Published by Doubleday Children's Books on September 9, 2014
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic
Source: ARC borrowed thru Around the World ARC Tours
From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.
From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will -- is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that? It's a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.
~ I’m going to try hard not to make this too snarky and negative. I like Holly Black’s books. I did read 3 of the Mortal Instrument books by Clare, and while I didn’t love them, they were okay. Plus the fact that Clare is friends with so many of my favorite YA authors clearly shows that she’s probably awesome to hang out with. BUT, I had some major issues with this book.
~ By now, most of you have heard the buzz that this is a rip off of Harry Potter, but I was only dimly aware of that. Yes, I thought the bad guy on the cover looks EXACTLY like a death eater, but I put that off as a design issue and not a blatant rip off. And even though I knew of Clare’s Harry Potter fanfiction past and accusations of plagiarism, I figured Holly Black would negate any overtly HP likeness.
~ One big problem, right away, is that the book promised to DEFY what you know about the world of magic. So I was expecting a twist of epic proportion, like in the movie Sixth Sense or in the book Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (which, oh my god, has the best jaw dropping, wtf moment of all time. Yes, even more than Gone Girl). But when the moment came, all it did was make me angry because… well, I can’t say because I don’t want to spoil the book, but it was so tragically Harry Potterish that I had to stop reading for awhile until I could calm down.
~ This book begs the question, is it possible to write books about magic that aren’t like Harry Potter? My answer, is yes, absolutely! The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Vampire Academy and Bloodlines by Richelle Mead, Vicious by Victoria Schwab, Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor- all contain magic, none feel like Harry Potter rip offs. There’s probably tons of others, but these are the ones I thought of first.
~ Every single character felt like a Harry Potter character stand in, albeit slightly watered down. Call is like Harry in book 5, where he’s angry and angsty. Also, Aaron is more like the version of Ron Weasley when he looks in the mirror of Erised. Some other characters are mashups of HP characters- Drew is Neville and Barty Crouch Jr, Celia is watered down Luna and Ginny, Rufus is watered down Dumbledore and Mad Eye Moody, Milagros is a watered down Tonks and McGonagall… I wasn’t even looking for this, I purposely tried NOT to see this book as watered down Harry Potter, but I there were just too many similarities to ignore no matter how thick my blinders were.
~ Don’t even get me started on the bad guy being called The Enemy of Death.
~ Still, the book isn’t poorly written, and it’s even entertaining and original at times. I liked Call’s magic tests, I liked that they were held in an old airport hanger in Virginia and that the non-magical parents of magical children just thought their kids were there to do things like try out for a ballet academy, or a soccer camp, or a musical program.
~ The very beginning was promising (although I was a little confused over the whole part where Call’s mom supposedly died protecting him, since he was found near his uncle’s body… so it seems that Uncle Declan was really the one protecting him, right?). The message that Call’s mom leaves behind was very dark and troubling.
~ I liked the part where it was unclear if Call’s dad was trying to kill him or just give him his mother’s dagger. I can’t picture Lily or James chucking a dagger at Harry, not even the Dursleys, so points for that.
~ Chaos magic seems pretty cool, and it’s a nice addition to the air, water, earth and fire elements. Although I giggled a bit at the part where you can tell Chaos-ridden people and animals by their “special eyes”, because it always reminds me of that contact commercial.
~ I pretty much guessed the twist right away, although there were a few little surprises along the way. Plus, the Elementals were scary.
~ The whole idea of makars and needing human counterweights felt original, and was probably my favorite part of the book (aside from Warren, that devious little bastard and Havoc, that cute little wolf cub).
~ So, even though most of the book felt like Harry Potter fanfic, the part about the Makars was really beginning to feel like the book was evolving past that… until the part came where the book made me use the F word in my notes because it was such an HP rip off that I almost tore through the notebook with my pen because I was angrily ranting my thoughts on it. It also took the rating of the book from a perfectly respectable 3 star down to a 2 star.
Callum Hunt- main character, goes by Call, was raised to think magicians are bad but finds himself in a school for magicians.
Master Rufus- picks call as his apprentice and has history with Call’s father.
Enemy of Death- the bad guy. He uses Chaos magic and never wants to die.
Alastair Hunt- Call’s dead, so traumatized by his wife’s death that he hates magic and magicians.
Tamara- gorgeous, smart and talented young magician.
Jasper- insta-enemies with Call, arrogant and jealous.
Aaron- nice guy magician.
Celia- nice girl magician.
Drew- Brony magician, although I have no idea what a pony school is and was worried that he was a little too interested in ponies.
Semiramis- nicknamed Miri, a dagger.
Alex- bronze year student who helps Master Rufus.
Warren- a little elemental.
Havoc- Chaos-ridden wolf puppy.
When Lizzie was decorating the house. I loved the design details, but I also loved her interactions with a certain character.
Stop the Clock:
I can forgive the Harry Potter similarities, because I love Harry Potter and there are worst things in the world than reading glorified HP fanfiction, but The Iron Trials jumped the shark with it’s “twist” reveal. I went from being slightly amused/annoyed at all the similarities but still enjoying the story and some of the originality that Black and Clare were starting to create, to being so upset that I almost gave up reading the book with just a few chapters to go. I will not be continuing this series, and while I won’t tell anyone not to read this book for themselves, I just can’t really recommend it either.
The Iron Trial (The Magisterium # 1) gets a Midnight Book rating of: