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Magisterium #1

The Iron Trial

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All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. To succeed at the Iron Trial and be admitted into the vaunted Magisterium school would bring bad things. But he fails at failing. Only hard work, loyal friends, danger, and a puppy await.

295 pages, Hardcover

First published September 9, 2014

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About the author

Holly Black

172 books81.3k followers
Holly Black is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over thirty fantasy novels for kids and teens. She has been a finalist for an Eisner Award and the Lodestar Award, and the recipient of the Mythopoeic Award, a Nebula, and a Newbery Honor. Her books have been translated into 32 languages worldwide and adapted for film. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret library.

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5 stars
24,698 (34%)
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3 stars
15,004 (20%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,673 reviews
Profile Image for hayden.
1,051 reviews732 followers
Shelved as 'maybe-reads'
March 16, 2015
Cassandra Clare co-wrote this, so obviously, there are Shadowhunters in it.
Where are they?

I can't find them.
Profile Image for is mee... kissa.
316 reviews
Want to read
October 13, 2012
What's with all the Harry Potter comments? Can authors not write stories about kids and magicians anymore because it's a "rip off" of H. Potter?
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 343 books397k followers
May 23, 2015
Callum Hunt does not want to be a magician. All his life, his father has warned him about the dangers of magic, and the sinister ways of the mages who teach youngsters to use their powers in the underground world of the Magisterium. When Callum comes of age and must take his entrance exam for the Magisterium, he tries his hardest to fail. But he fails to fail. He is chosen to train with Master Rufus, the most prestigious mage in the Magisterium. Callum (Call) is ripped away from his normal life in Carolina, separated from his father, and plunged into a subterranean world his father has said would be worse than death.

The Iron Trial is a hugely fun, inventive spin on the middle grade fantasy novel. Yes, the parallels to Harry Potter are obvious, but as I see it that’s sort of the point. Clare and Black take those patterns and expectations and deliberately turn them upside-down. Callum doesn’t want to be a magician. He wants to fail at magic. His experience is not like Hogwarts. It’s alternately boring (sorting piles of sand, anyone?) and terrifying (the elementals are awesome creations), and Call can’t be sure who to trust – even his parents. His mother’s dying words: Kill the Child, apparently meaning her own infant son. And his father . . . has he been protecting Call all these years, or lying to him? Is Master Rufus a friend or enemy? Will Callum ever be allowed to leave his new home?

I liked Call a lot. His leg was badly broken when he was a baby, and his trouble walking informs his character. It’s especially poignant when he wonders if he can learn to fly as a magician, thus making him more mobile. He is mistrustful but empathetic, capable and yet deeply flawed. I also liked the cast of supporting characters. His fellow apprentices are great, especially Tamara. The magic system is inventive and logical. The world-building is fantastic. The Iron Trial sets up the game board for the rest of the series, which promises to be great – and after that huge, massive twist at the end (no spoilers, but oh boy!) how can you not want to read on?
Profile Image for Enya.
16 reviews12 followers
Want to read
May 31, 2014
Well, first of all, all of you people SHUT THE HELL UP.

If Cassandra Clare wants to write books about shadowhunters or magic, it doesn't even freaking matter it's her choice on what she wants to write, and wait-you don't like it? WELL DON'T READ IT, GOD.

You were all ranting about her next series about shadowhunters, The Dark Artifices. If I remember correctly, you were all calling her out on "milking the shadownhunter cash-cow until there was nothing left".

Now she writes a series on something else and you're still criticizing her?!? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, STOP. Do you even know HOW many books have been written on magic? Just because it's written about magic doesn't mean it's a rip-off of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter was the most successful fiction book on magic, but do you know how many others there are? If anyone has read the Septimus Heap series, that's also about magic.

Also, I hear things about the main character set-up from the cover. Two boys and a girl, DO YOU KNOW HOW OFTEN AUTHORS USE THAT? Percy Jackson, for example. None of you dim-witted idiots hated on Percy Jackson because the group was similar to Harry Potter.


SO STOP IT. STOP. I GET THAT YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE IT, BUT I DON'T GET WHY YOU'RE HATING ON HER NEXT SERIES WHEN YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW IT MIGHT TURN OUT.
Profile Image for KL (Cat).
177 reviews130 followers
October 13, 2014
A pre-review in Disney Gifs

Initial Impression:
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First 50 pages:
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All the Harry Potter similarities:
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Worldbuilding + Magic system:
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The plot:
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The very obvious "plot twist":
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The convenient info-dumpings:
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Conclusion:
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Basically:
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Profile Image for Sofia Theos.
48 reviews43 followers
Want to read
October 6, 2022
You're all thinking it.

No one wants to say it, but we're all thinking it.

*sigh* Okay fine, i'll say it.

J.K Rowling to Cassandra Clare:


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Well, at least this one isn't about Shadowhunters.

EDIT: 2022, I STILL STAND BY THIS.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,359 followers
October 22, 2014
I really wanted to love this one, and I could almost give it a 3-star after the fascinating twist at the end, but I just can't. For the most part, I couldn't stop seeing the glaring parallels with Harry Potter which annoyed me endlessly. I'm not one to roll my eyes at similar storylines - I don't curse all MG novels about magic school for being Harry Potter rip-offs, but there are only so many similarities I can tolerate.

So let's see, we have this kid, Call, who was marked at birth by the most evil of its kind - someone corrupted by his desire to become immortal (called the Enemy of Death but I call him Ed, sounds much more ominous don't you think?). When Call gets to magic school, the best of the masters takes him under his wing, telling him how he has a hunch that he will be something special. Then he teams him up with a boy and a girl, telling them they were chosen to form this special combination (probably because he saw it in a Harry Potter movie). There were more, but smaller similarities throughout, like how he finds a small creature that bore resemblance to Dobby (not in appearance, but in quirkiness and general oddity of a friend), their whole setup for meals (with magic food) and general atmosphere of the school, things like that.

