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review 2018-08-16 14:44
The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare,Holly Black
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

Are there similarities between this and the Harry Potter series? Yes. Is it still a unique and entertaining read? Definitely. 

While the story and characters share some traits with Harry Potter, there is tons of new stuff going on and each character is dealing with their own unique struggles. So yes, it's a wizarding school featuring a team of two males and one female with a stuck-up, slightly charismatic male as a school nemesis, but I promise this is not just a Harry Potter rip off. So much different stuff going on. 

I picked this up from the library because I have become obsessed with Holly Black's writing lately and was intrigued by the cover. I'll admit, the book starts out kind of slow. I didn't really like Call's character (plus, it took me forever to realize his name was "Call" and not "Cole", darn audiobooks- the whole time I couldn't figure out how "Cole" was short for "Callum"). He's a bit irritating and clueless. He grows on your a little bit, but I mostly stuck around for Aaron and Tamara. 

But the whole world-building. I loved all of the descriptions of the school itself and the various rooms. So cool. All of the magic stuff was fascinating. I liked the idea of magic coming from the elements and the apprentices learning to control them without wands or potions. 

The plot was a bit slow to start, but in my opinion, it was worth it for the twist at the end. You know something was coming, but I never would have guessed it was that. Great twist that really pulls the reader in.

I definitely want to continue the series. Just requested the next audiobook from the library. 
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review 2018-02-07 13:30
will have to continue with this.
The Iron Trial - Holly Black,Cassandra Clare

This asks for comparisons with other stories, with other writers but it wouldn't be fair.  Yes it's a boarding school but the reason Callum (or Call) doesn't want to go is because his father has told him terrible things about it and he believes his father, of course he does.  He tries to fail the entrance exam and fails with that, spectatularly.  He goes to the school mistrusting everyone, particularly the teachers.  As is common with magical schools they fail to educate the students in ordinary ways but manage to be mysterious in how they're teaching and why they have certain classes.  I suppose it's suitable that they live in caves and largely live on mushrooms and lichens (kept in the dark, fed...)

He doesn't make friends simply, but when he does they're loyal to him and he's loyal to them. The story does show how the magical can become ordinary and how the three main characters cope with the strangeness.

As their lives change they have so little real control over a lot of it that it makes them frustrated in trying to deal with all the new and all the politics that they're really not prepared for but it's interesting to compare it to real life and real schooling.

I enjoyed this and would recommend it, there's quite good variety of characters and people and the main character was injured as a child and this has long-term consequences to him but it's accepted as a thing.

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review 2016-08-15 01:13
The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare,Holly Black

Middle of the road with a capital Meh. What a disappointment from Cassandra Clare! The characters are bland, the world building is great but that alone does not make a great (I'd have settled for Good) book. The big reveal happened naturally but it wasn't that hard to guess. I hope this is the beginning of a memorable new series but I'm afraid that it might suffer from a case of "Gone to the World Well One Too Many Times"

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review 2016-05-28 18:50
Not Just Another Harry Potter: The Iron Trial | Review
The Iron Trial - Paul Boehmer,Listening Library,Cassandra Clare,Holly Black

A MG Contemporary Fantasy that rises above the obvious comparisons to Harry Potter.


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.


Buy Now | +Goodreads

Disclosure: GMB uses affiliate links, clicking and making a purchase may result in a small commission for me.

Source: I purchased this book myself Audible.



The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, read by Paul Boehmer, published by Listening Library (2014) / Length: 10 hrs 37 min



This is Book #1 of 2 (so far) in "The Magisterium" series. Book #3, The Bronze Key, is currently scheduled to be released on 8/30/16.



There has been some controversy surrounding this series. With detractors calling it out as a Harry Potter rip-off and it's supporters touting the many differences. I have to say that I definitely see the similarities (beyond just the "kids in a magic school fighting a bad guy," which frankly JK Rowling did not invent) and consider it to be firmly "inspired by." That's not necessarily a bad thing though.


There are many differences; and with the twist at the end, the authors take this in a totally different and intriguing direction. So, controversy aside, I really like it and am eagerly awaiting the next book.


Note: I am adding a "Diversity" tag to this, as Callum has a physical disability in the form of a lame leg.




Callum Hunt: Not a "bad kid" yet is often in trouble (usually for rescuing animals). He is being raised by an eccentric single father, who has taught him to hate & fear magic and the Magisterium. He has been picked on and excluded because of his disability. He has a tendency to say obnoxious things when feeling defensive or uncomfortable.


Tamara & Aaron: The other two members of our trio. We don't get to know them indepth in this book, but will be learning more in the next.


Master Rufus: I have some serious concerns about his teaching methods, especially considering the young age of his students.



The majority of this book takes place inside the Magisterium, which is located underground in a series of caverns. Each student has their own room, which makes hiding things and sneaking out easier (as a very light sleeper, I always wondered why Ron & Harry's dorm mates did wake up). Getting lost and/or running into something dangerous is sometimes a possibility. And there is no way for the students to leave without help.



This books starts out on the dark side for MG, with a slaughter of innocents being discovered. Another darkish thing is that, once Callum is selected, he has no choice about going and is taken from his father by force (hopefully not a spoiler, since the whole point of the book is that he has to go when he doesn't want to). Children who aren't selected, or who fail their first year, have their magic sealed and their memories altered; this leaves them forever feeling as if they are missing something.



  • Havoc - a magical pet
  • Glowing walls while traveling in a boat (sounds beautiful)
  • The social room where they eat treats and watch magically projected movies
  • The fact that certain important things happen to someone other than Callum.


I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Celia. Am I jaded if I find her oblivious cheerfulness a bit annoying? And aren't they a little young to start with crushes



The narrator has a fairly deep voice, so don't expect the dialog to sound like actual 12 year olds. / The speed was good, I was able to listen on regular speed (rather than my usual 1.25 speed) / He did a good job capturing Call's attitude and sarcasm, and with general emoting & pacing.



The Iron Trial (The Magisterium #1) by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, read by Paul Boehmer, published by Listening Library (2014) / Length: 10 hrs 37 min Buy Now | +Goodreads

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review 2016-05-14 16:05
The Iron Trial - Cassandra Clare,Holly Black

I think this was a great fantasy book. I admit it did re-use quite a few fantasy tropes and perhaps cliches, but overall it was a solid read. I really enjoyed Callum as a character, and there was a mystery throughout the book about what this all was for.

I think what is painfully obvious is that this book is VERY reminiscent of Harry Potter. Three main characters. Main guy gets into trouble a lot. Sneaks out at night. Has links to the Evil Villain of the book. Yep, you can see where this is going, can't you?

Still, I wouldn't call this a complete Harry Potter rip-off - this book has many elements that make it unique in many different ways. The way magic is dealt with is a bit generic though.

The plot twists in the book were awesome, although one of them I should have seen coming. I'm also glad the author(s) didn't try to wrap the whole thing up in one book, so I'm glad there's a sequel. It's not in my library though.

It felt like something else was missing in the book, somehow. Maybe some extra world-building wouldn't go amiss? There was very little connection to the real world above, and maybe that would have been nice, but I'm not going to bash it for that.

All in all, a nice little read and I might read the sequel if I come across it. 3.5/5.

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