The Iron Trial: Review

September 9, 2014 2014, 5 star books, cassandra clare, fantasy, Peyton 57 ★★★★★

The Iron Trial: ReviewThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Series: Magisterium #1
Published by Scholastic on September 9, 2014
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 295 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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 mean only bad things for him.

So he tries to do 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 . . .

From the remarkable imaginations of bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a heart-stopping, mind-blowing, pulse-pounding plunge into the magical unknown.

This book. This book! I don’t even know what to say. That I loved it? That I can’t believe I have to wait a year to read the next one? All of the above. The Iron Trial is a perfect blend of fantasy, humor, and a great cast of characters. You’ll think you know the twist at the end, but you will be wrong. Oh, so wrong.

This is a collaboration between Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, longtime friends and authors that I love. Holly Black has a penchant for the darker side of fantasy and writes the most interesting flawed characters. Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices is set in an immersive, original fantasy world and is filled with snarky humor. The Iron Trial is the product of the best parts of both their writing styles, that when put together creates something wholly original and wonderful.

The story is about Callum Hunt. His mother was killed in a war between mages and the evil Enemy of Death, and now his father is against magic of any kind. He tells Call he has to fail the Iron Trial, which is basically the entrance exam to magical school, or death will certainly be imminent. Needless to say, this does not happen. Call does get accepted into the Magisterium, and that’s where the adventure truly begins.

Call is an angry, angry kid. He is physically handicapped and constantly picked on. He lets pride get the best of him a lot of the time, and he responds to serious situations with snarky, inappropriate comments. I loved Call because he is not always likable. You understand and sympathize with his situation, but he definitely handles some things the wrong way. He grows a lot over the course of the story, from a very guarded person to someone who would do anything for his friends, but still fails a lot. After all, he is only twelve.

I was actually very surprised to see that all the younger characters acted believably like kids their age would. The supporting characters were all unique and interesting. In my opinion a great fantasy series depends on a large cast of characters we care about, and this one delivers. From Callum’s fellow apprentices, Tamara and Aaron, to his father to even the magical creatures, everybody introduced has their own personality. There was no point where I was mixing people up or forgetting who someone was. Even the smallest character stood out.

The humor was another thing I loved about this book. It’s very present in the dialogue and in the way Call thinks and I found it hilarious. It was a great way at bringing levity to some pretty heavy stuff going on with the characters and it almost never seemed out of place to me. I love humor when it is well-done and this was definitely well-done.

Overall, I really loved this book. Five stars, and I don’t give five stars a lot of the time. It is a great introduction to a new world, features a large cast of characters that I instantly fell in love with, and ends on a reveal I don’t think anyone will see coming. You will finish this book and be dying to talk to somebody, anybody about this ending. I know I am. So, go read it so we can all talk about it!

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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57 Responses to “The Iron Trial: Review”

  1. Cweeoy

    I love this book soo much but everwhere I go the critics are like it’s apparentaly a “ripoff” of HarryPoter

  2. Sashana

    Would you classify this book as middle grade or YA? I’m thinking about getting it as a gift for my 10 year old sister so I’m curious.

  3. Robin

    I’ve been so excited for this book! I love both of the authors and I’m thrilled to be able to read it soon!

  4. bethany

    SO GOOD to hear that this book is just as awesome as some of their other work! I never know what to expect when two authors collaborate (you’d assume awesome + awesome = more awesome… right?) and I LOVE CC’s books. Ditto Wendy — you neeeeeed to read the Infernal Devices!!
    bethany recently posted…Unintentional Blog Break & Visiting the 50 States

  5. Nikki

    Fantasy just isn’t my genre. A story that has magic as one of it’s primary “characters” usually doesn’t sit well with me. I need a little more sci-fi.

  6. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I’m really happy and excited you gave it 5-stars! I’ve ONLY seen bad reviews for it so far and it’s really turned me off…but I love Cassandra Clare AND Holly Black and them writing a book together just sounds oh-so awesome to me. But I’ve heard it’s totally like Harry Potter? I’m not such a fan of books that subtly borrow from others, so. *sigh* We’ll see. I’m REALLY excited that it has humour though. I LOVE HUMOUR.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Honest YA || Covers Part 4

  7. Traci @ The Reading Geek

    Great review! I’m really looking forward to reading this one. The world sounds amazing! I’m also a big fan of both of these authors. I’m happy to hear that this story is funny too. I’m a sucker for any book that can incorporate humor in well.
    Traci @ The Reading Geek recently posted…Day 21 by Kass Morgan

  8. Leandra Wallace

    I couldn’t imagine Holly Black and Cassandra Clare writing something that isn’t totally amazing. =) And I love MG, so I will definitely be reading this at some point. The humor in Clare’s books are my fav aspect of her writing, so I’m glad to know it’s in this book as well. Snark for the win!
    Leandra Wallace recently posted…Author Stop: Kelly Hashway

  9. Ashley Jellison

    Oh, I’m so so glad you liked it! I actually just bought my copy from my sister’s book order and I’m really excited to read it! Thanks for such an awesome review!

