The Iron Trial is written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. It was published in 2014 by Scholastic.
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.
There are shades of Harry Potter throughout this book, especially the “magic school” bit, as well as shades of Avatar: The Last Airbender with the elemental magic, but even though nothing they use is really new, Black and Clare manage to give it a fresh twist. I wish that we had gotten to see more of the world, but perhaps that will come later on in the series.
I went into the book thinking I knew how it was going to end, and I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out differently. However, there is very little of any sort of continuing plot in this book, as it is mainly set-up and more involved with character development, so I was left wondering what could possibly be in four more books. What I thought would have been more interesting is if Black and Clare had held off on the big plot reveal for another book, because right now it feels as if they revealed their hand too early. Like I said, I have no idea why they need four more books, unless they just wanted one for each school year (like Harry Potter…sigh).
I’m glad that Jasper ends up not so much of the school rival as he starts out. Rivals/antagonists like that serve to drive the plot/character development, but the trope as a whole is really overused, especially in school stories, and I’m glad that Jasper isn’t as much of a Draco Malfoy as he appears.
Also overused is the loner protagonist who thinks everybody hates him. At least Black and Clare gave him a good reason to think that way.
The book intrigued me enough to read the next one when it comes out, but I hope Black and Clare improve on worldbuilding and use of tropes.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“So send me home,” he burst out. “If you just took me because you don’t feel like one of the other mages should have to teach me, send me home.”
Rufus shook his head. “You still don’t understand,” he said. “Uncontrolled magic like yours is a danger. Sending you home to your small town would be the equivalent of dropping a bomb on them. But make no mistake, Callum. If you persist in disobedience, if you refuse to learn to control your magic, then I will send you home. But I will bind your magic first.”
The Iron Trial, although relying a little too much on old tropes like the magical school, the rival, elemental magic, and the self-contained, set-up plot of a first book in a series, still builds a nice world (what we see of it), has memorable characters, and promises exciting things to come. I do wish that Clare & Black had saved the big twist until later on in the series, as I feel it would have had more punch and right now I can’t really see where the series is going.
You can buy this here: The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)