Parallels aside, the plot kind of bored me for the most part. There's a lot of time spent on character building that ended up just being boring. A number of chapters wasted on sorting sand (not kidding!) for instance, followed by exercises or tests that ended up being quite pointless for story progression. Ok fine, we get to explore the school grounds and learn some interesting history which helped expand the world building a bit, so I do give it some credit, but I felt as if everything that happened, everywhere we went were just detours designed to give further hints towards an eventual twist. A twist that was surprisingly really intriguing, but easy to predict after all those not-so-inconspicuous *winks*.

As far as characters, the cast was diverse and engaging enough, but I didn't feel especially attached to any of them. Nor did I feel as if I really got to know them, aside from maybe Callum. I know the role they each have to play in the story, but I couldn't even recall most of the side characters from one sitting to the next. The world could have also used a wider scope. How they find students for the Iron Trial had me a bit confused, especially as it said some kids don't even know themselves they have magical abilities. It seems like it would be easy for a kid to to fly under the radar. At any rate, the entire mage history/purpose is briefed in a mere 2 pages...

Am I sufficiently intrigued to want to continue with the series? I think the twist offers something new and thought-provoking enough to make me want to know where it will go from here, so I will be highly tempted, but I'm not sure this one will even be memorable enough for me to care by the time it's released. Either way, I will always be a fan of Holly Black, but this one left me feeling disappointed.

--
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
516 reviews34.4k followers
Want to read
March 3, 2018
How is it even possible I didn't know about this?!!!

I mean seriously?
A series written by two of my favourite authors?
AND I JUST DIDN'T KNOW?!
WTH?!

There's no way I'm not going to add this to my to-be read pile.
Which unfortunately leaves me with 300 books,
which also means that the limit I set for myself is thoroughly broken,
which means I need to READ the hell out of my to-be read,
which means I'm basically screwed! *lol*

BUT
Holly Black and Cassandra Clare!!!
Jeez!!!
I'm doomed! <333
Profile Image for Jess.
420 reviews595 followers
September 1, 2014
I’m going to try and regurgitate (lovely word) this whole subjective experience in the most objective manner possible.


I’ve heard a lot of this going around:

"I won’t read this because it’s just a repacked Harry Potter."


Sorry to break it to you, but most likely, those that will gravitate the most to this book are those curious enough to see this attempt at a magical school. After the phenomenon that was Harry Potter, one that transcended a series initially aimed at children into a universal experience, the magical school concept has been set aside into an exclusive league of it’s own. Suddenly it’s now just a J.K. Rowling thing. Now, there’s no hate here. I adore Harry Potter to pieces. I grew up on Harry Potter. I understand how you all feel. But you’ve also got to see the greater picture—it’s become stigmatic for an author to even poke magical children with a pole and a ten mile radius.



“There���s a little piece of magic in all of us” , is that not what they say? So why, pray tell, is it problematic for someone else take a crack, tap into their own piece of magic and bring it to life (I’m not being exclusive to this book; in fact, this is said in generality). This is not a point blank, carbon copy of Harry Potter.

It is a book with elements similar and/or parallel to Harry Potter, simply because:

a) Harry Potter has become the immortalised invisible bar that every magical book must now reach and

b) Most of us have begun this book having read Harry Potter, having loved Harry Potter, having been weary of the Harry Potter comparison foreshadowing and/or having had knowledge of Cassandra Clare’s beginnings as an author of Harry Potter fanfiction.


So, in that manner, we are biased. No matter how hard we try, we are biased. And so, I read The Iron Trial in two mindsets.

1. As a person encapsulating both said a + b traits mentioned above and
2. As though I was a middle grade child, woefully ignorant of the pleasures of the magical world of Harry Potter


And so I have three separate outcomes to this review (three because you’ve got to keep in mind the invisible mindset: I don’t read middle grade fiction—exceptions for the glorious Ms. Clare). Therefore, I’ve decided to split this review, three ways and congregate at the end for a big conclusion and overall, I just love making life harder for myself.

1. Mindset: “How dare they attempt to repackage Harry Potter!”


If you’ve gone into this book, consciously on the prowl to compare The Iron Trial to Harry Potter then, most likely, you’ll probably succeed. But don’t, for a second, expect to have it made easy. There’s no Dumbledore that’s simply renamed Fumbledore. There are parallels, in atmosphere, in culture, in characterisation. Because we’ve read Harry Potter, we notice this. I may even go as far as saying, we’re paranoid because of Harry Potter.

At times I found myself pausing at the most ridiculous things, hoping to pull something out of my repository of Harry Potter information, simply to say “Another parallel! I’ve found another”. But I was being silly. You could compare anything and everything to Harry Potter, if you really tried. And you can most certainly can compare any magical fiction to Harry Potter, really without trying at all.

Harry’s sarcastic; Callum is middle grade sarcastic (I’ll get into more of that later on).
Harry’s meals are magical; low and behold, Callum’s meals are magical.
Harry’s in a golden trio of chosen; Callum’s got himself a trio as well.
Harry’s got himself a rich bully; oh look! Callum’s got a rich, old money bully, as well.


While yes, some things can be argued as terribly influenced by HP, others, when you take a step back, are unfair criticisms. Of course their meals were magical; it’s bloody magic school. Of course they’ve got themselves a bully. Believe or not, school isn’t filled with daisies and ponies and nice bffls. It’s logical to assume that magical school isn’t either. And sure, Harry’s got a tongue on him, but what preteen doesn’t nowadays?

The point is, if you’re on a rampage and you’re ready to butcher the book to pieces then the world’s your oyster. But it isn’t intended to be—keep that in mind. It’s a coincidence that no longer can be avoided. Harry Potter’s set the stage, now we all just carry it’s garbage.