  10. HollyB

    I can’t wait to read this!! I haven’t yet read ANYTHING by EITHER of these lovely ladies (for shame, I know!!) although I have a few books by Holly Black (which I fully intend to get to… someday…). I also just got The Clockwork Angel from the library so I could finally start that series – and I’m heartened upon seeing Wendy’s comment above that TID is her fave YA series. And now I have to make sure to also get to The Iron Trial!! I think it soubds great and I’m really looking forward to it, especially after reading your review :) Thanks!

    • Peyton

      I think this is a great introduction to both authors. I actually just finished Clockwork Angel and it was really good! Holly Black’s books are generally a bit on the darker side, but are also really really good. I hope you enjoy Clockwork Angel!
      Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

  11. Nicole @ The Quiet Concert

    I am so glad you loved this one! It didn’t wow me quite as much but I did enjoy it and I was sad to see so many people cast it off as a Harry Potter wannabe! I think the direction it takes is brilliant and I am so so excited to see how the story progresses. I feel like it will be a bit of a nature vs nurture battle and I love those!
    Nicole @ The Quiet Concert recently posted…I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

    • Peyton

      I knew people were going to be comparing it to Harry Potter just because of the magical school and Cassandra Clare, but I was happy to see the only similarities really were the fact that there was a school and that Call had two best friends. I’m sure it will generate a lot of discussion, though!
      Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

  12. Melanie (YA Midnight Reads)

    oh 5 stars! I am getting excited now. I am reading this one tonight so I didn’t read your review all that thoroughly but yay!

    Fantastic review, Peyton! <33

  13. Diamond Nazaneen

    SO very glad you loved this one too Wendy! I did as well :D I thought Callum was a great character. I actually didn’t like much much in the start, but his sarcasm and demeanor grew on me. You’re right about all the characters being unique, and I loved all of them.
    Ohh and that ending?! Totally did NOT see that coming, like at all! Loved it! ;)
    Idk how we are going to survive a whole year until the next book?! *cries*

    *i just realized you wrote the review Peyton lol! Sorry for calling u Wendy! **
    Diamond Nazaneen recently posted…ARC Review: The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

    • Peyton

      Haha, no problem! I’m glad you liked this one too! I like Callum because of his bad attitude, just because it’s not something you see a lot of. I do think it works better once he’s at school and has Tamara and Aaron’s personalities to kind of balance the sarcasm, though.

      That ending! I can’t wait to see what they do with the reveal!
      Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

  14. Pili

    I decided to request this one cause I’m a huge fan of Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices (I bawled my eyes out with Clockwork Princess, what a book!!) and I wanted to read something by Holly Black! Now, after reading this, I know I need to read Holly Black books cause I felt this book was a great rather seamless mix of their styles.

    I loved that despite what I had heard on other reviews, the possible similarities with Harry Potter weren’t the kind to bother you, and instead the story took a very different route even more that ending! I agree, I didn’t see it coming at all! Now I cannot wait to read book 2!
    Pili recently posted…Tell Me Tuesdays #11!!

    • Wendy Darling

      I haven’t read this book yet, but honestly, I think every single book Cassandra Clare ever publishes is going to have a ton of pre-reviews complaining that it’s a rehash of some other pre-existing series, sometimes her own. Which is fascinating to me, given that even Harry Potter was influenced by books and tropes that came before it.

      Anyway. *hops off soapbox*

      • Pili

        I think that give how amazingly popular Harry Potter is, anything that mentions “magic school” is gonna be compared with the books no matter what. The thing is that once you give the other book a try, it can stand very well on its own, and yes, there’s mages and magic, but the story goes with a very different spin cause the authors wanted to explore things in an unusual way!
        Pili recently posted…Tell Me Tuesdays #11!!

  15. Amber @ YA Indulgences

    I’ve never been a fantasy person, i’ve never so as much as read one fantasy book, in fact. Though I started Howl’s Moving Castle.

    The Iron Trial sounds interesting. I’ve heard of Cassandra’s other series though. I’ve heard Holly Black is very good. So a collaboration between the two sounds really good.

    I love characters that aren’t always likable, it makes them more real. We don’t all like everyone all the time, necessarily. I love humor in books, I love laughing, but I don’t like the humor to be over done.

