Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Copper Gauntlet

The Copper Gauntlet
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Recommended Ages: 12+

If you haven't read The Iron Trial, the first book in the Magisterium series, beware of spoilers ahead. Don't worry, I'll talk amongst myself while you click away.

So, this is Book 2 of a five-book series featuring a school of magic different in many ways from Harry Potter's Hogwarts. For one thing, the Magisterium is in the U.S. Instead of in a castle, it is located underground. Its magic draws on control of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and chaos, which comes from the void out of which all things were made; and to some extent, this means the control of elementals, strange creatures that will consume any mage who gets too close to them. It boasts the authors of City of Bones and Tithe, so there is no surprise that it has a bold streak of darkness running through it.

Coast clear? All right, here's the spoiler for those who skipped past Book 1. The main character, Callum Hunt, is also a bit like Harry Potter. He grew up in a home that was opposed to magic, but that didn't stop him from getting into a school of magic. And while he was an infant - practically at the moment of his birth, in fact - a deadly attack by an evil magician left a permanent mark on him. His mother died in the attack... but here the resemblance ends. For she died not trying to save him, but using the last of her strength to scratch a message into the floor of an ice cave warning his late-to-arrive father: "Kill the child."

Call has grown up maimed, with one leg shorter and weaker than the other, because of his dying mother's feeble attempt to do him in. The reason for this unnatural behavior? Like Voldemort, the Enemy of Death - a wizard who did horrible things in search of a way to escape death - transferred a bit of his soul to the boy who lived. No, that isn't right. Actually, he transferred his soul, period. In his first year at the Magisterium, Call learned that he actually is the Enemy of Death, also known as Constantine Madden. The soul that truly belonged to little baby Call was pushed out to make way for Constantine's evil soul.

Even though he doesn't remember being anybody but Alistair Hunt's mischievous, slightly crippled son, Call now knows he is the very dark lord who taught his father to hate magic. And now, during his first summer home from school, the 13-year-old realizes Alistair has suspected this all along. When he finds evidence that his dad is planning a dark ritual that could kill him, Call runs away with his chaos-ridden wolf Havoc.

He runs away to spend the rest of the summer with his friends, Tamara and Aaron; but he can't bring himself to share his dark secret even with them. He finally has a best friend, and Aaron turns out to be the Makar - the chaos mage everyone has been waiting for, their best hope against the Enemy of Death, who is expected to break his 12-year truce with the mage Assembly at any time and resume his fiendish war. How can Call explain to Aaron that he, Call, is the Enemy himself?

Keeping this awful secret becomes even more of a dance when someone steals the Alkahest, a rare magical artifact that, in the Enemy's hands, could spell the doom of the Makar. Being the Enemy, Call knows he will never use it against Aaron. But nobody else knows that. So how else can he explain that he thinks his dad stole the Alkahest? And how can he and his friends stop his dad from giving it to the bad guys - because there still are bad guys, you know? Not only do the trio of Aaron, Call, and Tamara have to run away from school, but they must take with them their most obnoxious classmate to keep him from telling on them. Meanwhile, the mages from the Assembly are sending deadly elementals after them and doing everything in their power to stop the kids, while a scene of stomach-upsetting evil awaits them at the end of their quest.

So, basically, this is a Harry Potter-type story in which the hero is painfully aware, almost from the beginning, of what an evil mark he is marked with. It is one where the kids are on the run with the intensity of Harry & Co.'s flight from the snatchers, already in Book 2 instead of in the climactic last book. It is a series where so much has already happened, two-fifths of the way in, that one trembles to imagine what could come next. It is full of a young teen's self-questioning, anxiously checking himself to see where he stands on the "Evil Overlord" spectrum. But it is also deeply, richly fun, with a curly thread of goofy humor, a brisk pace, clever dialogue, surprising twists, and scenes full of original imagery that will impress itself on the reader's imagination. I hear Book 3 will be titled The Bronze Key, when it arrives in August 2016.

No comments: