BOOK REVIEW: MAGISTERIUM – THE IRON TRIAL / AUTHOR: HOLLY BLACK, CASSANDRA CLARE / PUBLISHER: SCHOLASTIC PRESS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
First of the new Magisterium series, The Iron Trial is the latest in the long line of attempts by authors to depict young wizardry, yet takes a refreshingly interesting angle with its subject matter.
Many among the latest generation of children dream of possessing the natural affinity for sorcery which will get them selected during the Iron Trial, but not Callum Hunt. With his family shattered by the effects of a magical conflict, Callum has been taught since birth to never tap into his potential. However, when he is selected, despite failing every test, he must now seek to survive within the Magisterium.
While the book wears apparent Harry Potter influences on its sleeve, it soon braches off in a very different direction, using its obvious similarities to subvert that series’ ideas. Magic itself takes on a very different form, and Callum soon proves to be a very different individual from Potter in terms of his destiny and abilities. Better yet, the deconstruction carries over to the main cast and each benefits from a well-rounded character arc, transforming them from their expected archetype into something entirely different.
The ominous threat magic poses and the dangers of the setting are at the forefront of the tale, and the Magisterium proves to be an infinitely more foreboding place than the many schools of mages found in these stories. Magic here is less a whimsical ability than it is a dangerous power which must be controlled.
Despite this, the book is hampered by a few distinct failings. An uneven pace results in engaging and enticing chapters leading into duller affairs, and the novel appears rushed from the start. A great deal of potentially fascinating information is info-dumped, which weakens the impact of the world and leaves it very reliant upon its ideas over atmosphere and presentation to the reader.
The Iron Trial is a troubled but promising start to the series and presents more than enough to get teenage readers going until the last page. Young adults and readers wanting a very different take on magical schooling should take a gander at this one.
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