"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

13 November 2014

REVIEW: The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

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 . .

My Review of The Iron Trial: 

The Iron Trial is a fun, middle grade fantasy story with a captivating story full of fun, adventure and magic. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as I did so it was surprising when I found myself caught up in the story, eager to know what would happen next. The ominous prologue completely sucked me in and cast a mysterious and foreboding feeling over the story. The characterisation and world-building fell a little flat for me but the shocking twist at the end of the story completely sucked me in.
The Iron Trial is obviously aimed at younger readers so I'm aware that I'm not the intended audience. I found the writing to be basic, simple and easy to read. Not very captivating for me but perfect and accessible for young readers who want to immerse themselves in a fun fantasy story. Some of the language is light-hearted, humorous, sarcastic even (although it didn’t make me laugh) but it has that easy-going quality that makes it a book that's easy to fly through and read excitedly wanting more (even though it does drag in places - the grains of sand, anyone?!) The last quarter of the story flew by and it was a rollercoaster adventure ride full of intrigue and danger, secrets and surprises.
So, The Iron Trial starts out like your usual fantasy story jam packed with a ton of tropes; the all-knowing wise old man, the chosen one, the struggle between good and evil etc. It all seemed so familiar and safe. Was I wrong. Yes, there were a few things that were really obvious fantasy tropes but I liked how Clare and Black adapted a few to add a fresh and original take on something that has been done quite a few times already. This book really lulls you into a false sense of security - you think you know where the story is headed but it's all a ruse. All fake. All just building up and up to shock you when it completely throws you off course. It really added a sense of unpredictability to the story and shocked you with the unexpected. There was a big "Wow, I didn't see that one coming" moment in the story and it was brilliantly done. For all it's slow parts where the story dragged there were moments of pure anticipation and suspense. The last section of the book was full of twists and turns, full of shocking revelations and edge of your seat drama. I'm very, very interested in seeing how the big twist will play out in the next book and how it affects Callum's life and the lives of the others around him. The twist alone makes me want to continue with the series.
Onto characterisation. The protagonist, Callum Hunt has been told all his life that magic and the Magisterium is evil and dangerous and that he should do anything not to be accepted to the school. So he sets out to fail his entrance test but fails to even fail that. I liked Callum but seeing the story told through his eyes was so frustrating at times. He's na├»ve, reckless and a little irritating. Seeing how he'll change after the big revelation at the end of this book will be very interesting. The other characters played their parts well but I didn't think they were fleshed out well and I look forward to their character development in the next book (hopefully!). 

World-building in a fantasy story is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects. It needs to be full of depth, be immersive and vivid. A strong portrayal of the world is the key to a good fantasy story - and The Iron Trial just missed the mark. It was a little disappointing and I wasn't completely convinced of the world. I wasn't drawn into it. The beginning with the testing just seemed to raise too many unanswered questions. Was the world aware of magic? What happened to those who were tested and turned away? Where exactly is the Magisterium? What I do enjoy was the portrayal of the Magisterium itself. I loved how it's this big underground, cavernous place full of mystery and adventure that just happened to be this magical school. It's labyrinthine passages hide secrets and surprises and not all of them are always good. There's so much more to be explored and explained and I look forward to seeing more of the world portrayed in the next book.
Now to deal with the 'Harry Potter' similarities. Yes, there were quite a few dotted here and there in the book especially at the beginning which caused a few "hmmm, I've heard this before" moments. I know J K Rowling doesn't own the rights to wizards, witches, wizarding schools etc but some things just seemed too close, too similar. You had the trio of main characters, two boys, one girl - the sarcastic protagonist, the intelligent, snooty girl and the goofy boy in the threadbare clothes; the Dumbledore figure; the rich bully; the dark lord who's out of the picture somewhere; and the mother dying in tragic circumstances. Really it was all too similar at first and I groaned a number of times whilst reading through it. BUT as the story progressed those sometimes glaringly obvious similarities floated to the back of my mind, forgotten as I enjoyed the story for what it was - a fun, intriguing adventure story.
All in all, The Iron Trial was a fun read. Not the most complex fantasy story ever but adventurous and exciting nonetheless. I'd definitely recommend it to younger readers who want a story filled with magic and secrets and a shocker of a twist.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason I didn't buy the world either and I found the similarities with the HP series too distracting. I was a bit disappointed by the story, but interested enough to read the next one :)

    Oh, I'm not middle grade aged either, but who can resist the allure of these authors? Great review :)


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