2. Mindset: Jess doesn’t read middle grade fiction. In this episode, she makes an exception for Clare and regrets it (just a little bit).


The reason I don’t read middle grade fiction? Simple. I like my writing with heft and a sprinkle of metaphors. Do children around nine like that? I would assume, no. So how does one fare with a middle grade book? Not well. Not well, at all.

In this mindset, I wasn’t enjoying the book. It’s written in a simple manner. The descriptions aren’t fancy and they don’t conjure tangible experiences. In all honesty, there were even times when I questioned their ages. They’re twelve but the dialogue is quite unrealistic—a little more like 15, I would say (unless I’m so far removed from the youth nowadays. In that case, I apologise in advance. Totally not meant to be condescending). I found that the maturity of the dialogue oscillated like a pendulum (that’s come to be my favourite metaphor, featuring in every second review). One moment we’re having a really intellectual conversation, the next there’s proclamations of “Glurp lurp!”. Don’t ask.

It’s a first POV (I prefer my books in third) so the journey is completely biased and one-sided. We get what Callum wants to express, nothing less, nothing more. And half the time, Callum wants to talk about himself. I don’t like talking about Callum.

I felt incredibly impersonal to all the characters, simply because Callum interacted with them but he didn’t share empathic moments with them. Whatever trust was brewing, we don’t get to see it. Therefore, I was incredibly, incredibly shocked when he mentioned that Aaron (your Ron, if you will) was his best friend (for life—it’s implied) and Tamara (sticking with the associations, meet Hermione) was equally so. In Young Adult fiction we rage about insta!love. Perhaps the Middle Grade equivalent is insta!biffles. I’ve got no qualms about making friends but in the course of what seems to be a chunk of a time, to have a friendship like so develop, and to generate empathy from the reader, one must allow sentimental moments that are raw and personal to be exposed. But then again, maybe I’m just asking for too much.

The sarcasm was dry. And it’s certainly not Clare’s best (I can’t comment on Black’s—I’ve only read a bit of her work, a long while ago). For those who’ve made the move down from YA fiction, where sarcasm reigns and witty one-liners are bountiful, you will be shockingly disappointed. Lucky for me, I enjoy dry sarcasm that tries way too hard to come off as sarcastic. Or maybe I enjoy the attempt.

Case in point:

He had been expecting the tests to be scary, but the only apparent danger was the danger of being bored to death.


Har, har. The sad thing was I had to stop and laugh for a good five minutes. Sad, I know.

“Warren knows the best way. Sometimes the best way isn’t the fastest.”

“Warren shouldn’t talk about himself in the third person,” Call said…


Oh, the things that make me laugh.

This is a nitpick, but I want to forewarn you: be prepared for confusion. Callum has a nickname. It is Call. Call starts many sentences. I assume his name is meant to be pronounced Cal. But with the extra L, it suddenly becomes Caaaalll—like one does on the telephone. So, at times, I was left wondering “Call who?”

If you’re here to be saturated by fabulous world-building then turn right around—go home. It’s not on par with what I expected from the two lovely ladies. Like I said, The Iron Trial does not benefit from having Callum’s POV. There’s not a whole lot of unfolding; it’s secondary. There’s certainly a lot of word barf. Left and right I was being told things. But I didn’t see anything. The tagline, the history and the consequences of war—it was all jammed down my throat.

Fire wants to burn, water wants to flow, air wants to rise, earth wants to bind, chaos wants to devour.


Yes. Is this school teaching it’s students or are they attempting to teach me with number a thousand hundred times that this line appears?

But then I remembered. Jess, it’s middle grade fiction. Turn off the brain. Enjoy what you’re given. I don’t think the intended audience is going to be too bothered by the fact that the world-buidling is a little off—the action makes up for it aplenty.

3. Mindset: I’ve got a kiddie nephew turning ten and he would eat this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


If you took a step back, stepped into the shoes of the intended audience, then Black and Clare have got a winner on their hands. It’s a bigger jackpot if they’ve yet to read and enjoy the wonders of Harry Potter because they’re a clean slate; easily influenced and without bias. Having no preconceived ideas will do this book wonders; it’s what it needs to sell—an audience untouched by the blockbuster phenomenon.

Even then, if a middle grader has just devoured Harry Potter they would still be satisfied with The Iron Trial. That’s because coming off a book hangover (and a massive one at that), The Iron Trial will be the stuff of dreams. It is a portal to yet another magical world and yet another journey between good and bad, morals and ethics, won and led by a teenage hero. (That sounds incredibly cynical. I promise, I’m not trying to be.)

Conclusion


It has it’s faults and it will most certainly will not work for everyone. Above, you see only three mindsets—of one person, at that. It’s not fair to write the series off as yet another HP because it isn’t. Look at the bigger picture. The series, it’s going places (don’t make me eat my words). When you do fantasy, you either blow your first book out of the water, or you flop it a tad with too much information but then grow and nurture it into an epic. Many fall into the latter. And I hope this one does too.

Call it what you will, this is the journey of a Chosen One. A bildungsroman. A coming-of-age. A boy who never truly mattered, no longer is a no one; he becomes someone.

“You matter, Call”


You sure do.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. All quotes used were obtained from uncorrected proof that is subject to change in the final publication.

This review can be found at MyReadingDress.
Profile Image for Thibaut Nicodème.
573 reviews131 followers
August 28, 2015
Chapter-by-chapter review on my blog, the Snark Theater.

This is…exactly what it sounds like. Cassandra Clare (and Holly Black, though her influence is basically invisible) wrote a book about a kid going to magic school. There was no other way this could go, really.

