Release Date: September 11, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books
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 . . .
From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown. (courtesy of Goodreads)
The Iron Trial is a complicated review to write. Part of me wants to completely pan it. Another part of me wants to praise it for being a quick and engaging read. I really did enjoy this book, but I couldn't ignore the unoriginality.
This book is a blatant take-off on Harry Potter. Magic school. Boarding school with a common room. Orphan (semi-orphan in this case). A trio of two boys and a girl. Some mean kids. Voldemort (called the Enemy of Death here). The list goes on. It completely took me out of the story and filled me with scorn.
I might forgive this easier with other authors, but Cassandra Clare has a history of writing Harry Potter read-alikes. She first became known for writing Harry Potter fan-fiction (and plagiarizing). Despite this, I do think Clare is a talented writer and world-builder. I like the Mortal Instruments series, for all its faults and really like the Infernal Devices series. Similarly, I think Holly Black is a great writer. So it baffles me why they felt the need to write a book that is so heavily built upon Harry Potter.
Setting aside my disgust, this was otherwise a fun book. And it was in many ways, an original story. It veered both in world-building and plot from Harry Potter. Both Clare and Black are talented at vividly describing a world. The Magisterium, Call's school came to life in their hands (occasionally falling into Clare's habits of overusing adjectives and descriptors).
I did like the trio, although I find them a little difficult to characterize. Call (I don't get why they didn't call him Cal. Call is such an odd name) is very Harry Potter-esque. A bland good kid, somewhat downtrodden, eager to prove himself. Tamara is very Hermione. An arrogant know-it-all who eventually proves herself to be friendly and useful. Aaron is surprisingly not like Ron. He's the all-star kid. He's the kid that you expect to go places just from looking at him. He is also very nice, inclusive, and humble.
The plot is full of twists and turns. It seemed that their goal was to do exactly the opposite of what you'd expect. So much so, that I was able to guess what was going to happen. Still, it was fast moving, interesting, and made me want to read the next book.
If Harry Potter didn't exist, I'd say that this was a great read. I still think it's something that many middle grade readers will enjoy. I'm guessing many of them would be happy to read a book that feels like it's on the same course as Potter. Also, comparing Sorcerer's Stone and Iron Trial side by side - ignoring the complexity of the rest of the Potter series - I'd say they're pretty equivalent in quality. As much as I love Sorcerer's Stone, it is the most juvenile book of the series and also has the most mistakes (understandable given that it was Rowling's first book). The Magisterium world in Iron Trial is described in perhaps more detail than the Hogwarts world. While I am biased, I think Sorcerer's Stone is superior in the fact that it doesn't drown you in detail and has a more whimsical nature.
This has been a pretty messy review, which reflects my feelings about the book. Overall, I found the story engrossing (although I did skim towards the end) and the plot intriguing. I plan on continuing with the series. But I cannot forgive it for being such a laughable copy of the Harry Potter series.
Recommendation: Grab it from the library.
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