(Deja Vu?): The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

(Deja Vu?): The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra ClareThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black

Published by Random House Children's Books on 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Middle Grade, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought for Myself

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From the imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping plunge into the magical unknown. Think you know magic? Think again. The Magisterium awaits . . . Most people would do anything to get into the Magisterium and pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. Call has been told his whole life that he should never trust a magician. And so he tries his best to do his worst - but fails at failing. Now he must enter the Magisterium. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister. And Call realizes it has dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning. Call's biggest test is still to come . . .

Callum Hunt isn’t like most twelve year old boys. He’s magical. Despite his father doing all he could to prevent it, Call finds himself as a student for the prestigious and mysterious Magisterium – a magical school hidden from human eyes. At the Magisterium, Call learns more about his magical legacy as well as his part to play in defeating the biggest threat the magical world has ever seen.

Sound familiar?

When I first began reading The Iron Trial I was asked what I thought about the similarities to Harry Potter. And it is impossible to read this book without comparing the two.

For much of this book the main difference between Call and Harry was their accents. They are both messy black haired preteens who had their mothers taken from them at a very young age. Their magical mentors are both people who knew their parents very well. Their parents were both involved in a showdown between good and evil, and in both stories we even have main character boy-boy-girl Golden trios. Need I go on? Because the list goes on and on.

I’m not saying that JK Rowling has exhausted the market on magical teenage boarding schools but the overlap between the Magisterium and Hogwarts based stories is rather overwhelming.

There is a lot that is the same but if you can get over the similarities, The Iron Trial does have something unique to offer. The world Call inhabits is darker and the threat seems real to him and his fellow students. Call is understandably angry with his situation and that works with this story. His relationships over the course of the novel felt authentic and I liked that he was a little less naive than the typical main character thrown into a fish out of water situation. The writing style is easy to read and the authors blended their styles together flawlessly.

And then there’s the ending. I loved the ending. For me the ending almost made up for me considering abandoning the novel half a dozen times along the way. Almost.

When it comes to books like this, I think you do need to suspend your disbelief at times to enjoy the overall story. There are some plot points and occurrences which just seem unbelievable for a number of reasons. Or unethical. Or just plain stupid. But if you don’t question things too much you’ll enjoy the journey the authors are taking you on more.

Despite everything, The Iron Trial does have something different to offer readers. I think readers will probably find themselves either loving or hating the similarities to Harry Potter but if they stick around to the end should find themselves satisfied by where the story ends up. I’ve already bought myself a copy of the second book in the series and despite my reservations for the Iron Trial, I am optimistic for the future of this series.



    • I only picked it up because of the authors. I went to an event with both of them and thought I should read it before I went!
      It is a typical kind of middle grade novel in terms of how to reads. I’ve read half of the second book in this series now and I’m having many of the same problems that I had at the start of The Iron Trial. I’m not sure if it’s a series I would recommend.

  1. Um…… so I’m jumping right to the comments after reading your first paragraph. Are you sure you didn’t write that after reading The Sorcerer’s Stone?

    And I’m back after reading the rest. I cannot believe the similarities between this and Harry Potter and honestly I probably wouldn’t read it just because of that. :/ I’m glad to hear the ending was different and exciting, at least! Great review!

    • Thanks Tracy! I saw Holly Black and Cassandra Clare at an event and they were saying they wouldn’t have written this book if they didn’t think they had something new to add to the magical boarding school genre. But I’m not sure they were different enough. That said, it’s not a bad book it just feels like I’ve read it all before. And I’m not saying Harry Potter is better but HP was a big part of my childhood. Maybe I romanticise it because of that but The Iron Trial just felt a little flat when compared with HP.

  2. Wow, even the cover features a dementor! I like Holly Black, and might read this despite the semi-plagiarism issues you talked about. While I think it’s bizarre that two highly successful fantasy authors couldn’t come up with a fresher concept, I am curious about the ending now!

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