December 4, 2014

The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)
Picture Courtesy of Goodreads
Authors: Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Pages: 299
Review by: Tessa

The Magisterium is evil, or so Callum has been taught his whole life. His father has told him of the horrors of the Mages' world.

But Callum's nightmares will come to life when he is forced to take The Iron Trial, which serve as an entrance exam for the Magistrium.

Callum needs to fail this test-- for his father, his dead mother, and so he can avoid the monsters his father told him about. It should be easy-- Callum has never had trouble failing a test before-- but this test seems like it was rigged against Callum.

If Callum does not fail, then he will be trapped in the headquarters of the enemy, The Magistrium. It is supposedly the academy for up-and-coming mages, but his father has told him of the awful truth, which includes carnivorous blind fish, an endless maze of tunnels, and lethal elementals.

This is my biggest problem with the book. To me, no matter how good the rest of the book is, if it piggybacks on another author's storyline (or blatantly copies it), then I cannot like the book. I feel like this book was basically an elementary level of Harry Potter. Let me try to rationalize this intense irritation, in the form of a list.

1. A main character who lost his parent to the villain of the story. He was there as a baby when she died, and he has a physical deformity from the battle.
2. A group of three friends, a smart girl, a trouble-making boy, and another boy who is the third wheel.
3. A villain who is "taken care of" after a battle in the beginning of the story. This villain is believed to be gone for good, but somehow comes back during the story.
4. An old, wise teacher who is rough, but for good reason.
5. A counterpart for the main character who comes from a rich family, and will do anything to impress his parents, which includes harassing the main character.

I know that these are fairly common tropes in the book world, but the similarities come to close for comfort for me. I expected something more original from Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

The characters were standard middle-grade. I thought this was going to be a higher level story, like the Percy Jackson series. Unfortunately, it was stereotypically middle-grade, especially the humor. I was surprised that no one started making fart jokes (yes, it was that bad). There was not even a hint of the humor that Clare had with her Shadowhunters.
Callum is probably my favorite character. He seemed like a mix between Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. He is adorable, sarcastic, and stubborn. I loved his determination to succeed despite everything that his father told him and his physical disability. But, I did not like his decisions toward the end of the book. It seemed like he made a complete 360 from the character I learned to love, and not for the better.
I do not really have have feelings for Tamara and Aaron (Callum's fellow mage sidekicks). Nothing about them was unique about them, which seems to be the theme of this book.
I will admit that the friendship between the young mages was adorable during the second half of the book. They finally decided to work together and all of that other fluffy friendship stuff.

In the beginning, the description of the world was so unique and illustrative, but as the book went on, that failed. I had a vivid vision of the world until about 50 pages in, but then I was completely lost. The description of the Magistrium was practically nonexistent. I felt as if the entire school was just one over-sized, dreary cave. Most of the setting was left to the imagination of the readers.

This was definitely the type of book that started as a slow marathon, but ended as a fast-paced sprint to the finish line. All of the action for the book was packed into the last 50 pages. Personally, this is not my faovirte kind of plot, but some, rushed action is better than none.
The only thing that I will give this book credit for is the ending. It was the only part that was not predictable. It was certainly not what I expected. The surprise set up the plot for the next book and left me wondering how everything would work out.

If you are a Harry Potter fan, then I would avoid this book, because you will most likely end up focusing on the similarities between the books.
If you are normally a fan of middle-grade, then I would say go for it.
If the only experience you have with middle-grade books is the Percy Jackson series, or something like it, then I would skip this book. It will not live up to your expectations.


  1. I've seen this book advertised on Scholastic Plus, and actually checked it out from the library. My mother read it and hated it, so I skipped reading it. I'm kind of glad I did!

    1. You should be! I wasted more than three days of my life on it! (Normally it only takes me like two days to read a book, but I had trouble forcing myself to read this one!)

  2. I'm not really a fan of Middle Grade books but since it's Holly and Cassandra I thought I'd give it a chance... but then I haven't seen any copies around so I haven't had the chance to read it yet. I'm an HP fan so I might pass on this one... thanks for the insights ^^

    Check out my Series Review of The Lotus War Trilogy

    Happy Reading~ ^^

    ~ Jay @ We Fancy Books

  3. I have heard a lot of reviewers who have felt this was similar to Harry Potter as well. I still want to read it, but it makes me wary of it. I am not for something that lacks originality, especially being close to such a huge selling book.

    1. I know what you mean. If you can get past the Harry Potter similarities, it is actually an okay book. I just could not help but notice the little things that bothered me about the book. I guess I just had higher expectations because it was written by two of my favorite authors.