“The Iron Trials” shines, but not so bright

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Popular young adult novelist Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments series, and Holly Black, known for The Spiderwick Chronicles, team up for a new middle grade series, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to kids.

The Iron Trials, book one of the Magisterium series, introduces readers to a new world of magic, but one that may seem similar to a certain wizarding school.

Main character Callum (Call) Hunt has always known he was a potential Mage, but his father, who has personal reasons against the Magisterium school, wants Call to fail the Iron Trial, where first year students test into the school. As hard as Call tries to fail, he ends up passing, and is taken away from his home to practice magic he’s never used before.

For Call, his life back home was never the best. His relationship with his father is somewhat odd, and because of his injured leg from birth, he doesn’t really have any friends. When he entered the Magisterium, his life basically changes for the better. He has friends, he’s enjoying school and everything his father has told him about how the school is evil doesn’t reflect his own opinion.

Throughout the first half of the book, there are so many similarities to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Students are assigned Master Mages (Hogwarts houses), and there are certain years. There’s a trio of friends that stick together, Call, Aaron and Tamara (Harry, Ron, and Hermione), and face many challenges. The other big similarity between the two series is that Call learns about an evil Mage who was known to be dead, but is in fact alive, in him. He learns at the end of the book that when he was a baby, Constantine Madden was killed, but was able to move his soul into Call’s body (Harry and Voldemort).

Although the two stories are different, the similarities are hard to ignore, and it doesn’t really help the new middle grade series comes to life itself like Harry Potter did. Clare and Black have made names for themselves respectably in their own fantasy series, but seem to have gained too much inspiration for the Magisterium series.

Three other books in the series, The Copper Gauntlet, The Bronze Key, and The Silver Mask (as well as a fifth, The Golden Tower, that has not been released yet), are now in bookstores. The series is worth the read, because, despite the similarities to Harry Potter, it’s intriguing to find out what’s going to happen to Call, since he decides not to tell anyone what he learned about himself, wanting to fight this (literally) internal battle, alone.