The Copper Gauntlet returns us to the world of the Magisterium mage school and the continuing adventures of Call Hunt and his friends. When we last left Call he had just discovered that far from being stalked by chaos mage the Enemy of Death, it transpired that he in fact is the Enemy, or at least, his soul bound into Call’s body when he was a baby. Unsurprisingly, this has led to as close to an existential crisis as a thirteen-year-old boy is mentally capable of undergoing. He now spends time mentally compiling an Evil Overlord list (no, not that one) of his actions, making a conscious effort to avoid thinking and acting in ways that the Enemy might, thus by effort of will prevent himself from becoming the very thing he fears he already is without even knowing it. After Call’s father steals a magical artefact that can destroy anything infused with chaos magic, Call is unsure whether or nor not his intention is to save him or kill him.
While story of The Iron Trial was spread out at a measured pace over the course of Call and his friends’ first year at the Magisterium, this is a much brisker (and shorter) state of affairs, with the whole book taking place over a few weeks and more than half of the latter part covered in a few days. The relationships between Call, Aaron and Tamara gradually develop, and in a way acknowledging that as children enter adolescence they can quickly change a great deal – both physically and psychologically – and not always at the same rate as their peers. Also appearing are the inevitable trust issues as revelations come to light, while the reluctant addition of arrogant and whining classmate Jasper to their inner circle will likely have some interesting repercussions later in the series.
Themes that The Iron Trial touched upon are revisited, particularly the idea of whether the people children grow into is due to the choices they make or a result of predetermined destiny. Although Call certainly doesn’t feel like the reincarnation of a murderous megalomaniac, the conviction of some others that he cannot escape what they assume to be his nature may well become a self-fulfilling prediction.
Despite the novel falling firmly in the YA category, some particularly gruesome moments veer more towards pure horror, and in the process truly hammer home the ruthlessness and sadism of the nebulous adversaries the young mages will recurrently face off against. With three more books to go, the work of our young heroes is a long way from finished.
THE COPPER GAUNTLET / AUTHOR: HOLLY BLACK, CASSANDRA CLARE / PUBLISHER: CORGI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW