Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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…

I was very curious to see how the book would turn out, coming from two such well known and prolific authors as Clare and Black, but also because of the comparisons being made to Harry Potter.

Yes there are a lot of comparisons, but there are also a lot of differences too which helps once you get into it. There’s the school for magic, the trio of friends who band together, the sneaking around and general hijinks happening behind people’s backs, the prophecy, the Dumbledore and Snape like teacher figures, but there’s an awful lot in there that sets it apart from the Potter series. The series is always going to divide opinion, and there will always be people who can’t get into it or don’t want to read it because of the comparisons. For me personally it was like looking into a slightly skewed mirror until I got far enough into the story that it stopped being quite so obvious.

It was a bit unsettling though because I did always have Potter in the back of my head. And whilst every effort was being made to make magic school cool and exciting, I couldn’t get beyond some aspects of it. It was underground and cold and dark and no one ever really saw the outside world and the food, no matter how delicious it was described to be, sounded weird… I missed Hogwarts.
And if it hadn’t been so similar in so many ways, that comparison wouldn’t have been there.

Comparisons aside, it is still a very good book. Black and Clare make a great writing team and I really enjoyed the story. There were some great twists, some wonderful characters, and some really intriguing elements. I would have liked to get to know some more of the secondary characters better, and to see more of the magic lessons. I loved the main trio and I loved how the immediate comparisons were squashed and turned upside down by the end of the book.

I’m really looking forward to the second book because it feels like the set up has been dealt with and we can now move in to broadening the world and getting to know the characters better. There’s a lot that I want to know about this world. I think that a lot of the Potter comparisons will have been dealt with and the second book will begin to peel away and show a more individual and unique world to the one we were seeing here.

It is a much younger book, aimed at middle grade readers rather than young adult, and I know that the comparisons will put off a lot of people. However I definitely recommend giving it a go. The writing is good and the lead characters are wonderful. There’s more to it once you get into the story and I think that the series has some really fantastic potential. Let’s hope it lives up to it!


  1. Nice review! I am also hesitant to read this because of its comparisons to Harry Potter, but it sounds like a good book, and I love Holly Black's writing. Sounds like it could form into a nice series, and I think I might give it a go!

    1. It's definitely worth a try, and whilst the HP comparisons come thick and fast to start with, it emerges into its own book by the end. I'd love to know what you make of it!