Book Review: the Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

This weekend’s book was the Iron Trial (Young Adult 295 pages) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

“Friends and foes. Danger and magic. Death and life. 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 …”

One of the interesting things about reading this book right now is that I am currently working on my Readings in the Genre: Mystery Classics for my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and I’ve noticed that there are elements of mystery in a variety of genres that are not specifically classified as mystery. This story has a lot of elements of mystery woven throughout the main plot. I think one of the key points of mystery is getting the reader curious and asking questions about who the characters involved in the story are, why the characters behave the way they do, and how are specific scenes in the story accomplished? For mystery, it’s the curiosity and the questions that drive the story forward.

The same principles of mystery can be used in this story. I spent most of the story curious as to what was truly going on and what the motivation for each of the characters is. Why doesn’t Callum have any control of his magic? What isn’t Call’s father telling him? There were a lot of mysterious elements strewn throughout this story and I enjoyed the questions this story presented.

I was particularly interested in the portrayal of friendship in this story. Call finds himself in so many situations where he is ridiculed because he doesn’t fit in well with any of his peers. He seems to have no redeeming qualities that any of his peers would seek out. And yet, he finds himself partnered with two other people who turn into friends that he can count on. I think part of this is because they are put in a situation where the three of them are required to learn how to deal with, live with, and work together with each other in order to make it through their training. I think this is something that is sometimes lacking in the interpersonal relationships I see in the world around me today – the ability to work through issues, concerns, or problems instead of just ditching when things get uncomfortable. When people are forced to be in a situation and to work together, they learn more about each other and learn to see the good in each other instead of seeing the problems. I am of the opinion that all problems are solvable if those involved would only take the time to attempt positive communication, but that’s just the hopeless idealist in me.

To the best of my knowledge, this book is the first in a series of five and it looks a lot to me as though this entire storyline is going to question what makes someone a villain and what makes someone a hero. I’m intrigued enough by the way that this first book was done that I am considering investigating the next four books in the series.

I would probably rate this book as a low three on my rating scale because it was well-written with interesting characters but I am not so deeply ingrained in the story that I simply must find the next books in the series and read them immediately.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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