ARC Review: The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial
The Iron Trial by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Release date: Sep 11, 2014

When it comes to the fantasy genre, boarding schools have been used so many times over – Harry Potter, Vampire Academy, Hex Hall – that you come to expect certain things. There is always a chosen one, there is a powerful enemy faction that needs destroying, etc. Magisterium, for the first half, clings to these tropes – in fact, I felt it was like the darker version of Harry Potter. Callum Hunt and other kids who show the potential for magic powers are inducted into the Magisterium at the age of 12 for training to control their unfocused powers. They pass each year and earn the metal on their cuff (similar to the beads in Camp Half-Blood) and there are five elements that they can use (similar to Vampire Academy). The fifth element, being from the Void, is dangerous to wield and only a select few can do so.

The prologue itself sets the story like you have it mapped in your head. Callum is so obviously the chosen one, or the dangerous one, depending on how you look at it. He is naturally going to pass the Iron Trial, though he doesn’t want to come to the Magisterium. The reason for his unwillingness is the fact that his father, a former mage, has drilled into his head from childhood that magic can only bring death and destruction. Naturally, Callum is wary of staying and fights it from the start. Magic school progresses – magical things happen, yawn! Callum’s sass is the only thing keeping you going here – because he recognizes the darkness in the school. But! The second half is the game-changer.

Clare and Black just smash all our preconceived ideas about how the book might progress and introduce the chosen one and the antagonist. I was left screaming ‘Oh my God’ in head, when that happened, (well, to be honest, I didn’t see that coming) and then during the climax I was ‘ooh, what will happen in the next book now?’. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what constitutes a good series – leave your readers wanting for more. The writing and the pacing, were, well, brisk, and at times, it felt rushed, but things slowing down in the second half plateaued the plot progression. The development of a bond between the three – Call, Aaron and Tamara, was expected but not realized until the time when Call volunteered to be Aaron’s counterweight. For a middle grade, this one packs a ton of feels, and I am just looking forward to how their friendship will play out with the plot of the book.

All I can say in conclusion is that – go read this, even if it feels like a Harry Potter redo. The book is good and I expect a lot from the sequel (fingers crossed).

Received an ARC from Random House Children’s Publishers UK via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion or review in any way.

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2 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Iron Trial

    • Oh, I didn’t mean the Harry Potter similarity as a bad thing. I found the twist in the story really good, and honestly I would read any Harry Potter retelling if it ever came in the future.

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