Book Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black


Two of the hottest authors in YA right now, Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices) and Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Coldest Girl in Cold Town) have teamed up on Magisterium, a hot new Middle Grade series.

The first book in the series is The Iron Trial, and so far I like what i’ve seen.

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Goodreads: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1)

What’s it about?

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 . . .

What’d I think?

Often unfairly compared to Harry Potter, The Iron Trial sets its sights on a younger audience. The world building here is somewhat simpler than the wand focused wizardry of Hogwarts, but I actually found it to be a much more organic and believable one. Mages at the Magisterium learn to control the four elements, but they also learn that each element has a counterbalance.

Oddly I found our protagonist Call to be sadly annoying most of the way through the book. He acts brashly, and his actions continually backfire even as he thinks to himself how stupid they are. His back story, while important to the overall plot of the series, did get in the way a little at the start. Hopefully the second book (The Copper Gauntlet, September 2015) will allow him to really shine now that we have the required background out of the way.

Call’s friends Tamara and Aaron on the other hand have some really nice character development. They aren’t just sidekicks, both Aaron and Tamara are major characters within the world itself. Even the background characters have time to shine, and go through their own trials and tribulations along with the major plot.


The prose is incredibly visual so it is no surprise that the film rights have already been snapped up by Contantine Features. Many scenes had me imagining how awesome they would look on the big screen as the mages throw fireballs, capture tornados in a jar, and confront elementals made up entirely of molten lava. It is obvious that these two authors have shown The Iron Trial a lot of love, the writing flows gracefully from scene to scene. In a nice touch, each chapter opens with a nice illustration by Scott Fischer.

What’s the verdict?

The first of five novels, The Iron Trial builds a framework of interesting characters, unseen twists, and a protagonist who is flawed in the most literal sense. I have a feeling the follow up novel The Copper Gauntlet will elevate this series to “must read” status.


This book is available on the Kindle book store, often a little cheaper than the paper version. I generally read my books through the Kindle eReader or the free app on my Android phone.

KindleRead more about my review policy.

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