HomeReviewsIron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Magisterium book 1

A review by Nalini Haynes

Twelve years ago a loving father and husband scales a cliff-face, using magic to create hand- and foot-holds, intent on finding and protecting his family. Everyone hidden in the cave high up on the cliff-face is dead, including his wife. A pitiful cry sounds. His infant son survives with one leg shattered. However, his wife’s dying words, scratched into the ice with her precious dagger, were ‘KILL THE CHILD’.

Callum Hunt is now twelve. After 10 surgeries his leg is scarred and pinned in 16 places. Callum can’t do gym or sports with the other children. He has no friends at school, he just gets by. Then he’s called in for magical testing to see if he’s good enough to go magic school. (Hogwarts totally should have had a test not just a ‘we magically know if you’re magically good enough to attend’ letter.)

He hates magic. Surprised?

Callum’s father Alistair hates magic with a passion, blaming magic and arbitrary magic wars for his wife’s death. Alistair filled Callum with fear of the Magisterium (magic school). They plan that Callum will deliberately fail the test with comical consequences. He fails so spectacularly that he gets a negative score. By the end, Master Rufus (think Samuel L Jackson) knows Callum is deliberately failing. So Rufus takes Callum on as an apprentice (think Karate Kid).

Sorcerer’s apprentices

To Callum’s surprise, he makes friends with Tamara and Aaron, Rufus’s other two apprentices, with whom he shares living quarters. Their friendship is a rocky road with adventures and a Dark Lord called the Enemy of Death who is a Chaos Mage.

The verdict

The Iron Trial is part Karate Kid, part Harry Potter, all hero’s journey and — I believe — set in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments world while aiming at a slightly younger audience. This is the best representation of disability for a younger audience that I’ve read in a long time. Callum’s leg holds him back while he perseveres through pain. Then he pays the price for over-exertion. I highly recommend The Iron Trial to everyone who loves Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Here’s a review of City of Bones, a movie version of another of Cassandra Clare’s books.

Book details

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5 stars
ISBN: 9780857532503
Imprint: Doubleday Childrens (Random House)
Format: paperback, 320 pages
The Iron Trial

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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