    Great review. :)
    Amber @ YA Indulgences recently posted…Featured Fairytale Friday (#3)- The Moon compiled by the Grimm Brothers

  16. Brenda

    I’ve heard of Cassandra Clare’s work, but haven’t had the opportunity to read much before. However, I was excited to see what her and Holly Black were going to come up with. The cover is wonderful, well and the book was very good too. I never saw that twist coming either, sneaky authors :) I think they did a great job with the world building, set of diverse characters and loved the lizard (Warren) and wolf pup (Havoc). Great beginning and I’m looking forward to the next in the series.

    • Peyton

      Yes, I spent the whole book going “Oh, I know what the twist is.” And, then I was totally wrong in such a good way!

      Warren was probably my favorite character, no lie. I hope (and have a feeling) he’s going to play a bigger role in the rest of the series!
      Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

      • Brenda

        Yeah I totally “thought” I knew the ending too, just makes me more curious about the next book. And yes, more Warren.

  17. Wendy Darling

    I am really excited to hear you liked this so much, Peyton! I am a huge Infernal Devices fan (seriously, I am liable to start sobbing if I think about CLOCKWORK PRINCESS too long) and it’s awesome that these two ladies got to write together. Looking forward to reading this soon!

  18. Layla

    I have never read anything by either Cassie Clare or Holly Black. Buttttttt I also have a not-so-secret soft spot for books that are about getting into / going to special secret schools. Yes yes yes. So much world-building!

    Anyway, so I might try this! You’ve really sold it here.
    Layla recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

    • Peyton

      They both write great stuff! Holly Black especially has been one of my favorite YA authors for years. Her world-building is always really interesting and original.

      I love secret magic schools. They’re like regular boarding schools only so much better!
      Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

      • Layla

        Anything you’d recommend in particular by her?

        And yes, boarding schools in Florida are just a totally foreign thing, so I’ve always been slightly fascinated by them (like houses with more than story! you mean you get to climb STAIRS and you have a BASEMENT?). Anyway. The allure of the unknown. I think I’m also just slightly jealous, because I always wanted to live at school. What could be better than school all the time? Nothing.
        Layla recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

        • Peyton

          Her Curse Workers series (starting with White Cat) is really good!

          Yes, I know. What is this basement you speak of? And, why would you want a fireplace in your house? I just wanted to wear a cool uniform and have boarding school hijinks. Magical boarding school would just have ALL the hijinks!
          Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

          • Layla

            Ooh. Thanks for the rec. Adding it to my GR to-read pile in 3, … 2, … 1.

            I have an apartment with a fireplace now. I have lived here for seven years and have covered it with a bookshelf. I have never used it. I can never use it. Fireplaces are scary.

            Oh, man, as a Florida girl yourself, maybe you will appreciate this: I live in NC now and we are getting our first Publix in a MONTH. ::flails, dies::

            Your love for hijinks makes me wonder about what HP house you’d be sorted into. ??
            Layla recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

            • Peyton

              Yeah, I actually do have a fireplace surprisingly but have never used it. Publix, I don’t know what I would do without Publix! I feel like the Florida welcome sign should read: “Welcome to Florida! We have Publix!”

              I like to say I’m a Ravenclaw, but I still need to take the Pottermore quizz haha :)
              Peyton recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

        • Wendy Darling

          Layla. The Infernal Devices is my favorite YA series. Tragic romance and magic in the Victorian era, come onnnnnnnnn. It also has one of the only love triangles I think is written with conviction, so that you feel for everyone involved. I still haven’t recovered from the last book.

          • Layla

            The last thing I read by Cassie Clare was the Draco Trilogy (back in the days of my intense HP fannishness). I did like that a lot but have read exactly none of her published works.

            I trust your reviews, so. Ok. I’ll do it. I am super intrigued by the idea of love triangle that isn’t totally pointless. (This trope bothers me so much, for reasons.)
            Layla recently posted…The Iron Trial: Review

            • Wendy Darling

              I liked, but wasn’t wholly crazy about Mortal Instruments, but Infernal Devices hits on everything I love. The characters are so wonderful, the boys are so witty (they’re best friends and LOVELY to each other, which is partly why the triangle is so painful), and everyone goes around being noble and bookish in London. It’s much darker and more mature than TMI, and a lot less convoluted. I’m glad to hear that you like what you’ve seen of her writing, though!

              I don’t hate triangles, but I definitely get impatient with them when they’re just thrown in as obstacles, which is 99% of the time. This one also has the distinction of being perhaps the only true triangle as well, because the boys love each other as brothers, too.

              I had to add “as brothers,” because there are some in the fandom who rooted for a threesome resolution, heh.