for me to enjoy it in its own rights. I especially liked the fact that their magic stemmed from the elements, as I haven’t read that many books that use that as a means to tap into magic. More often than not, magic is either tapped with a wand or comes from within, so it was nice to see the kids learn how to control their magic in combination with the elements around them. The inclusion of chaos magic is pretty interesting, too, and I look forward to reading more about how they include that in the plot.
That said, there were a few parts that DID remind me a little too much of Harry Potter. The fact that the Enemy of Death wears a mask and dresses in a black cloak? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like Death Eaters at all. But I was prepared to look over that – at least until I read the last few chapters, when Call eventually finds out who he really is. While the twist is definitely interesting and one I didn’t see coming (I’ll give Clare and Black props for that), I felt that it reminded me WAY TOO much of what happened to Harry when he was a baby and had the Horcrux placed in him.
Again, I’m not against books that involve kids going to magic school – hey, I love reading the stuff – but try not to make some of the plot elements parallel those that already exist. I just felt a little… betrayed as I read the last bit. I was so prepared to write a good review stating that it wasn’t the Harry Potter rip-off that everyone thought it was… *Sigh*
But, that said, there were still elements that gave the book its own little flair and, though the last twist reminds me some of HP, I’m still sort of interested in seeing how it plays out. I’ll probably read the next book, but it’s not one that I’m eagerly awaiting.

9 comments :

  1. I think most people that read this felt the same way as you, that this was good but nothing like what they thought it would be by these two authors. I am still super curious about it though and more than likely will give it a try at some point in time.

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    1. Yeah, like I said, it was still an interesting take on the magical genre. I just wish that the ending might have been a little different...

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  2. For some reason I've never felt the urge to pick up this book despite loving Clare's book and adoring The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Black... I dunno, I didn't appeal to me at all and I'm a big lover of fantasy, not matter the age since this is middle-school. Good review though, I've been hearing a lot of people hating it because of HP paralelism but I agree with you; Rowling is not the only one who can write about kids learning magic but at the same time, is such a shame the ending reminded you a lot of Harry. I hate comparisons but sometimes they are inevitable...

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    1. Actually, the only Black book I've ever read was Doll Bones, and I liked it well enough, though it didn't blow me away. At any rate, it has some good elements in it's own rights, but I wouldn't bother forcing yourself to read it if you didn't want to. It was good, but it isn't anything that would blow you away.

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  3. I know exactly what you mean. It's not bad at all - I liked seeing what made it stand apart from all of the other magic school stories. But when it practically parallels one of those stories, especially like Harry Potter at such an important point in the novel that's what disappointed me. I love those two authors so I was really hoping for more. I will probably read the next one, but, like you said, it won't be one I'm eagerly awaiting.

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    1. I know. I was all, "This isn't much like Harry Potter. What's everyone griping about?" Then I got to the last few chapters in the book. -__- But, yeah, the original parts of the story were pretty entertaining, at least.

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  4. Honestly your summary makes me think of "The Testing" series then "Harry Potter". Either way it looks like it's going to be a good series.

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    1. Huh, I've never heard of The Testing before. I'll have to look into it!

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  5. I need to read this book because I am a fan of Cassandra Clare's and have been meaning to try something by Holly Black as well! I never grew up with Harry Potter but I recently read the first two books and didn't like them too much :/ Hopefully I won't find these too similar then, and maybe even like this one more!

    Looking at the fangirl series bar I see you like Maze Runner, Sisterhood of the travelling pants and The Book Thief too! Also a TMI fan over here :D

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