Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Disclaimer: I read the advanced reader's copy (ARC) of this book; this book will be released on September 9, 2014. Undoubtedly, there will be minor changes between the version I read and the published version. I picked up the ARC at the 2014 ALA Conference.

If you've read a blog post where I've read a Holly Black, you know I'm a pretty big fan.

However, I don't think I've mentioned it, but I have avoided a lot of books written by Cassandra Clare. I've read a lot of different genres that involve different plots, etc; but the things I've heard about her books has been very off putting. I know her books have become quite popular and have even had a movie made, but I still don't want to commit.

Then I came across this book.

A mix of one of my favorite authors, and an author I go out of my way to avoid.

Let's do an amazon summary, "Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown." AMAZON LINK OF JUSTICE...AND SOME RESERVATIONS

I need to clear the air.

There is magic in this world.

There is a school where the youngsters get carted off to learn magic.

Harry Potter. Can we get that out of the air right now? Any book that has a theme of magic and school inevitably is compared to Harry Potter. It's the problem of writing in a genre that has such a prominently famous series that the world has fallen in love with.

Inevitably, if you read this book, you will draw similarities between Harry Potter and The Iron Trial as they both have youngsters going to school to learn magic. LE GASP.


Callum's father has raised him to believe that magic is deadly, to never go to the Magisterium (school of magic), and to stay at home with him. Callum is more than happy to do so and goes into the iron trial hoping that he can flunk and stay home in a world he knows.

However, Callum sucks at failing. His father throws a fit as Callum is taken away to the Magisterium where he will start to train his magic. At the end of his first year, he can chose to have his magic sealed and to leave the school behind or continue on with his training.

There's also some mysterious unclear war going on that Callum isn't directly involved in yet. Basically, there are vaguely bad magic people in the world and they want to do bad things.

Callum as a narrator spends most of the first half of the book whining. He has a limp in his leg and is constantly worried/reminded of it every time he moves around or tries to hurry. This makes sense for many instances, but Callum also has a ton of social anxiety and misplaced blame on his leg for not fitting in well.

The side characters are under developed as Callum takes on a one man Scooby Doo gang sort of feel as he tries to solve mysteries without a real clue. So he has roommates and other people in his year at school that we see, but the friendship forged there feels false. As if the bonds had to happen to get the plot somewhere rather than where it should be going.

Also, the STRONGEST similarity I saw to Harry Potter was that Callum has two 'friends'; one super smart female, and one all-around likeable guy. There's also this girl who may have a crush on him but she's in the same year as him.

The magic in the world is kind of shrug worthy. There are some cool concepts introduced, but there was nothing that struck me as truly unique or wowed me. The magic of the world (so far as this is the first book in a series) seems to be a hodge podge of notions from other worlds but just with different words. Again, it is hard to do something unique with magic because a lot of it has been done before.

This is a SPOILER of a minor variety where Callum acquires a magic dog (in the not-spoiler spoiler sense) and whenever a character gains a pet, I just see it as a plot device. Especially when the narrator only talks about taking care of the dog rather than enjoying the dog's companionship. So there's that nuance that annoyed me.

Overall, I feel like I pushed through the book to finish it rather than really enjoyed it. There wasn't enough original value to the book and the writing wasn't on par to what I'm used to reading from Holly Black.

Just very shrug worthy.

Happy reading!

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