The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial || Holly Black and Cassandra Clare || Middle grade fantasy || 304 pages || 3.85 on Goodreads

The Iron Trial is the start of a middle-grade five book fantasy series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. This first instalment in the Magisterium series provides a surprisingly good introduction into the world of mages and elemental magic while maintaining a steady stream of twists and shocks. The Iron Trial is especially designed to break all the rules of a middle-grade fantasy series, playing on the reader’s expectations and assumptions of genre which not only shows smart thinking of the authors but also promises great things for the future of the series.


It was only Saturday when I spotted this book on the library shelf. I am still surprised to see how a book from such two well know authors could afford to be on a shelf when surely it is overflowing with reservations. Fortunately for me, it could. I was not planning on pick this up until I heard some feedback about it from the reading community but I saw it, so I grabbed it, and I took it home.

The prologue and the first few chapters make the story easy to fall into. The prologue leaves you a little confused with the new terminology that always come in with a new fantasy series but all is explained with the first chapter of the book where the world is explained no a need-to-know basis on which we build on throughout the story. When you take away the puzzlement, what you do get are a handful of questions and a shock factor from the prologue that draws you in further into the story


The first thing that really stuck me was how original the magic type was. Let’s face it, series about magic are out there. You have the Percy Jackosn and the Chronicles of Narnia, not to mention the king of them all, Harry Potter. But what we have here is elemental magic, something that I, personally, haven’t seen explored before. This first book shines a new light on magic as a whole, opening up too directions for the reader to guess what’s going to happen next. Not only that but halfway through the novel, I find myself totally unaware of where the story will lead, even in the immediate future. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that this is not a Harry Potter cop out.

The story is has hints of humour all throughout it. It reminds me of the kind of humour you’d find in (for lack of better description) Percy Jackson but definitely turned down a few notches and less frequent. The story also has its hilariously ridiculous moments (gummy worms + concentration on sand = I’m crying with laughter trying to picture it) which was refreshing among the otherwise more serious parts of the story.


So let’s talk about this main trio for a second. Two boys. One girl. With the story was so well planned to mislead the reader into assuming all the wrong things based on the typical rules of middle grade fantasy, this of all things was what let it down for me. The typical main trio. Perhaps it wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t so obvious that Tamara was the smartest, the Annabeth and Hermione of the three. Which brings me to a question: why would a couple of authors that were so determined to make the story so unique and different pick such a typical ratio? Why not two girls and a boy? Why not all girl group? You could argue But Nataliaaaaa, boys and girls who read this need to be able to connect with all the main characters. Having an all girl group won’t work. Wrong. The extent to which a reader connects to a character isn’t determined by their gender. Good writers can could make any kind of trio work and Holly Black and Cassandra Clare are both good writers. So I’m left without an answer, why the typical?

Moving onto Callum Hunt. His character annoyed me at the beginning of the book which wasn’t great considering he’s our main man. He seemed quite bitter and his attitude came off very negative at time, not only to the school (which is understandable considering what he grew up thinking) but also to the people that were trying to become his friends.

Furthermore, just past half way though the novel, Call rushes into the action, disobeying the orders. This usually wouldn’t bother me as much because I’ve read plenty of impulsive heroes and heroines in the past, but what were his reasons for it? He wanted to disobey. He wanted to be the hero. He wanted a new achievement for his wristband. He sees an opportunity gain praise, not an opportunity to save a life and that is something I cannot stand. I’m hoping for different POVs in future books.


  • “Fire wants to burn. Water wants to flow. Air wants to rise. Earth wants to bind. Chaos wants to devour. Cal wants to live” 

I picked this one I guess cause it made me laugh but also I’m still not sure how I feel about that whole saying. On one hand it seems ridiculous but in context it does make sense. 

RATING: [4/5] – a wonderful introduction to the series. Waiting for the next books

RECOMMEND TO: Fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Although it is a middle grade book, I believe that young adult readers would enjoy this book too.


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