Review: The Iron Trial

The Iron Trial, Holly Black and Cassandra ClareMagic is dangerous, and will get you killed. That’s what Callum Hunt’s father has always told him. And the Magisterium — where young magicians are trained — is nothing but a pit of vipers.

For other kids Callum’s age, the idea of purposely failing the Iron Trial is unthinkable; for Callum, it’s a goal. He doesn’t want to leave his father, and he doesn’t want to die.

Callum has always been great at failing, and his performance at the Iron Trial is decidedly unimpressive. But somehow he is still chosen.

Isolated from his father and trapped in the Magisterium’s massive underground complex, Callum is forced to confront his fears — including the fear that his father may have been mistaken all along.

Callum does well in training and even makes a few friends. But an enemy of old is stirring, and the forests around the school are full of Chaos-ridden. A treaty that has lasted for years is about to crumble, and Callum must make a decision that could could put the entire world in danger.


I enjoyed Holly Black’s The Good Neighbors way back in 2011; when I heard she’d partnered with Cassandra Clare (author of The Mortal Instruments series) I knew I’d have to get my hands on The Iron Trial.

And I was not disappointed. This ain’t your mama’s Juvenile fiction. It’s dark and twisted, with a complex story line and characters who live firmly in the gray area between Good and Evil.

Callum is a great kid who hides a sensitive soul and fears about his disability behind bravado and snarky comments. His classmates and closest friends, Tamara and Aaron, are also awesome, with plenty of clues as to their own interesting childhoods and plot lines to come.

The world building and plot inevitably invite comparisons to the Harry Potter series, which sometimes made it hard for me to focus on the story Black and Clare were trying to tell. But about halfway through the book picked up speed and took me in a different enough direction that I was able to focus entirely on what I was reading.

Which is good, because shit got real surprisingly quickly. Some big things are revealed, and with four more books to go it looks like it’s going to be full speed ahead the entire way.

The Iron Trial is perfect for fantasy lovers of all ages, particularly those who might be looking for bedtime reading that’s a little more exciting than the standard Juvenile fiction fare.

(I read this book as part of the Monthly Motif Challenge. May’s challenge was to read a book about survival.)

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