The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Bronze Key, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, was published in 2016 by Scholastic. It is the sequel to The Copper Gauntlet.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world. But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer…and risk their own lives in the process. As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm—unless it is stopped in time.

Rating: 3/5

The Bronze Key continues the tradition of the Magisterium books failing to impress me, although I will acknowledge that Black and Clare did some gutsy things with their characters in this one. It’s too bad the villain was a complete washout and tremendously obvious, but Aaron, Call, and Tamara had some interesting things happen to them which reminded me of some of the more interesting plot twists in The Iron Trial. The problem is that I don’t feel as if Black and Clare know how to adequately handle those plot twists. I definitely feel a disconnect between the world and what I know about it, as if there’s something that the authors didn’t explain or didn’t explain well enough.

For example, are we supposed to expect these books to take place within the course of a year? The Copper Gauntlet did not feel that way, and neither does The Bronze Key. The fact that there are no celebrations of holidays doesn’t help, either. I think part of the reason the books feel a little disjointed to me is that there is so much time missing between the books; The Bronze Key takes place only over a couple of months, but is the next book, presumably about the fourth year, going to skip a whole ten months? That’s what it felt like going into this book, that a few months had been skipped between The Copper Gauntlet and The Bronze Key. That’s not always a bad thing, but it just seems a little sloppy to me, as if the plot can’t keep up with the world and so there’s all this missing time that makes everything seem disconnected.

However, despite all my complaints and comments about its mediocrity, the one thing The Bronze Key did well was make me want to know what happens next. Everything happened pretty quickly and there are still some aspects of the ending that I’m not sure of (did the teachers already know that Call was Constantine, or did they think Alma was lying until Call confirmed it? If they already knew, why lock him up now? If they didn’t, why was there even the feeling they did already know, which smacks of bad writing?), but it did intrigue me to the point where I’ll probably pick up the next book. And let’s face, I’m already three books in—I’m too invested in the series to stop now. Which I suppose means that the Magisterium can’t be all that bad if it keeps me reading.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

The door opened; there were footsteps. Call whirled, but it wasn’t Celia standing there. It was Tamara and Aaron.

“What are you doing in the Trophy Room?” Tamara asked, frowning. “Are you okay?”

Aaron looked around, puzzled. “Are you hiding in here?”

Call was entirely sure that nothing like this—being stood up and humiliated—had ever happened to Aaron. He was doubly sure nothing like this had happened to Tamara.

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