Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

13608989The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Expected Publication: September 9, 2014
Format: Ebook 304 pages
Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ARC was received from the publisher for free via NetGalley

The Iron Trial begins in a cave in  La Rinconada where a set of mages were sent during the battle between The Enemy of Death and his army of Chaos.  Alastair Hunt is frantically searching the cave for his wife Sarah and their son Callum. Alastair is faced with the realization that all the mages have perished when he finds his dead wife. Suddenly, he hears the cry of a baby and finds Callum with his leg badly injured.  The last words that Alastair sees in the cave are scratched on a wall of ice, "Kill The Child." 

Jump ahead to North Carolina where Callum or "Call"  is now 12-years-old about to participate in the Iron Trial.  He will enter The Magisterium , a school that is buried underground, and  be tested to see if he possesses the qualities to be an apprentice and whether he will receive further training from one of its Master's.  Magic runs in Callum's family,  but his father wants him to fail at his trial, even warning him that he will be tempted to want to join, but all his fathers warnings are vague.  In Callum's case it doesn't matter, because his having potential makes attendance not optional.  

Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take their time crafting this world of The Magisterium.  It is more than just a school that is deep underground with dark corners that draw you in wanting to learn more. I envision it looking something like The Cave of the Winds or Lewis and Clark Caverns with stalagmites/stalactites, twisting and turning passageways and rivers. The teachers within The Magisterium are referred to as Master's and they tended to blend together for me, except for Master Rufus who we learn more about because he trains the three main characters.   I really liked that the apprentice characters were well developed, diverse and seem to have unique characteristics that makes them each stand out.  The cover highlights three of them, Callum,  Aaron and Tamara.  Callum at time had this obnoxious slightly snarky personality that spoke "almost" teenager to me.  One of the things that I wished Black and Clare had done with Callum's character was to show Callum's disability more (like when he was getting into the boat) rather that having him stating that "I can't run" or "I can't" when placed in positions where his leg will challenge him,  I think this would have added more to his character and highlighted how his impairment really effects him.  Aaron is the blonde haired, athletic who doesn't appear to have any family and Tamara appeared smart, and strong willed. My favorite character was Havoc, the wolf pup that Callum sort of adopts, his name seems to fit him very well. Warren the lizard was a strong second, who I hope we will see more of.     

I've seen on Goodreads that people are comparing The Iron Trial to Harry Potter.  If your looking for similarities, I think you could find them in The Iron Trial.  However, I personally see more differences that allow it to stand on its own.  The world as I stated before is somewhat more dark being underground and feels set in present day.   The magic doesn't resemble that of Harry Potter, if anything it had me thinking more along the lines of Avatar, yet it also has a set of its own principles, magical food and items, I love the tornado phone, wristbands and I want one of those fizzy drinks. 

I do have a few minor quibbles with The Iron Trial.  There are instances where Callum's dad is referred to as "dad" and others where he is referred to as "Allistair" this also happens with Master Rufus where all of sudden he is just called Rufus by Callum.  Each time this switch between formal and informal happened it took me out of the story.  I also felt the story slowed down when Callum's training took place, the whole training with sand made things move very slowly and was reminiscent of  scenes where Daniel is asked to wax on and wax off by Mr. Miyagi.  I liked the "bad guy" character of The Enemy of Death and his army of Chaos, although his name doesn't strike much fear, he still seems to deal some destruction.  Most of all, I enjoyed the prophecy that a fire elemental foretells and the twist at the very end is done very well.  Overall, I enjoyed the Iron Trial and felt it was a great beginning to a new series and has me looking for more.  


  1. I thought the twist was well-done too. And I agree with you that this is not so much like Harry Potter. Thanks for the review.

    1. I so didn't see the twist coming, and it was a fun read.