If you're not aware (but is there someone on Goodreads who isn't?), Cassandra Clare has a history with the Harry Potter series, and its fandom. She rose to fame by writing Harry Potter fanfiction. Even then, people already accused her (with very clear evidence) of plagiarism of other things. I remember that whole passages from TV shows and other books were lifted nearly verbatim, for instance. From there, she wrote The Mortal Instruments, which readers of her fanfiction quickly pointed out was basically the same story, just in a different universe. Having read the first three books of that series, I can see it. The TMI world is practically the same as the HP one, except with more religion, and more shallow.

With all that in mind, as I said, there was no other way this book could go. I was severely tempted to play a Cassandra Clare bingo with this book, and I would probably have filled several grids. If you're more adventurous than I am and like drinking games, do not play a Clare drinking game with this book. You won't make it out alive.

Clare tropes aside, this is pretty clearly Harry Potter. Look at the cover, and try to tell me that the villain doesn't look like a Death Eater from the movies (fun fact: . Try to tell me this trio of two boys and a girl doesn't look familiar. Read the prologue and try to convince me that the Enemy of Death doesn't sound in any way similar to Voldemort. I could go on and on. The Clare tropes do play a part in the execution…kind of. And there are some differences, obviously. But the core concept? Pretty fucking identical.

Let's take our main trio, who are basically the Mary Sue version of the HP trio. Harry Call is a boy who lost a parent at the hands of the villain, somewhat of a prodigy with magic but not the best. He has dark hair, is scrawny, and has a distinctive scar. Sound familiar enough yet? How about the fact that his role in the trio becomes ? Or the fact that . His only "unique" trait is his leg (where his scar is, for the sake of transparency), which is… wounded/deformed/malformed in some vague way. It was an interesting concept, featuring a disabled protagonist. But it's only used as a source of angst, and Call only focuses on trying to overcome his ability, instead of adapting to it. He thinks about adapting, but never does it.

Second is the one that's most unique of the trio: Aaron. He's mostly unique because, in Clare-land, Ron is lame and boring, so she made him new and better. Aaron is kind, compassionate and the one who keeps the morale of the group up for the most part. He's the emotional core of the group. Unlike Ron, though, he's very talented, because, as I said, they're all Mary Sues. Aaron was the one good thing about this book. I love him, he has lots of slash potential with Call (and I don't love him just because of that, just to be clear). I was glad about the spoiler I just mentioned, but it doesn't look like it's going to make him any more important anytime soon.

Third and last is Hermione Tamara. Tamara started out as weirdly judgmental, to the point where I almost expected her to be one of the "bullies" of the book (and I'm getting to the actual bully, don't worry). She's also a POC, which is pretty cool. I say she's the Hermione, and in a sense, she is: she's the smart one, the one with the information, the one who makes the plot move and/or who deduces stuff, the one who respects the rules, and arguably the best mage at this point in the story. However, she lacks what made Hermione interesting: the outsider aspect. Hermione is impressive because she's Muggleborn, and still manages to outperform everyone, not because she's the Chosen One or is talented (though she probably is), but because she works for it. Tamara is the one with information because she's the only main character who comes from a mage family (well, Call does too, but his dad's an asshole, I'll get back to that). Suddenly it's not very impressive anymore. As for her talent…well, they're all Mary Sues, so she stands out much less.

So. The rest of the cast. I'll just go through them by order of appearance. Call's dad, Alastair, is a retired mage. We know most of his backstory (dead wife and brother-in-law, his wife left him a warning about their son) because he's the PoV in the prologue, but Call doesn't know, because Alastair developed a hatred towards mages and magic. So much so that he wasn't even bothered to heal his son's leg with magic, and now it's irreparable. Alastair is an abusive dad, and I will fight you on this. He lies to, and manipulates, his son at every opportunity. He fucking throws a dagger at him. It's retconned later as Alastair throwing it to him, but I'm not buying it. He could have prevented half of the reveals in the book (at least) by just talking to his son. I hate Alastair.

Next is our resident bully, Jasper. Or… "bully". Jasper is one of those fictional bullies that everyone (in the book) acknowledges as a bully. He fails at everything he undertakes, he loses his best friend (Tamara). Nobody likes him. And yet… somehow he still acts like a bully and gets away with it. That doesn't work. Bullies can only exist because most people let them. I know it's hard to think about that when you're a victim of bullying (or reading a book about a victim of bullying), but it's true. So… yeah, Jasper is a failure of a character. He's also completely irrelevant to the plot.

Next up is… I don't remember, so I'll go with Rufus. He's the Dumbledore. A black Dumbledore, which, again, is appreciated, but he's still Dumbledore. He also probably knows a lot more than he lets on (including knowing that Call breaks into his office at one point which isn't addressed, for some reason), and probably does some manipulation. Instead of being the school's director, he's only our trio's personal mentor. And he's the best teacher… or so the book tells us. The truth is, every single Master is a terrible educator, and we can range them only from "least awful" to "fucking get this person arrested already". And Rufus isn't even on the former end of the spectrum—although he's not on the latter end either. His methods get the best results, which makes me wonder why the other Masters don't do the same as he does. Rufus also knew and mentored Call's parents (sound familiar?).

Last character worth mentioning is Drew. At first he looks like he's going to be your Neville. Then the book pulls a twist out of nowhere for him (). It was a terrible twist, because it felt like the book just pulled it out of its ass. That's literally all I have to say about him…or wait, no, I just wish it was. Because, due to the above spoiler, Drew fakes his innocence, and uses it to accuse his mentor of emotional abuse and get him fired. Does this book not realize how irresponsible this is? Does this book live in a beautiful world where abuse victims aren't accused of lying by literally everyone? Because I don't, so this is a terrible thing to write about. No, I'm not putting this under spoilers tags. This is way too important.

