Book Review: the Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I actually started and finished the third book in the Magisterium series, The Bronze Key (Young Adult 249 pages) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare last week on Wednesday but things in my life have been a bit busy lately so I’m only getting to my review now.

“Magic can save you. Magic can kill you. Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world. But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer … and risk their own lives in the process. As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm – unless it is stopped in time.”

This book definitely continues with the thread of a mystery, where Call, Tamara, and Aaron are searching for someone who could be a spy in the midst of their fellow students and instructors at the Magisterium. One of the things that is always at the back of my mind when I read young adult is that the adults in the stories are always so incompetent. The main characters, young and inexperienced, are always in the thick of all of the problems and none of the adults come up with viable solutions. In this particular book, a girl is killed at a very public function in a very public manner but the adults are so focused on politics and such that they aren’t capable of finding the actual conspirator. That’s just one of the common tropes from young adult, though, so I don’t really hold this book and series too harshly for prescribing to such a common trope.

I forget sometimes how old the characters are supposed to be in this book and this series and I think that’s probably a good thing. I certainly don’t remember what my life was like when I was a teenager or a pre-teen so I don’t think having specific ages is strictly necessary. What’s interesting to me in this book, though, is that there is the creeping realization of dating and romantic interest, which follow normal societal roles and expectations. I can’t really use much of my own experience in this category as I haven’t dated very much in my entire life, nor do I ever remember asking what to label my relationships, nor do I really remember what the peer pressure of relationships was like at that age. Basically, I have no ability to judge about how the budding romantic relationships are portrayed because it’s just as foreign to me now as it probably was to me at that age, but it seems like an accurate representation, based on other things I’ve read and how my peers acted when I was that age. I think.

This book definitely doesn’t end anywhere close to where you think a book like this would or should end, which is interesting to me.  While the story does go into the trope of adults being fairly useless, it seems to deviate from many of the other standard tropes. The main character is disabled and that disability is constantly part of his life, not just written in to fill a minority roll. The main character also isn’t popular or well-liked or athletic or muscular. In fact, there’s really nothing unique and special about him, if you were just looking at him from the outside looking in. The series so far is showing that you are who you choose to be and that the decisions you make are what truly demonstrates your character and I think that’s a worthwhile moral.

Overall, this book is a fast read and interesting. I think I like what’s going on so far and I would probably rate this as a solid three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and will continue to buy the rest of the books in the series.

Black, Holly and Clare, Cassandra. The Bronze Key. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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