Monday, October 13, 2014

Middle School Monday: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Katie gives us a way to get some more wizardry into our lives. And we all need that.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

When I heard the announcement that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were teaming up to write a book about a boy at wizarding school, I had recently reread Harry Potter and felt like I was missing some magic in my life. Which is to say, I was excited by the news even if it did sound sort of “been there, done that”.  

At this point, we’re all familiar with the tropes of fantasy novels and sometimes the familiar is just what the doctor ordered. As you ease into The Iron Trial, certain plot points will strike a familiar chord:
  1. Callum Hunt has been accepted to the Magisterium, a school of magic for wizard training (despite his best intentions of getting himself rejected).
  2. Callum’s mother died in when Callum was a baby, a story which is very much a mystery to Call, in a war that doesn’t feel completely over against an enemy who isn’t completely gone.
  3. And the Magisterium may just be the one place where Call and his limp and his offbeat sense of humor belong, the one place where he has real friends.

But this is Holly Black and Cassandra Clare that we’re talking about. And while you might spend the first half of the book running a list of comparisons between this tale and another in your head, by the second half you’ll be pulled into Callum, Aaron, and Tamara’s story on its own merits.

The magic of Callum’s world is richly realized, based on the elements of water, fire, air, earth, and chaos. The school, hidden away in the caves of Luray, Virginia, sounds by turns cold and fascinating. The students, each with their own story, often reveal themselves to perhaps not be exactly what we’ve come to expect.

When Callum’s class--The Iron Year--completes their admission trials and are accepted, the Magisterium has been waiting a long time for a wizard who can control Chaos, who can help them end the war once and for all after years of an uneasy treaty. But as each character reveals his or herself, the story takes unexpected twists and turns. And Callum Hunt, who never wanted to be a magician in the first place, may face a far more challenging decision and carry a far more fascinating burden than he could have ever imagined.

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