Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black
Series: The Magisterium #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on September 9, 2014
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 299
Read From: 2.8.15 - 2.15.15

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. . . .


Initial Thoughts: I picked this book up because of its premise and that it's the beginning of a new Middle Grade fantasy series. I didn't pick it up because the authors (shockingly enough, I'm actually not a die-hard fan of either Holly Black or Cassandra Clare. I like them, but I don't love them). I liked the plot and the world well enough, and the characters were fun. But this book did at times feel like it tried to hard to live up to Harry Potter standards, and it just didn't quite cut it.

Characters: Call is sarcastic and stubborn. I was equal parts admiring of his rebellion and equal parts frustrated with him - but that wasn't his fault. I always get a little frustrated with characters who constantly rebel against a situation that I myself would love to be in (like a magic school). But of course, Call's trying to get himself kicked out of the Magisterium makes sense, as his father has convinced him that it's a place that will kill him. So I don't hold my frustration against Call; it wasn't him, it was me. I know Tamara was supposed to be a little snotty at first, but I immediately liked her. She's smart and brave. But Aaron was my favorite, just because because he was just so darn nice. I liked Drew, the poor boy who - I have to say, because it can't not be said - resembled Neville Longbottom a, well, a lot. And it's hard to not like a character like Neville, even though the similarities bothered me a bit (it was a little too glaring). Jasper (the Draco Malfoy of the Magisteriuam; sorry, but he was) wasn't all that fun to hate. He was just a jerk and ended up being a bit likable in the end.

The Romance: None!

Plot: Callum Hunt has been raised to fear the Magisterium - a school for magically gifted people. His father was a sorcerer and he blames the Magisterium for the death of his wife. However, when Call tries to flunk the Iron Trial - the process by which the Magisterium selects its students - he fails at it and is accepted into the Magisterium. Call is prepared for torture and spooky caves and unfeeling teachers. What he doesn't expect is the world's awesomest underground school, friends, and fascinating lessons. And the more time Call spends in the Magisterium, the less he wants to leave. Let's talk about the world building. The Magisterium is a giant magic school in underground caves that's training young sorcerers and sorceresses to control the five elemental magics: air, fire, water, earth, and chaos. They have an uneasy truce with the Enemy of Death - the most powerful sorcerer to exist who went crazy and became obsessed with chaos magic and immortality. However, the truce is weak and they're preparing for the moment it crumbles and dies. They hope that one day their new students will also include the one rare person who can defeat the Enemy of Death: a Makaris, a chaos-wielder. I'm not a bookworm who throws accusations of "this sounds like such-and-such book!" simply because it happens to have, say, two boys and a girl, magic schools, an evil sorcerer, and a prophecy about a boy who can defeat him. These are all reoccurring themes in fantasy, and most stories have a threesome of two boys and a girl. However, The Iron Trial does have some rather obvious similarities to Harry Potter, and unfortunately the impression this created was that The Iron Trial was trying to keep up with Harry Potter, rather than just being its own thing. The Magisterium tried to be as magical and whimsical and fun as Hogwarts, and sorry, but it just can't. The Enemy of Death didn't bother me in terms of being like Voldemort because every single fantasy novel out there has the world's most powerful sorcerer turning evil and being obsessed with immortality. J. K. Rowling was not original with that idea anymore than authors after her. The plot itself was fun, but predictable and perhaps a little bland. But I did have fun exploring the world of Magisterium and predictability isn't always annoying to me. Depends on my mood.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Not going to lie, the writing didn't impress me. It wasn't necessarily bad, but I have read other novels by both Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, and this didn't live up to it. And no, it isn't because it's Middle Grade. I've read plenty of Middle Grade books that have very good writing.

Content: None.

Conclusion: I'll admit that I didn't see the twists coming, mostly because I wasn't looking for them. But most people will probably see them coming. The Iron Trial is a fairly fun Middle Grade fantasy adventure that, yes, has Harry Potter similarities. This will either make you love it more - or just frustrate you. I look forward to seeing where this series goes.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, eleven-and-up, fans of fantasy.

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