Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

October 11, 2014 3 stars, Book Review 23 ★★★

Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra ClareThe Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black
Published by Scholastic Press on September 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade & Childrens
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.

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 . . .


The Iron Trial is a nice addition to the middle grade fantasy genre that feature boarding schools of the magic variety. I’ve read a few of them now over the years and I still think they are fun. I do however think I might have enjoyed this one more if I weren’t in the mood for something with a bit more of a mature teen feel.

These kids entering the school are the typical age of 12. Anyways Callum (or Call like a telephone call – I’m weird and just had to verify this by listening to part of the audiobook) has been training much of his life to fail The Iron Trial test that grants the kids entrance into the school. His father hates magic, I’m assuming because of the prologue where his wife is murdered and his then infant son Call is maimed. So Call grew up with a father that hates and fears magic. And Call? Well he’s a surly kid that I don’t feel sorry for or even really like. He has a disability because of his leg being broken as an infant – instead of rising above his handicap he seems to use it as an excuse to be a brat. He doesn’t exactly feel sorry for himself obviously but he always expects people to treat him differently and then also doesn’t make a real effort to be nice even if folks are nice to him. He does turn a lot of that around as the book progresses thankfully because if it didn’t I don’t think I could have continued.

He winds up partnered with two other kids, Aaron who seems nice and Tamara who is quite a bit stuck up in the beginning. They are chosen by one of the masters of the Magisterium (the magic school under a mountain) to be his apprentices. At first you think these kids are going to be at odds but wind up developing bonds. It was really nice to see the relationship between these three develop and change over the course of the book. I have to admit here that the role I assumed would be taken on by Call was not and that Aaron might end up being a bigger character then the first part of the book left me believing. I really enjoyed the way this played out. I do think Tamara was given a little bit too typical of cliche of a role but not one that I found to be incorrect or ill fitting. For not liking her as much in the beginning I ended up liking her much more by the end.

The magic system is one that I think kids will enjoy but I wasn’t overly impressed as I was reading it for my own pleasure. This is definitely one where I would say kids 8 to 11 would enjoy it more. I know this might sound silly but reading it made me feel old versus some other kids books I’ve read which instead make me feel nostalgic (which is a feeling I much prefer). Do you know what I mean? Like watching a show or reading a book that you know is targeted at a certain age group but enough is included for adults such that they will enjoy it too. This one didn’t quite fit into that bracket for me. So ultimately The Iron Trial isn’t one of those middlegrade books that I would recommend to adult readers who enjoy the occasional kids read. Overall, it was a quick and easy read but definitely targeted younger readers.

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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23 Responses to “Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare”

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Hey you are right! It’s always harder when a book is a three star. Because I struggle to find something that stands out enough to me. I did have some snark about it sharing similarities with Harry Potter but I read a few other reviews that all mention that and I got tired of reading the same sorts of things in all the other reviews.
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  1. Lola

    Call doesn’t really sound like a liekable character. And how is it possible that Call trained for the Iron Trail all his life and his father hates magic?
    I don’t think I’ll be picking up this book although it sounds like a fun MG book when you’re in the mood for one. I always find reading MG books a bit of a an hit or miss, they can either make me feel old or enjoy it because it’s so drama free and nostalgic.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      No he trained for much of his life to fail it, his father was training him to fail it, weird I know right. He wasn’t like able in the beginning but it was meant to be that way, I liked him after awhile after you get past his moodiness and he makes friends.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Yeah, the magic school aspect, but lots of MG have magic schools these days. The three main characters (two boys, one girl but the characterizations are different of course) and yes one of them is an orphan but not the “Harry” …the one that you’d expect to be lead definitely does have the potential to be good or bad I think based on some foreshadowing. But anyways there are similarities if you already go in trying to find them. Hence why I didn’t mention HP at all in my review cause I noticed tons of reviews were saying that and I got tired of seeing that in reviews. Sometimes comparisons like that can kill a books chances. Plus if you compare any book in the same genre and age range I bet would share big things.

      It was good but it wasn’t great for me personally.
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  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Can’t wait to read this, thanks for sending over your extra copy 😀

    Despite seeing a middling rating for this from a couple bloggers I know, I think this might be a book that ends stronger than it begins, and that gives me hope.
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  3. Kirsty-Marie

    I was looking forward to this (though I don’t read children’s ones that often) but yeah, I would hate it. I don’t like ones that do seem more for a younger audience, but I have read some great ones that don’t feel like that, so wish it would’ve been on that scale than the other. I’ve also read some that have mentioned about similarities to Harry Potter, so that and this? I’m not going near it now.
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    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      Yes it shared some similarities with Harry Potter but personally I think many other MG books I’ve read before have as well. If you think about it don’t many of the yA books you’ve read have huge similarities. So I wouldn’t count that against it. It is still very much it’s own story, I just think targeted at a younger age group.
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  4. Molly Mortensen

    haha I never thought about checking the audio book pronunciation. I thought it was Call like calender, oops! Yeah, what I assumed would happen didn’t. I was trying to guess the ending (I’m usually pretty good at that) but I totally failed. I liked the book, but after the ending I loved it! 🙂