Book Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

20578940Title: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1)

Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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 . . .

I wanted to like The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1). Really, I did. I enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, and although I haven’t read any of Holly Black’s books yet (shame on me), others have told me what an amazing author she is. Granted, the synopsis of this book read like a summary of Harry Potter, and I saw the similarities, but I still hoped the book would be different enough. Alas, turns out it wasn’t.

The basic plot eerily resembles Harry Potter. A young man, Callum Hunt, goes to a magician’s school to learn control his magic. Except, Call doesn’t really want to go – all his life, his dad told him to stay away from magic. His dad wants him to fail The Iron Trial, the rest that allows certain kids into magic school, called the Magisterium. But despite Call doing everything he can to fail, he gets accepted anyway. He’ll discover what secrets the Magisterium holds, and if it’s really as horrible as his dad warned him about…

All right, so I’m all for how people should still be allowed to write books about kids going to magic school. Harry Potter did it, sure, but it’s been done before, and it’s been done after (I’m thinking “The School of Good and Evil, which was also about a magic school). But…There’s a difference between having the same basic plot (kid goes to magic school), which is no biggie…and rehearsing just about every single thing from the Harry Potter books.

The villain here is a one-dimensional baddy called “The Enemy”, supposedly because people are too afraid to say his name. Ring a bell? The main character has two best friends: a boy and a girl (again, Harry Potter similarities). And then the most OBVIOUS one  – at birth, called was marked by the Enemy. The parallels are MORE than just ‘kid going to magic school’, and they’re annoying. They made me roll my eyes. They even made me upset. I can only tolerate so many similarities, people.

On top of that, the book just doesn’t have anything original. Not a single thing. The plot is boring and overused, bordering on cliché. The characters are stereotypes and two-dimensional. The magic system is flawed, the world building needs serious work. Connecting to any of the characters, even Call, was almost impossible. The pace is slow, especially from the moment Call enters the Magisterium, and it drags on for pages on end, even taking some detours in the plot.

The surprise at the end was a fun twist, but one that I saw coming from miles away. I know I’m not a middle grader and that middle graders might love this, but I seriously doubt it. Kids are picky nowadays. They too want good world building and characters they can root for. So even if the writing isn’t always stellar, they at least want a decent plot and plenty of action, none of which they’ve given here.

If you want a good fantasy book for middle graders, pick up the Lockwood & Co series. It’s infinitely better than this one.


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