C.G. Drews's Reviews > The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial by Holly Black
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jun 01, 2014

liked it
bookshelves: 3-star, middle-grade, magical-fantasy, read-2014

I am so torn about what to think of this book. I half hated it, and I half loved it. It seemed dabble too closely to Harry Potter territory, but at the same time absolutely SMASHED stereotypes and cliches. (Particularly at the end! Seriously, whatever you do, do NOT stop reading this book halfway. The gold is the HUGE reveal at the end!!)

I'm soo torn, I'm just going to write a list, okay?! WE LOVE LISTS. (Don't roll your eyes at me.)


- Call was a very unique narrator. He's 12 and really angry and bitter, which was refreshing (in a caustic way). He's also a trouble maker. Like Ramona Quimby though...so completely accidental, although he doesn't ever try to be perfect. Call also is crippled in one leg.

- The book began with a serious BANG! Call's father walks onto a battlefield and discovers his wife dead and his baby son with his leg smashed. His wife carved in the ice KILL THE CHILD...and ohhhh, that sparks so much intrigue. (Although, I was thinking about all the routes you could go with a delicious phrase like that, and I coincidentally thought about what I would do if I was a writer. I picked the right trail. I predicted the ending from page 5...but I don't think that'd happen to everyone.)

- THE ENDING. OMG THE ENDING!!! It was so unique and so utterly unprecedented and I...I'm still gobsmacked. The ending blew all my previous growlings out of the water. It knocked me down. IT MAKES ME WANT TO RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FROM THE ROOFTOPS.


- Okay...there is a lot of subtle child abuse. It frustrates me because the "good guys" are the ones being cruel and downright wrong, and I find this unacceptable. I don't think it's fair or right to write books for 12-year-olds where the adult figures are doing WRONG things, but it's written in a "well that's just how it is" light. Kids do not deserve to be treated poorly. And I think the more society underlines that "eh, yeah, whatever, that's just how it is...adults treat kids bad" then the more it become "acceptable" for us to continue it. IT IS WRONG! STOP WRITING ABOUT IT LIKE IT'S FINE.
Call gets dragged away from his father, kicking and screaming, at the beginning of the book. He doesn't want to go to Magic School. His father doesn't want him to. Call is begging to stay. And worse still, they take him against his will to this school and then do not let him speak to his father. Not a phone call. Not a visit. THE KID IS 12 FREAKING YEARS OLD. Am I the only one disturbed? I was angry. I was furious. This is never ever indicated as "wrong" later.

- The Magisterium (magic school) basically lies to the parents. They say the school is for anything that will make the kids succeed. So you go there thinking it's "ballet school" or "pre-med school" or..."pony school" (that happened) and then it turns out to be magic school where you'll never see your kids for a whole year. THAT IS ALSO WRONG AND SCARY. And I didn't understand how this even worked, because most parents were magicians or came from magical families...so wouldn't they know how the school worked?? Still, the school effectively lures children in and kidnaps them. Am I the only one un-okay with this?

- The villain reveal. I can't go into this without spoilers...but seriously? Don't open these tags. DO NOT. The book will be ruined. (view spoiler)

- It was really super easy to see other influences in there. Like Harry Potter, but even Percy Jackson. And the whole "move one grain of sand at a time training" was, not only stiflingly boring to read about, but also felt like the Karate Kids' "wax on, wax off".

- The book felt more YA than MG... But the characters were only 12. So it's definitely MG...but the writing was thick, there were super long info dumps, and I was confused about the magic laws at the beginning. Like how the school functioned? How much magic is in the world? Is the test of "are you a wizard, 'Arry?" mandatory or optional? Why do they keep ferocious monsters in the school? (Just to lure kids in to be possibly eaten?) What are the Chaos-ridden exactly?? I have too many questions. I feel like the world needed so much more building.

- It wasn't funny. There were a few quippy lines in there, but Cassandra Clare is awesome for her humour! And Holly Black isn't too bad either...so...so where's the humour???

I'm not sorry I read this...but I'm torn whether I love it or hate it. I love both the authors and I'm so so excited they wrote together! I'm definitely reading the rest of the Magisterium books because DID I MENTION THE PLOT TWIST AT THE END IS FREAKING FANTASTIC??!!! IT IS! GO READ THIS BOOK!! Just remember, all the cliches at the beginning won't stay awfully obvious. There are suprirses. There is friendship. There is the equivalent of the cave-troll scene like in Harry Potter (okay, there are so many Harry Potter resemblences, down to Draco/Jasper being the bully.) And it does have an awesome cover.
19 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Iron Trial.
Sign In »

Quotes C.G. Liked

Cassandra Clare
“They all yelled in excitement. Tamara yelled because she was happy. Aaron yelled because he liked it when other people were happy, and Call yelled because he was sure they were going to die.”
Cassandra Clare, The Iron Trial

Reading Progress

June 1, 2014 – Shelved
June 1, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 11, 2014 – Started Reading
November 11, 2014 –
page 60
20.34% "I get why people compare it to Harry Potter...but I'm more concerned that it's MG but it reads like YA. o.O So much detail and complicated backstory..."
November 12, 2014 –
page 191
64.75% "I'm actually disturbed by the sheer level of child abuse in this book. o.O"
November 13, 2014 – Shelved as: 3-star
November 13, 2014 – Shelved as: middle-grade
November 13, 2014 – Shelved as: magical-fantasy
November 13, 2014 – Shelved as: read-2014
November 13, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam Whitehouse It could have been better than it was. Too derivative of other books.

C.G. Drews I'm a little dubious at the moment. I'm about 80-pages in and I like it, but there's a lot of info-dumping and the tone feels very YA, but it must be MG...eh. We'll see?!

message 3: by Sam (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sam Whitehouse Cait Grace wrote: "I'm a little dubious at the moment. I'm about 80-pages in and I like it, but there's a lot of info-dumping and the tone feels very YA, but it must be MG...eh. We'll see?!"
I thought the world building wasn't detailed enough. The school is too weird. But i kept comparing it to Potter, which probably wasn't a good idea.

C.G. Drews To be honest it'll be lucky to get a 3 from me at the moment...I'm really un-okay. I see a LOT of Potter comparisons, but I didn't grow up on Potter, so I suppose it's not my first thought? They dynamics of the trio though: YES. Gah! Couldn't they have least not made the one girl in the group the super studious one?? I definitely see the similarities.

back to top