Children’s Book Review: ‘The Iron Trial’ from the ‘Magisterium’ Series

The Iron Trial  Image: Scholastic Books
The Iron Trial. Image: Scholastic Books.

Do you remember when Pixar’s A Bug’s Life came out and then right after that, a knockoff from DreamWorks titled Ants was released? That’s probably the best way to describe the first book in the Magisterium Series, The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

From the beginning, starting with the cover, I could see elements of Harry Potter. Two boys and one girl with magical powers who attend a secret magical school. One of them is a “special chosen one” and one of them was the only one to survive a massacre by an evil magician.

It was difficult to read and not be distracted by the similarities. It’s obvious the authors were inspired by the Harry Potter series, and in some ways, I think they were inspired a little too much.

The lead character, Callum Hunt, has a jerky personality that makes it hard to root for him. He has reasons for being a jerk, mainly his father drilling into him that all magicians are bad and the mages are evil. He’s been conditioned to hate everything around him and in some ways, a part of himself. Despite the fact that I’m not his biggest fan, I’m learning that having a lead character you don’t necessarily want to be successful isn’t a bad thing. I think it brings something new to the reading experience.

In this book, I’m rooting for Aaron, who has a special role to play in the series. He’s one of those kids that is friends with everyone and doesn’t care if someone is popular or not. Every time he reaches out to help Cal and Cal ignores him, I just want to slap the little jerk.

The descriptions of the Magisterium and the characters was done very well. I could easily see the various rooms that Cal and his fellow apprentices were going through and the facial expressions of the characters when something happened. And the overall writing of the book wasn’t bad at all.

I think if I hadn’t read anything by J.K Rowling, I would find it quite enjoyable.

Switching gears, it’s easiest to get a child to read if they find a story “formula” they like. For this one, it has the same basic formula of Harry Potter. With that said, the similarities and the familiarity of The Iron Trial might make them want to read it even more. If nothing else, children will read it not because it’s a different story, but because of how much it reminds them of another one they enjoy.

I hope the next book in the series, The Copper Gauntlet (September 2015), has fewer similarities to a certain lightning scar wizard.  If the similarities continue, I’m not sure I’ll be reading the rest of the books. However, I will be picking them up for my son, who I think will enjoy them immensely.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.