As two of the best-selling and most talked about YA fantasy authors, the collaboration series of Holly Black and Cassandra Clare was always going to make big waves in the teen book lovers community. I’m going to a signing for it at the beginning of next month and wanted to get it read before then, so that I’d have something to talk about with both authors. Although I have a fair few Holly Black books and Cassandra’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, The Iron Trial was my first dip into the worlds of both of their minds and I have to say that I am looking forward to reading more from them.
The Iron Trial is the first book in a new series, Magisterium, a prestigious magic academy that only takes the very best young magical minds. All his life, our protagonist Call has been told by his father that the Magisterium is dangerous and that he should never trust magicians, due to the tragic fate of his mother when Call was just a baby. When the time comes for Call to take The Iron Trial which will judge his ability to make it into the Magisterium, he tries his hardest to fail miserably and he does indeed come bottom of the rankings. Yet the mysterious Master Rufus selects him as one of his apprentices and Call is thrown into the dark magical world that he and his father have tried so hard to avoid. Making friends, uncovering secrets and learning his true power, Call eventually becomes attached to the alluring academy and the ominous shadows that surround it.
Although it may seem obvious even from the synopsis, it wouldn’t feel right not to draw on the comparisons between The Iron Trial and Harry Potter. There are a lot of similarities and the world that the Magisterium inhabits does definitely have an echo of Rowling’s infamous series. In fact, there are even character similarities between Rowling’s three heroes and The Iron Trial’s -Aaron is Harry, Tamara is Hermione and Call is perhaps a version of Ron. However, although these reflections do scream at me, I wouldn’t really say that The Iron Trial is like Harry Potter but with Ron as the main character. Call is not Ron. Although Call and Ron do have some common traits, Call is a brave, intelligent character in his own right and watching him grow over the course of the book is both exciting and heart-warming. Both Aaron and Tamara are much more like Harry and Hermione than Call is like Ron and I think it was seeing the characters that I’ve loved for so many years within them that caused me to connect with these new faces.
While it’s clear that the authors have drawn on inspiration from other successful fantasy series, the events and characters of The Iron Trial are unique. Despite being very familiar with series of this nature, I was taken by surprise on several occasions and it didn’t feel like I was reading a story that I’d read before. Being able to write a series that is ultimately similar to something that is already popular and yet still managing to keep it original must have been no mean feat and I wholeheartedly congratulate the authors on that. The writing style is fresh, engaging and on point while the story draws you right in just as Call is drawn into the Magisterium.
The level of mystery and secrecy is insane. There were so many twists in this book and I found myself gasping at so many points at something completely unexpected. Revealing so much in the first book of a series is something that isn’t often done and it was perhaps a smart move by the authors. We now at least think we know the true nature of the main characters and are merely anticipating trouble to ensue in light of that but are there yet more secrets to be revealed that we haven’t even considered? Judging by the amount of mystery and intrigue that The Iron Trial contained, I can only imagine that there is yet more of that to come.