The plot is basically inexistent. You know how I compare the book to Harry Potter? You know how every Harry Potter book introduces the main mystery early on, builds up on it gradually, until the climax which is payoff for all the setup? Well, that doesn't happen here. The characters are at school, learn school stuff. The climax just sort of…happens, completely by accident. I mean, sure, we'd set up the general threat of the villain, but nothing specific, and certainly not this. And most importantly, our protagonist do jack shit to make the climax happen. Which I hate in every book.

There was also not a single thought put into the world. There's a masquerade, because… of course there is. No, seriously, Call says it's "obvious" they should keep magic a secret and just moves on to something else. Even at its best, the trope bothers me, but this one is just lazy. Aside from that, the magic system presents zero originality or effort (from the writers, or from the characters who are learning it), all adults are useless as usual in a Clare book, there's way too much purple prose but it doesn't mean anything (there has to be at least half a dozen descriptions of how the Magisterium is a beautiful place; I got it the first time).

Aaand I think that's enough ranting. There could have been a few redeemable things about the book (Aaron <3), but by the end, the terrible twists, the plagiarism, and the fucking use of fake accusations of abuse as a villain's ploy bothered me way too much.
Profile Image for Mizuki.
2,908 reviews1,160 followers
December 30, 2015
Note: I am fully aware of the fact that Harry Potter is NOT the first ever YA fantasy series with 'a boy goes to a magical school' setting in it, but The Iron Trial is still a Harry Potter ripoff. It's clear as day.

And no, I'm not a Harry Potter fan, so kindly put your 'angry Harry Potter fangirl' comments on hold.

Ms. Holly Black, I'm so disappointed in you, I know you can do better than messing about with the likes of Cassandra Clare.


And believe me...being a Harry Potter ripoff is not even the worst problem of this book.

What I don't like about this book, a simple checklist:

(1) Really obvious Harry Potter ripoff

I know, authors need to pay rent too, but can they be a bit less lazy and working on their own ideas instead of ripping J K. Rowling off?

Here're the details:

5 pages into the story, we are treated with a bunch of people being murdered by the Enemy of Death and a little boy is the only survivor...his mother also died protecting him...

Hello, The Boy Who Lives?

Plus, like Harry this little boy just also has to be so very famous, he is known among his peers, even the mayor knows who he is, even the teachers from the magical school know who he is, even the bad guys are aware of him. Ugh huh, I have no comment here.

There's more...three kids, two boys and one girl (an outstandingly smart girl, mind you) working as a team for the school year and they also has a mentor who seems to know more about the boy's identity and the secrets from the past than he let on...again, no comment.

Just look at the book cover and the name 'The Enemy of Death'...are you really going to tell me these fail to remind you of a certain You Know Who?

And don't even get me started with how I mean, if you must rip J K. Rowling off, couldn't you have done it in a little bit more subtle way!?

If you want even more details, check out LillyCat's review

(2) Mary Sue and unlikable characters

For too many times the main characters said things which are supposed to be smart and humorous, but they always fall flat.

Sounding familiar, isn't it? It reminds me of all those supposedly 'brave, sassy, funny and strong' characters from Clare's Shadowhunters books which are actually unlikable brats and assholes.

Not to mention, the smart girl in the crew is an unlikable Know-It-All, whilst one of the MCs turns out to be a walking stereotype for a Golden Boy. Plus two of those MCs gave another MC silent treatment for three weeks after he messed up in practice. How charming.

Guess what? At least in Harry Potter, the kids used to behave in a somewhat likable and reasonable way, and they protected their friends when said friends got into trouble with their teachers. Sadly I hadn't seen the kids in The Iron Trial did the same.

I know, at least this book actually includes POC (people of colors) as the main characters, this much I can appreciate, but still.

(3) the Mages-teachers who are stupid and horrible educators

In this book, the mages in this magical school are terrible as educators and these mages also suck totally at fighting the evil Chaos-ridden too. I wonder why after so many years the bad guys still haven't managed to defeat those stupid mages.

Here're a few examples:

At the very beginning, these mages are wrenching a 12 years old boy from his father and they were going to keep the boy *without his father's consent*, and you are telling me those mages are supposed to be the good guys!? And it's supposed to happen in the alternative modern America (which is supposed to be quite similar with our world)!?

Also, students are requested to try moving the sand with their will power for five whole weeks (or five months, can't recall which), and I suppose nothing else can motivate 12 years old kids to learn about magic than this?

Also, those mages have lied to the kids and their parents when they lured them to their magical school with fake invitation letters which were supposedly sent by ballet schools and other schools of talents! Many of the kids' parents have not the slightest idea that they are sending their kids off to apply for a magical school which is going to train them to be magical warriors of some sort and also to fight with some deadly and evil Chaos-ridden, aka monsters and murderers! What The Hell!?

I told you, those mages are terrible people.



(4) The most boring and senseless magical school and magic training ever


Fire wants to burn
Water wants to flow
Air wants to raise
Earth wants to bind
Chaos wants to devour


These must be one of the most unimaginative and unmagical description I've ever heard about magic.

However, I would admit the idea of mages and their counterweights is a decent one, but it isn't like we have never seen this idea coming into play before.

(5) the world building...or the lack of it

In the world of The Iron Trial, for some reasons mages are allowed to war against each other on a regular basis, but why? Isn't this story taken place in the freaking MODERN WORLD? Why would the government allow this?

Plus, why must the existence of mages and magic be hidden in secret when the mages must live among humans and there are also untrained 'gifted' children walking among the general public unintentionally summoning/using their magical power? I mean, there have been freaking wars among the mages and the rest of the world is still in the dark! Why aren't these mages running the governments and running businesses *since they have power that normal people don't have?* How freaking believable!

And I'd already informed you those mages can keep a 12 years old boy despite the lack of parental consent. Again, I have no word.

