Book one of the Magisterium
By Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Available now from Scholastic
Callum Hunt's father has been training him his whole life for the test to enter the Magisterium - training him to fail, that is. His mother was killed by one of the many wars the Magisterium was involved in, and Call's father determined to protect him from their sinister machinations. But Call can't hide.
I am a huge fan of Holly Black, and Cassandra Clare usually manages to be entertaining. Thus I had mixed but high hopes for THE IRON TRIAL. And, after reading THE IRON TRIAL, "mixed" sums up my reaction pretty well.
I am a sucker for magic school stories. There's something wonderful about that particular combination of the fantastic and the mundane. The almost-failed-the-test Call is put into the same group as two high achievers: Aaron and Tamara. Together, they sort sand. Yeah, their magic lessons take awhile to get really interesting. I did like the way Black and Clare showed that magic was work and shortcuts could go horribly awry. I also liked the relationship between the three students, which develops pretty naturally. (I didn't like that by the end of THE IRON TRIAL Aaron and Call had both developed special powers and Tamara hadn't.)
My main issue with THE IRON TRIAL is that Call acts incredibly guileless for someone who has been warned about the Magisterium his entire life. He starts off telling the other students his suspicions, but he quickly falls into the patterns of school life and never thinks that anything that happens is sinister. Perhaps his father could've gone into more depth about why Call should be wary, even though his father only has small pieces of the whole picture.
Fans of Harry Potter will enjoy the magic school story as well as the central friendship. (THE IRON TRIAL doesn't do as much to distinguish itself from Harry Potter as it could, honestly. Perhaps THE COPPER GAUNTLET will diverge farther.) Fans of Percy Jackson will enjoy the diverse cast. THE IRON TRIAL is a fun little read for young fantasy fans, but there's little to distinguish it from the current crop of middle grade fantasy.