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Book Review

Book Cover

Book 1 - The Iron Trial


Authors: Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Corgi
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 0 552 56763 2
Publication Date: 02 June 2015

Found by his father, Cal is the only survivor from a slaughter that claimed his mother, but not before she can carve in an ice wall "KILL THE CHILD". Now grown to young adulthood, he anticipates his forthcoming mages test, a test he is desperate to fail; success means admission to the Magisterium and a life of magic...

Magisterium: The Iron Trial is the first in a new young adult fantasy series, written by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, both well-established authors.

The final series will run to five books so I wasn’t surprised by how leisurely the pace seemed to be. Consider this the introduction to a new world, therefore the authors have the luxury of spending considerable time to world building, which will likely pay off in the later novels.

Of course, because the plot revolves around magic and three young adults, comparisons will be made with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. This may be a little premature; if they had added a couple more would we have been comparing it to the Narnia books. Books with groups of young adults is nothing very new, nor are stories set in a school. However, in this respect, the book's cover does it few favours; the only thing missing was Cal wearing round glasses.

Fantasy books are very akin to Ouroboros with each cycle feeding on the bones of the last. Joseph Campbell’s work in comparative mythology (The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)) proved that most of the stories we tell each other have a strikingly similar underlying structure.

The fact that the young man is endowed by magic, probably destined to be a great mage, who lives under a sort of curse may sound familiar, that he attends a school for magic and makes friends with another boy and girl, may make you pause. But, let’s face it before you start throwing around accusations of a Harry Potter rip off, Albus Dumbledore was a riff on Gandalf.

What matters is that the authors have created a personable set of characters with whom to share the journey with, constructed a well-rounded world to play in and a book with a twist in the tail, making sure that you will want to return for the next instalment. Well written, the book was an easy read, although sometimes the world building did throw the pace off, but I suppose time spent doing this in the current novel will save time when the story proper kicks in.

It’s worth a read, so long as you keep in mind that, for the most part, it’s setting up the subsequent novels.


Charles Packer

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