Am I going to read the next book in the future? I am not even sure.
Profile Image for Manon.
274 reviews101 followers
August 20, 2014
More reviews on my blog, Exploring Pages.
"As he bent closer, he realized they were words -- words his wife had carved into the cave ice with the last of her dying strength. As he read them, he felt them like three hard blows in the stomach.
KILL THE CHILD"

- Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, The Iron Trial

Thank you Doubleday Children's Books for providing me with an advanced reading copy for review.

By reading The Iron Trial, the first book in the Magisterium series, I think I have signed up for an amazing adventure. Even though this book seems more like a set-up for what's still to come, I immensely enjoyed reading the story of Callum Hunt and his first experiences with the Magisterium. Now let's head into the deeper stuff.

Starting off with the characters, a lot of them already have my love. All well developed and each with their backstories. All of those quickly caught my interest, and I started to care for a lot of the characters. Not only Callum with his snarky comments, or Tamara who easily stands up for herself, or Aaron with all the surprising events involving him. Other characters such as Jasper, Celia, Drew,Warren, Rufus, and Alistair form a surprisingly fantastic combination with the other three main characters you'll get to love. And Havoc. I can't ever forget that cute little wolf I would adore to adopt, if not for that little thing.

Moving onto the world, I am thoroughly drawn into it. It is without a doubt, suitable for the story and genre and is most of all, original. I'm rather sure when I say you have never come across a world like this. The world itself is a lot more darker than you would normally encounter with a middle grade. Surely I was quite surprised with that, because I honestly didn't expect it to turn out like this. On the other hand, that doesn't mean I liked it less. In fact, because of this surprising touch to it I enjoyed it so much more. I understand why Call doesn't want to leave anymore at the end of the school year. I wouldn't either. Intriguing is the number one word to describe it all. The world of Magisterium has compelled me. Even though The Iron Trial is the first book and focuses on the world building and its history, there is still a lot undiscovered and I would love to read more about it.

The only thing that fell a bit short and so caused the four stars instead of the five, was the plot and pace in general. I didn't feel like there was much plot present in this book because of the constant amount of world building and character development. I didn't like how they were trained as apprentices and I would have loved to gain some more insight on their training as a whole. I still wonder what the actual meaning was of the sorting out of the sand. It surely increased their focus and patience, yet I do hope that some more action-packed lessons are set for the sequels.

Feel free to set those prejudices towards this book because it's supposedly a Harry Potter rip-off aside, and let me tell you why. Just because J.K. Rowling wrote a world-wide known series about wizards and witches, doesn't mean that the woman holds the copy right to everything written in that particular genre. I do understand that it's never possible to completely write a book different to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Once you head towards that particular genre, you'll always going to end up with similarities, no matter how hard you try. There will always be someone calling it a rip-off from something else. But let me repeat myself again: it's not because someone else gets wildly popular in a particular genre that it's impossible for others to write in that genre too. Dear God, for now I'm patiently waiting until everyone reads this book and then all stop with judging.

So to everyone out there thinking this was going to be yet another Harry Potter rip-off: it isn't. The Iron Trial is a magical thrill ride on its own and filled with amazing characters, plot twists and a fascinating world. Despite the small resemblances to other middle grade's I've read and the slower pace, I still loved reading the book. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the series holds, but I don't think I will have the patience to wait another year. Dammit.

Before reading

To all those out there saying it sounds like a Harry Potter rip-off, kindly read this question I asked Holly Black to clear it up:

How would you describe your upcoming project 'The Iron Trial' with Cassandra Clare? What will make it stand out from other books in the warlock/wizard/witch genre?

That's a great question and one Cassie and I discussed a lot when we decided to go forward with the project. There have been a lot of stories about witches, wizards and warlocks. Obviously, Harry Potter casts a long shadow, but there's also Books of Magic, Wich Witch, Wizard's Hall, So You Want to Be a Wizard, Howl's Moving Castle, etc.

What we tried to do -- and what I always think is the obligation of a writer -- is too add to the conversation. We wanted to build a fun world, characters we loved, and as many twists and surprises as we could come up with. We hope that reader familiarity with witch and wizard books actually allows us a little more flexibility in terms of what readers will go along with -- and also maybe there are things they won't at all suspect!

I would describe The Iron Trial as being about a kid named Call who really, really, really doesn't want to go to magic school. He's been told his whole life that mages are dangerous, that they'll take you down into their tunnels and that if they make him take the test to get into magic school, you better fail. So what happens if failing spectacularly isn't enough to save him?


Overall, wait until September until you start raving about it being a rip-off. Judgemental peeps.
Profile Image for Tina ➹ Woman, Life, Freedom.
377 reviews399 followers
August 12, 2019
4.5 Golden Stars!

omg! this story was amazing & cute! I didn't see that coming!
I literally couldn't stop reading!
I wanna go there! I want to go to Magisterium! I wanna eat those delicious weird food & drinks!
I guess this series going to be in my TOP 10 favorites.
I mean:

amazing Idea

"Elemental Magic School
in
Our Reality!"
& very Unique! (you'll see!)

with lovable Characters!
exciting Plot!
in an interesting world building wrapped up in our reality.
all I need to love a series.

one of the best middle grades I've ever read (after Deltora quests)
Attention: for me HP, Riordanverse, Pendragon & the secrets of Nicholas flamel is more young adult because almost everyone can enjoy it regardless of age. ;)

-
World building: ★★★★★/5
Characters: ★★★★/5
Writing style: ★★★★/5
plot: ★★★★★/5
Cover: ★★★★★/5
General idea: ★★★★★/5
Profile Image for Fenia.
253 reviews453 followers
November 13, 2014
WOW. That's my first reaction after finishing it. WOW. READ IT PEOPLE. So yes,it was similar to Harry Potter. So yes,it was REALLY similar to Harry Potter. But you know what? I haven't read a Harry Potter book for what? 7 years? So you bet your sweet as* that I loved this one!!! I missed magic ♥

I can actually imagine Cassie writing this,all happy and excited because she began her career writing HP fan-fiction,so this book is like a dream come true to her. xD I love Cassie,and i'm really pissed of with all the hate. You don't get to judge the creator of Jace Wayland and Will Herondale. You just don't. NO. STOP. I don't know Holly Black,but i want to. After reading this one,reading her books is a 'MUST'.

