Original publish date: 8 August 2014
A collaborative effort of established authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare of The Spiderwick Chronicles and The Mortal Instruments, respectively, The Iron Trial is the first book in the five book Magisterium series. The Iron Trial is a middle grade fantasy that involves preteens learning about their magic and how to control it and it will be available for purchase on September 9, 2014.
A war between the forces of good and evil is a tale as old as time. Magic in the world as we know it but obscured from the masses and skills practiced at a hidden school is nothing groundbreaking. Feeling like a freak who can’t fit in, struggling against parental authority, and building a sense of identity are all familiar things that are incorporated into the fantasy world of mages in The Iron Trial. 12 year old Callum (Call) Hunt is testing for admission to the Magisterium and his father, Alastair, coaches him to fail so he won’t have to be a part of the dangerous magic world; however, despite Call’s lame leg and his not-so-on-purpose attempt to fail the “entrance exams” he is selected to study at the Magisterium where he learns about his magic and puzzles out the secrets of his dad’s adamant wishes for him to not practice magic.
The difference between the prologue and the first chapter threw me for a loop on what kind of fantasy novel it was going to be. The prologue seemed more fantasy and further back in history than where and how the rest of the book actually took place. But after that, the writing was engaging and offered plenty of little plot twists to keep it interesting; however, it seems as if it’s virtually impossible to NOT compare new fantasy series books to Harry Potter, so here it goes. The common area of the different groups within the Magisterium reminded me quite a lot of the common rooms in Harry Potter, particularly the underground Slytherin common room as the Magisterium is housed in a cavern system. The story focuses around a trio, two boys and one girl, who are trying to find themselves and their place within the magical world. The apprentices are separated into years to distinguish their magical skills and education. And then there’s the bit about an evil soul housed within the protagonist and a conflict of identity arises.
Reading the book had me thinking back on the very first time I read Harry Potter and the parallels are abundant–and I might be making those connections because of how near and dear Harry Potter is to my life, but it all reality it does seem to be rather blatant. I will never entirely believe myself if I say that something will be the “next Harry Potter” because Harry Potter is a special phenomenon that paved the way for the contemporary fantasy-driven series, but The Magisterium Series has the potential to resonate with the Harry Potter audience (those who are willing to suspend their disbelief at the rather obvious “flattery” of being copied) and the imagination of younger readers who have yet to be introduced to Harry Potter.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.