Title: The Iron Trial
Author: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Series: The Magisterium
Recommended for: 4th – 8th grade
Call Number/Link: J FICTION BLACK, H.
Synopsis: All his life Callum Hunt has been warned by his father that practicing magic is a guaranteed death sentence, the only certain way to make sure he doesn’t reach his 18th birthday. When Call is summoned to attend the entrance exams for The Magisterium, a more-sinister version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, he promises his father he will deliberately fail the test to avoid the dangerous lure of magic school. Unfortunately, magic is in Call’s blood, and though his permanent limp and sarcastic attitude do not appear to serve him well during testing, he is selected with two other “Iron Years” to be a pupil of the greatest mage of all, Master Rufus. Black and Clare have created a unique world in The Magisterium, adroitly sidestepping reader fatigue with the many post-Harry Potter “magical academy” fiction series. The underground school’s labyrinthine tunnels, mysterious caverns, and strange rivers are an alternately wondrous and creepy setting for this hero’s quest. The diverse main trio’s multidimensional portrayals leave aside easy characterizations in favor of complex motivations which add depth to each character. Best of all, a late-stage reveal of the novel’s true hero and villain neatly turn fantasy tropes on their heads.
A lot of people are comparing this to Harry Potter and there is a definite feeling of familiarity for Potter fans. This is not quite up to Potter level (what is?) but still very good. Lots of action and a nice twist at the end. I was actually surprised by some of the characters, which doesn’t happen often. People are often not who they seem to be. The setting underground with lots of creepy caverns and fungus at every meal (which tastes like pizza, hamburgers, etc.) is fun. There is a lot of set up for the magisterium world in this first book so I would expect even more action in the books to follow as the students progress through their magic school years (sound familiar?). A good book for fans of fantasies like Harry and Percy.