Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Magisterium: The Iron Trial is basically Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Harry Potter.  It might be unfair to say so but let’s face facts.  It’s about a boy, Callum or Call as he likes to be called. Who gets into a mysteries school, the Magisterium, for young Mages.  He becomes friends with Aaron and Tamara that will help him on this journey.  Oh and there is a mask wearing villian that is out to destory death.  Sort of sound familiar? Similiarities in literature is nothing new and may not be surprising considering that Cassandra Clare wrote Harry Potter fanfiction before she started writing about Shadowhunters but for everything that is the same they are enough differences to make it worth reading.  There is going to be a lot of spoilers after the cut.Featured imageSo here’s the thing. My first reaction was meh.  It starts out pretty by the books kids fantasy book.  Our hero, Call is an outsider.  He has a bad leg that despite several surgeries could never be fixed. It was hurt from a terrible tragedy that we know about but Call doesn’t.  In that tragedy, his mother dies and she leaves behind a cryptic message.  Kill the Child.  Is that about Call?  He is from a family of Mages.but all his life his father has told him that mages are evil and the Magisterium is dangerous.  Mages don’t care about children or who they hurt as long as it helps them win the war and Mages are always at war.  So when Call is summoned to take the Iron Trial, he purposely tries to fail and boy does he.  He fails so bad that he actually didn’t even have to try but it didn’t matter.  He is picked to be an apprentice to the most powerful Master of them all, Master Rufus.  So immediately, he gains rivals in his new school because they feel he doesn’t belong.  He feels he doesn’t belong.

At the moment, Mages Assembly have established treaty with the Enemy.  We won’t attack you as long as you don’t attack us.  And for 12 years, both sides have honored it but the Mages of the Magisterium are starting to get nervous. Twelve years a lot of time for the Enemy to build his army.  Meanwhile, they don’t have a Makar to fight against him.  There are five elements of magic, Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Chaos.  Very few Mages can do chaos magic.  The Enemy is one and only way to fight a Makar is to have your own Makar.  So not only are the Masters trying to teach their apprentices how to use their powers but also looking for a new Makar.

So Callum with his fellow apprentices, Aaron and Tamara start their magic learning with Master Rufus.  Predictably it doesn’t go well.  They are assigned to separate sand for weeks while other students started learning more exciting things.  Of course, there is a method for what Master Rufus is doing but it’s not apparent to the three of them and awkwardness and hurt feelings occur. The whole exercise is to get them to focus on what they are doing and to block away distractions but also to work at a team and it worked.  In their first challenge they win.

Now back to the Harry Potter comparisons, they are there and not there.  Call is our would be Harry.  He’s the main character and the book is mostly from his point of view.  Tamara is the Hermoine.  She has the most magic knowledge of the three because she grew up in a Mages family. So that’s different from Hermoine.  She also has siblings, unlike Hermoine and one of her older sisters did something that no one wants to talk about.  So that would mean that Aaron should be Ron but that’s where they divert from the HP triad.  Yes, he destined to be Call’s best friend (or more as many on the internet hope for) , a la Ron but he doesn’t come from  a big family.  He’s self taught and it turns out that he is the Makar that everyone has been waiting for.  This is the first surprising twist of the book.  This was when I started taking it seriously.  As the book progresses, you know there is something special or different about Call.  He is warned by his father that the Mages will hurt him and does what he can to stop him from going and eventually asks Master Rufus to bind Call’s magic.  Another student ask Call the cryptic question, You don’t know who you are? It’s all a set up for Call to be the Makar right? Wrong.  Aaron is and if we as readers were not so distracted by Call, we might have seen the signs. Clever Miss Black and Miss Clare.

Now what really differentiate this from Harry Potter or other fantasy kids book is the big reveal at the end because I’ll admit.  I didn’t see it coming.  All this time, the Mages were thinking that the Enemy was still out there, making plans, waiting to attack but they were wrong.  They were really wrong.  Every thing we know about what happened in that last battle is wrong.  Callum Hunt didn’t survive the attack on the mountain.  His soul was pushed out by the Enemy, who was mortally wounded in the battle.  So the soul of the Enemy is in Callum Hunt’s body and has been there the whole time.  How this is possible, you have to read the book because it takes more explaining then I’m willing to go into but the process of transferring the soul to another body has left the Enemy with no memories. Call grew up believiing he was the boy the body belongs to.  This is actually quite brilliant because all of a sudden our hero has become the villain in his own story.  Now that he knows what will he do.  Keep living as Call or will the Enemies soul eventually wake and take over.  Aaron, his best friend is the Makar,  is basically, the only person alive who can destroy him and vice versa. They are each other destruction.  Talk about putting pressure on a friendship. In one chapter this series got a whole lot more interesting.  They can take it in so many different directions and explore so many different questions.  What makes a person?  Is it their soul? Or their body?  Are our lives preordained or do we make our destiny? Bravo Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  Well done.

On one final side note.  I love that Call has a disability.  I think it’s important for kids to see anyone can be a hero even if they legs don’t work right.  I think it’s also important with kids with any disability to see Call, even with his disadvantages he never gives up and succeeds more then he fails.  So yeah for both Black and Clare for that.

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