Sunday, September 27, 2015

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Title: The Iron Trial
Authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium, Book One
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books
Published Date: 9 September 2014
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

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...
(summary from Goodreads)

An imaginative read, The Iron Trial is a good start to a fantasy series, trying to put a new twist on some old faves.

So I knew going in that there'd been a lot of comparison to Harry Potter. And while reading, I definitely saw why. But that's pretty much expected. There's always commonalities between books of the same genre, and the magic school clique has them in spades. I will say, The Iron Trial didn't have the same effect on me Harry Potter did. With Harry Potter it was instant and lasting love, but The Iron Trial stands on its own, none the less, and it's worth the read. I enjoyed the world and story Black and Clare created, and I get the feeling it's only going to get better as the series continues. The Magisterium, the school of magic in this world, is pretty nifty. Built underground it's full of tunnels, rivers and changing rooms, plus elementals - awesome magical creatures and magicians who have taken their magic too far. This is the kind of place I'd love to spend some time exploring - preferably with a map that doesn't self destruct! - and Black and Clare's descriptions are engaging. The history of this world is interesting and the tidbits revealed as we read only adds to its appeal. There's a solid mythology here that I really like. For Call, the Magisterium has always been portrayed as a terrible and dangerous place, and it's different reading this story from the point of view of a character with this mindset as we can't help but wonder at the truth. Especially considering some of the teachers have, well, less than stellar teaching styles! Or at least, so it seems. Certainly not all is what it seems and from the beginning Black and Clare are working towards something big. Unfortunately the twist isn't all that surprising but it is still interesting and, for me at least, something a little different. I am absolutely intrigued to see where Black and Clare will take this story. 

What solidified my like of The Iron Trial is definitely Black and Clare's characters. Most especially Havoc and Warren. Here's to more awesome creatures in future books please! Call is snarky - sometimes borderline whiny - and I appreciate his determination and roll my eyes at his childish willfulness. It may not sound like a good thing, but it works. I'm especially appreciative of Call's disability. Yay for this type of diversity! Call's anger and shame but stubborn resolve rings true and at times it hit me right in the feels. The Iron Trial is wholly Call's story, but Black and Clare offer glimpses into the lives of their secondary characters that you know will turn into bigger plot points further along in the series. I like Aaron and Tamara. Their pasts hint at the makings of worrisome futures. Their tenuous friendship with Call is great. Their antagonisms are so very middle school it's perfectly annoying. These characters and their relationships are definitely the biggest appeal for my continuing this series, to see where they'll go. That, and the villain. It's not often the identity of the villain is so very up in the air, and this is the whole point of The Iron Trial and the rest of the Magisterium series. Black and Clare provide more questions for every answer, as is expected of book one in a series. And I want all of the answers! 

Fun, creative and magical, The Iron Trial is a good read. It's not the most original, but I don't think Black and Clare meant for it to be. It's simply trying something slightly different and I'm interested to see how it holds up. 



  1. I really enjoyed reading The Iron Trial and have the next book lined up to read. As you say the HP comparisons are there to this series detriment which is a shame as there is plenty that's new and different to make it the book stand on it's own too feet and well, honestly Clare and Black can't really do much wrong can they? Great and thorough review!

    Thea @  Gizzimomo's Book Shelf

    1. I actually enjoyed The Copper Gauntlet even more, so I hope you do too, Thea. It is a shame the HP comparisons are more the focus for some. It's definitely something you have to push past, but once you do, it's worth it for sure. Such a fun and interesting book! I think you're right about Black and Clare, though to be honest, I haven't read much of their other work! I'm definitely interested to do so now. Thanks, Thea. :-D

  2. EXCELLENT review, Baggins! I really enjoyed reading your very detailed analysis of the characters, especially Call. And I, too, am glad to see that Black and Clare have some diversity in this book, with the main character being a disabled person. I haven't come across many books with this kind of thing.

    It's too bad the book reminded you of the Harry Potter series. Interestingly, the same thing happened when "The Hobbit" and especially LOTR were published. Those books greatly influenced other fantasy writers.

    I'm adding this book to my TBR, as this is the first time these authors have collaborated, to my knowledge.

    Thanks for your interesting review!! : )

    1. Thank you so much, Maria! You've made my day. :-D I struggle to write reviews sometimes, to get my thoughts out cohesively, so I'm glad to read you enjoyed it. We definitely need more diversity, in every way.

      I think comparisons like that are pretty normal, honestly. As you say, HP has elements from LOTR and I'm sure plenty of others. It's just HP is so popular and well known, it's what everyone thinks of while reading new books.

      I hope you enjoy The Iron Trial! I recently read book 2, The Copper Gauntlet, and I enjoyed it even more, so I'm really looking forward to the rest of this series. And yes, it is the first time Black and Clare have written a book together. :-)

      Thanks again, Maria. Happy reading! :-D