A review by thejanewayprotocol
The Iron Trial, by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

3.0

So, I wrote a review for this book last week, and I was so proud of it. But I wrote it on the fly, and didn't save it, and then because of my crappy dial up internet connection, it never got posted to GR :/ I doubt I'll get round two to sound as good, but here goes...

Despite the many complaints that have plagued this book since we all heard about this book, I strongly have to disagree with the accusation that this book is a Harry Potter knock off. Uh no. Not even close. Not even remotely close. It's not like JK Rowling was the first person to think of a school of magic for untrained witches and wizards. Hers was arguably the best conception, but that idea was not originally hers. Perhaps there were a few scenes *Cough cough, final scene* that were a bit similar, but The Iron Trials is so far out of TPS league that it is almost insulting to bring up a comparison.

Unlike Harry, Callum Hunt knows that he has magical capabilities. In fact, he fears them. He has grown up his entire life fearing the magical community. He doesn't know the full history, but he knows that the mages and their world is what resulted in his mothers death. His father has never performed magic since, and Callum wants nothing to do with it either.

Enter the Iron Trial: a series of tests that children undergo to determine their full magical potential. Depending on how well they do during these trials, the Masters decide who they want to take on as apprentices. There not enough instructors for students, and some kids always end up getting rejected. Callum (sorry, I refuse to say the nickname they've given him in the book - Call. Every time I read it, I read it as call, as in telephone call. Extremely annoying.) plans on being one of those rejected kids. He doesn't want to participate in a group of magicians who don't care about their students.

Not only does he fail in failing the trials, he happens to get selected by the best Master in the group: Master Rufus. So, against the will of his father and himself, he is forced to go to school and learn magic.

While at school, he learns a side of history that his dad always seemed to leave out. He learns that maybe its not so one sided after all. Maybe he can learn magic and help their magical community maintain peace and harmony. Maybe.

While the plot in this book is a bit complicated to follow at times, it is still intriguing, and I am curious to find out what happens in the next book. But I seriously hope that the writing gets more stronger.

The one thing that has really surprised me from this book of two very accomplished authors, is just how week the writing actually is. All the characters need better attention. They all seem so flat and simple. Callum is not a very likeable character at all, and there were times where I really didn't care what happened to him. I didn't feel the connection that he supposedly had with his two friends at school. There was no chemistry there.

Same with their Master. For someone who was meant to be the wisest and most powerful Master in the Magisterium, he seemed so boring. No flair, no interesting anecdotes. He spat out fact and basic sentences. There was no connection to him and his students.

The other background characters felt that way too. And same with their school. I really struggled with the imagery in this book. I had a really hard time picturing where the students were half the time, and it was really tiresome trying to figure out where they were and how they got there. Maybe if this book included a map of the school or something, it would've helped. But they really need to work on that.

It really is the interesting plot line that saves this book. I am curious enough to read the next one, but if the characters done get fleshed out a bit more, and start sounds more natural, rather than just plot line here, explanation there, I don't think I'll be continuing with this book. Actually, while I am typing this out a second time, I am starting to think I might have graded them a little too high. Definitely lots of room for improvement.