So about the book. The fact that it was like Harry Potter made it really familiar,it was like i knew it,it felt home. BUT there was so much mystery,suspense and just this black area we knew nothing about. That made me turn the pages like a maniac. AMAZING PLOT DEVELOPMENT. Things do get clear at the end of the book,with a twist i didn't expect. WOW. I can't wait to read what happens next. Lovely book. Stop the hate.
Profile Image for ambsreads.
656 reviews1,403 followers
August 8, 2017
This review is also can be found on my blog

R A M B L E

I want to preface my ramble with the fact that I know this is basically a mash up of Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan and Harry Potter by JK Rowling. The thing is, though, those are two of my favourite series that exist. Because of that, it doesn't take a genius to work out why I loved this book. 

The Iron Trial also isn't the same recycled plot line we have seen with books trying to be the next Percy Jackson or Harry Potter. This book doesn't include a special snowflake character and it really doesn't include a character who is instantly popular because of his parentage. 

In fact, the only thing this has in common with the other two series is a magic school of sorts and, well, magic. Holly Black and Cassandra Clare manage to create a world unlike any other, with a few stereotypical characters but twists everywhere. I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation. 

My four-star rating instead of a five is simply because this book had a lot of information dropped on us. It is the first book in the series, after all. Not a lot happened because of this. We had to learn our characters and the world, so I can only imagine how much better the next books in the series will be. 

C H A R A C T E R S

#C A L L U M 

Callum Hunt is the main character of this story and he does not want to be at the Magisterium. His father has informed him its full of evil people and he will die. Which, if you ask me, is a lot to tell a twelve-year-old. So, when the trials come along to get into the Magisterium and learn how to be a mage, Callum tries his best to fail every test. Some are easier to fail, like the physical based exercises since all the bones in his leg were shattered when he was a baby, but some he does well at and manages to show that he deserves to be at the school. 

I found Callum to be an interesting character. He goes through some major character development throughout the book, considering he went from having no friends bar his father to having two his age (lots of struggles arise with this, of course). He had been so manipulated into a belief by his father that it broke my heart, seeing how he believed everything so completely. It simply shows how trusting children are of their parents. 

I definitely enjoyed Callum as the main character and am excited to read about him more. 

# T A M A R A 

You may look at Tamara and presume she is the classic Hermione or Annabeth of the group, simply as a comparison. Sure, Tamara is the most clued into the Magisterium world, but she is no Hermione or Annabeth. She is on a whole other level that made her kickass. Tamara has expectations to fill and her parents are in the clue on the magic world, definitely not your classic smart girl trope we have seen twice (I would say many times before, but I can't really think of other times). 

I found her refreshing around the boys, she was sarcastic, brilliant and knew what she was doing. A definite role model to young girls who may pick up this series. 

#A A R O N 

Aaron is the only character in The Iron Trial I'm unsure as to how to feel. I didn't really connect to him on the same level I did Callum or Tamara, it may because he didn't say much throughout this book. I'm certain he becomes a larger character as the series progresses, especially with the events that unfolded throughout this book. However, for now, I don't have many thoughts on him. 

P L O T 

Since this is a middle-grade book and the first book in a series there wasn't too much in the way of plot. We are really getting a feel for the school and the characters, learning the world. There is some plot, don't get me wrong, it really starts coming into play around 70% though. It is incredibly interesting, what we did learn. I was staring at my ebook with my eyes open and mouth dropped, not something very common in middle-grade novels. 

O V E R A L L 

I loved this book. It's what I needed after so many bad books in a row. I'm excited to pick up the next book in the series. The writing style is basically flawless (remembering it is for a younger audience), Cassandra Clare and Holly Black seamlessly write together and I couldn't pick apart who had written what. I will definitely need to pick up more of Holly Black's books once I'm all caught up on this. 
Profile Image for Anniebananie.
516 reviews384 followers
January 31, 2020
Gut, dass ich das Buch endlich mal von meinem SuB befreien konnte. Dass es dort überhaupt so lange lag war meine Angst, dass es mir nicht gefallen könnte, da jede Rezension die Ähnlichkeit zu Harry Potter bemängelt. (Und wir wissen: nichts geht über Harry Potter!) Aber ich muss sagen: die Ähnlichkeiten zu Harry Potter sind wirklich da, ja. ABER: grade das hat mir so viel Spaß gemacht beim Lesen. Es war ein absolutes Wohlfühlbuch!
Ein weiterer Pluspunkt war für mich, dass unser Protagonist ein Handicap hat, das fand ich für ein Jugendbuch so cool und wichtig. Auch wie er selber und die anderen damit umgehen, klasse. Negativ dagegen war für mich die fehlende Tiefe, was die Bindung der einzelnen Schüler zueinander angeht. Da hoffe ich ja stark auf Band 2.
Der Schreibstil war zwar recht einfach, aber dennoch sehr humorvoll und daher super leicht und schnell zu lesen. Für ein Jugendbuch also absolut angebracht.
Und Leute mit dem Plottwist bzw. den (PLURAL!) Plottwists am Ende hatte ich so überhaupt nicht gerechnet, das hat mich kalt erwischt und total begeistert! Ich gebe trotzdem nur 4 Sterne, weil ich denke, dass da noch Luft nach oben ist im Laufe der Reihe. Trotzdem: klare Leseempfehlung für Jung und Alt ;)
Profile Image for Calista.
3,792 reviews31.2k followers
March 18, 2019
I had a lot of fun reading this little book. There are some obvious comparisons to Harry Potter. The group of friends is 2 boys and a girl at a magic school, but beyond that, I don't think the comparisons go that far.

