‘The Iron Trial: Magisterium Book One’ by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Harry Potter, step aside. There’s a new kid on the block, and his name is Callum Hunt. He’s a very different kind of protagonist in “The Iron Trial,” the first book in the new series, “Magisterium,” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Callum Hunt has grown up an outcast at his school. The other kids make fun of him because of his twisted leg, deformed from birth. He is unable to run or join in physical activities like other kids, so he is bullied and friendless.

When he turns twelve, he must be tested for magic at the Iron Trial. Call’s father has repeatedly told him to stay away from magic, and now he warns Call that he must be sure to fail at the trials. Call tries so hard to fail that he succeeds beautifully, perhaps too beautifully, because he is selected to attend the Magisterium, the magic school.

It’s underground and the authors spend time (and it’s time well spent) describing the beauty and uniqueness of the caverns and tunnels that make up the school.

Like many other books about kids who go to a magic school, Call is part of a group of three, including Tamara, whose family is powerful and very controlling, and Aaron, who is destined for greatness.

Call’s mother was killed when he was a baby, and his father found him in a cave where Call’s mother had scratched the words “kill the child” on the ground before she died. His father sends a letter to Call’s mentor asking the mentor to bind Call’s magic (take it away from him), but Call intercepts the letter.

Why does Call’s father worry about him? Who is Call? He (and we) will find out some answers to those questions during the course of this book, but much of what happens to Call will have to be found in upcoming books. This is just the first part of his adventure.

Each author is successful in her own right. Holly Black is the bestselling author of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and she won a Newbery Honor for “Doll Bones.” Cassandra Clare is the author of two bestselling young adult series, “The Mortal Instruments” and “The Infernal Devices” (think “City of Bones”).

This series is perfect for reluctant readers and lovers of fantasy. It’s filled with mystery, clues, a tormented protagonist (middle grade style), and lots of adventure. An easier read than the Harry Potter series, this is jolly good fun in spite of any similarities.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, for review purposes.