BOOK REVIEW: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

This review does not contain spoilers.

Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst—but fails at failing.

Now he must enter the Magisterium. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister. And Call realises it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call’s biggest test is still to come.

This book is marketed everywhere as junior fiction and, since I’m not a big junior fiction reader, I’ve been ignoring it in every bookstore. But when I heard that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were coming to the Brisbane Writers Festival to promote the release of the second Magisterium book, I decided to suck it up and check out this kids’ book.

I had never read anything by Holly Black and my love for Cassandra Clare has definitely waned after struggling to get through City of Heavenly Fire. But somehow their combined force makes this a surprisingly enjoyable book. The tone and content reminds me of a mixture of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but not in a ‘this is a really obvious rip-off’ kind of way. In fact, it actually gives me that happy, floaty, ‘new adventure with friends’ feeling.

The main character, Call, is a genuine surprise because he’s trying his best to stay with his loving father and away from the Magisterium. Brought up knowing that it caused his mother’s death, Call has learned to hate and fear the Magisterium with a bloody-minded conviction.

Despite his best attempts to fail the mandatory entrance exam, Call enters the Magisterium and begins to learn the truth surrounding his mother’s passing. He’s forced to question all the vague explanations his father has given him over the years and make up his own mind for the first time in his young life. I feel like this is a great device for this book. Call is learning to test his own limits and not blindly trust his father, which I feel is something that a lot of people around his age are starting to learn in real life.

The authors do a great job of laying out all the information and allowing you to jump to precisely the wrong conclusion. I thought I’d solved the big mystery and was feeling pretty proud of myself until I was proved to be woefully incorrect. In an authors’ note at the back of the book, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare reveal that this was their intention all along: to turn the tropes of fantasy around so that readers didn’t really know what they were in for. I’m glad they succeeded. If they hadn’t, I might not be so keen to get my hands on The Copper Gauntlet next month.


The verdict

Though written for a younger audience, I found The Iron Trial enjoyable and intriguing. I don’t think it’s too far away from being a proper YA series. Much like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, these books start out with a young protagonist who will age through the series and, as Call gets older and progresses through the Magisterium, I think the books will soon be more welcoming to older readers.

I rate it  ★★★



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