Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial
by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Recommended Ages: 12+

Shortly after his birth, Callum Hunt was the sole survivor of a massacre in a magical war. His father, arriving too late to witness the carnage, found him badly injured in an ice cave near the body of his mother, whose dying act was to scratch the words "DESTROY THE CHILD" in the ice.

From that gruesome beginning, Call grows up being taught to hate the world of magic by a father who blames magicians for the loss of his wife. When the time comes for him to take the entrance exam to the Magisterium, the underground school of magic where his parents met, Call is convinced his only option is to throw the test. But even though he tries to fail it, he gets accepted as one of three apprentices to Master Rufus, the senior mage who trained his father.

His next hope is to get thrown out of the school, but against his father's dire warnings and in spite of Rufus' tough approach to teaching, he is soon caught up in a feeling of belonging like none he has ever felt before. His fellow apprentices include Tamara, a legacy student who has a hard time living down her family's past mistakes; Aaron, an extremely powerful young mage who has never known a family of his own; Jasper, a snotty rich kid cut out of the Draco Malfoy mold; Celia, a pretty girl who seems attracted to bad boys; and Drew, who seems slow to accept the fact that the Magisterium isn't a pony school.

Call is a fun main character, full of mischief and prone to hilarious pratfalls. When he isn't making trouble, he shows promise of being an important wizard in the fight against evil someday. But then again, somebody at the school is up to no good, and just when a new champion is revealed in the war against the enemy who massacred Call's mother - an enemy who believed to be biding his time during the long years of a truce, gathering forces for another attack - Call learns a terrible truth about his own truth in all this, a truth that may affect which side of the line between good and evil he comes down on.

By this time, readers will care enough about Call and his friends to be on pins and needles as the five-book Magisterium series moves on to Book 2, The Copper Gauntlet. This series is a collaboration between two New England based teen fantasy authors - one known for the Spiderwick Chronicles and such Modern Faerie Tales as Tithe, the other for the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series. If the series lives up to the promise shown by this book, it may be their biggest success.

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