We are brought into this mysterious world of the Magisterium, a collection of mages. (Why is mage so popular? Carry On by Rainbow Rowell also uses the term Mages.) Callum is told by his father that this world is horrible and he is brought up to hate it. He tries to fail his test to get into the school and he fails miserably to fail. They are spectacular misfires of magic. He meets his team and they are put through slow boring lessons where he makes his first friends of his life.

I thought the world was interesting with lots of fun surprises. I did love the ending of this book. I thought I had things figured out, but I was a little surprised by the ending. I have to say it was nice. Maybe my brain is worn out and I should have caught this.

There are plenty of mysteries to be solved by Callum and his friends and plenty of tests that must be taken. There are plenty of failures and triumphs by the 3 kids. I can't wait to read the rest of this series. It is an exciting new addition to the middle grade genre by 2 talented writers. I'm excited to know more about this world.
Profile Image for Juliana Zapata.
280 reviews4,207 followers
July 3, 2015
Es mas un 3.5 que un 3
El ritmo del libro es muy lento para mi gusto, esperaba mucha más acción y más magia, pero al igual que los personajes principales, me aburrí con el Magisterium las primeras 240 páginas, lo que es mucho teniendo en cuenta que el libro tiene 300.

Qué salvo el libro? Los giros en la trama, los descubrimientos y la acción de las últimas escenas, es como si una autora escribiera la primera parte y la otra la segunda, el ritmo y las escenas cambian rotundamente.

Reseña Completa: http://bastvilard.blogspot.com/2015/0...
589 reviews1,030 followers
October 22, 2014
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

1.5 stars

When reading a book, one expects the following: 1) an original storyline and 2) one that will not make you fall asleep one chapter in. The Iron Trial, despite being co-written by two totally capable authors, just didn’t make 1) or 2) happen.

Harry Potter, anyone? I bet we all saw this one coming, regardless whether you’ve read the book yet or not. It’s about tweens, it’s got magic, it’s got 3 freaking kids on the front cover and in the background, there is a creepy looking thing that could draw parallels with good ole’ Voldermort. Personally, I wanted to hold all pre-judgement aside and read it seeing as it’s written by Cassie Clare and Holly Black for goodness sake. Unfortunately, these parallels only became more prominent and infuriatingly annoying after reading the book. The atmosphere was practically singing Hogwarts, but only not as well executed. I expected really imaginative and big things from this pair, however, it just wasn’t the case here.

The book starts with Callum sitting a series of tests to see if he can gain entrance to the Magisterium where he can learn magic from mages. His father is completely against the Magisterium after his wife died at their expense, and he has been forcing Callum to fail The Iron Trial on purpose so no mage will take him up as an apprentice. Callum does obey his father, though strangely, a mage chooses him anyway, and Callum has no choice but to go to the Magisterium.

Less ideal, were the characters. There’s plenty of diversity in terms of personality and cultural backgrounds, yet they lack substance. I felt no real grasp on the characters at all—they lacked that emotional bond and didn’t spring out of the page at all. Not even Callum, the main character. These are simply not characters that I would root for; they lacked depth and shape and even though this is an MG novel, and I know MG characters can be crafted well—The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand being one notable example. (To be honest, I’ve already forgotten every other characters’ names aside from Callum.)

Another thing that this first instalment lacked was the idea of keeping the reader actually interested and engaged. No jokes, I fell asleep after reading chapter one. And that never happens to me. But you can’t blame me though, the first paragraph was a boring, character profile info-dump. If chapter one couldn’t keep me interested, then you can assume what I did for about the last half of the book. Yep, I skimmed it. This felt very much like a set up for a series because we were just getting a lot of irrelevant info-dumps and monotonous and completely unnecessary events happening. Not that that is what’s supposed to happen in a first instalment.

I cannot recommend this book for it has disappointed me deeply. I highly doubt that I’ll bother continuing with this series as the characters and storyline failed to engage me entirely.

~Thank you Random House Australia for sending me this copy!~

Profile Image for Dylan Williams.
86 reviews557 followers
September 1, 2016
I haven't had that much fun reading a book in a very long time, fantastic!
Profile Image for LENA TRAK.
127 reviews106 followers
March 5, 2021
Too many similarities to the Harry Potter books... Hmmm not sure how I feel about this..

Anyway, I found the first half of the book rather boring but I have to admit I enjoyed the final 100 pages, the twist in the end was totally unpredictable.

2,5 stars for The Iron Trial!
I can't say this book lived up to my expectations 😇
November 21, 2017
Actual rating: 3.6 ⭐️

Story ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
All his life Calls father told him how bad the Magisterium was. How people died, how his mother died because of them.
So when the day came to get into the Magisterium, Call tried really hard to fail.
But he still got a place in the strongest team of the Magisterium and begins to learn how to control magic.
A few things I could guess, but the ending, Guys 👌🏻👏🏻 that was something I haven’t seen coming.

Characters ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In the beginning I was a little bit annoyed with Call. He was so stubborn, never listening to anything. But with time he got smarter and I started liking him. Even with his broken leg he tried to be normal, to be strong and that made him really brave and admirable.

World ⭐️⭐️⭐️
There are magicians fighting the chaos-ridden and their leader Constantin Madden.
Even if I really liked the whole school concept with the different stones, I’m still confused about some of the other world building. I mean there are so many questions that aren’t answered.
And it did remind me of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but it still had its own touch.

Relationships ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored the friendship the three of them build.
I want to have the same friendship they have.
Really adorable and amazing.

Writing style ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I had fun reading this book, it was really enjoyable.
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