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Review: The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black


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 . . .

My thoughts

First off I should say that I really didn’t expect much from this book as I’m anything but a fan of Cassandra Clare. I do love Holly Black and she is the only reason why I picked this book up in the first place. I thought maybe her impact is big enough to let me forget that Clare had any part in this. This book didn’t work for me at all though and was just one big disappointment. Especially the end makes it look like the series can still improve and offer a lot more but I will never find out for myself.

My mayor problem with this book was that I think they were trying too hard to make this the next big thing for kids, just like Harry Potter was. I’m not even talking about copying ideas from Harry Potter (even though I think they did that too but more about that later), but in general. It was that feeling that I had while reading. I can’t properly explain it but to me it felt like they had so many ideas and concepts they wanted to put into this story to make it this new epic thing but instead it was just too much and one epic fail.

If I had to summarize what I think about this book I would say “it’s not well done”. The characters aren’t well done. The world building isn’t well done. Nothing in this book is well done.

  1.  The world building: They chose the way of making the MC completely clueless and so we get all the details about their world while he learns about it. Problem is: It was annoying because now one was telling him anything. You just don’t get to know/see enough of this magic system. I really liked the idea of this magic system but I never saw enough of it for my taste and it didn’t have any depth to it.
  2. The characters: If you don’t give me likeable characters and character development you’re book is guaranteed to fail. I had no connection whatsoever to these characters, especially the MC. Call is such an annoying, repetitive character. I don’t know how many times I had to read about him whining about his leg and that he has no friends (which didn’t surprise me at all) without actually trying to make friends. And I can’t really say that I saw any character development either.
  3. Time passing: To me this book felt like it was set over the time of a couple of days instead of months. I need more than just: big event happens, “over the next couple weeks we did…”, big event happens,… You have to make me feel that the time passes somehow and not just mention it in a single sentence. This also caused that it felt like the whole school was kind of unnecessary because they learned everything so easily and way too quick without much advice from teachers.

And then there are the similarities to Harry Potter. I usually don’t like comparing books like that and there are a ton of other books that might be similar to Harry Potter too. It’s just what happens when you write a book about a magic school. In this case though the list of similar “ideas” was just too long for me to ignore and mark as coincidence.
My main problem with these similarities is also that they could have so easily been prevented. For example this new trio. When you start a new series about a magic school, WHY would you choose to make it a group of three (2 boys, 1 girl) just like in Harry Potter, instead of maybe just two, or four instead?! In some case you could have just swapped genders and it would have looked less like a copy of Harry Potter.
These are all the ideas that seemed to be copied from HP (you might want to skip reading this if you still want to read the book and don’t want to know any details):

  1. The trio (1 girl, 2 boys)
  2. One evil mage who wants to live forever
  3. That super evil mage can only be defeated by one specific person (something with a prophecy that involves dying)
  4. Call lost his mom when he was an infant (he was the only one who survived when the super evil mage attacked)
  5. He has a physical mark that will always remember him of that
  6. He still has his dad but he is against all things magic and doesn’t want him to visit the magic school which also means that Call doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on at that school
  7.  The school itself is kind of like a maze, you can easily get lost (like a lame version of moving stairs and such)
  8. Students are assigned in groups by their masters and have to compete against the other groups
  9. A bully who hates Call just because
  10. An elder mage who seems to form a relationship to Call that’s more than your typical student – teacher one
  11. A pet that seems to be a lot more than your usual one

You might find a lot of these things in other books about magic schools too, but I have read other books which didn’t make me think of Harry Potter all the time.
The only positive thing I can say is that I loved the twist towards the end. I really didn’t see that one coming and it even suggests that the next books might be more unlike Harry Potter than this one. That still didn’t make me want to read the other books though.

I got exactly what I expected from Cassandra Clare but was deeply disappointed by Holly Black. Even if you don’t mind the HP similarity it isn’t worth buying in my opinion.

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Dec 15, 2014