A lot of people seem to be comparing The Iron Trial to Harry Potter, and I can see the obvious correlation: two guys, one girl. Girl is super smart. Protagonist is clueless about magical world. It’s a school. There is magic. But apart from that…it couldn’t be more different. Essentially it’s still about a boy who is pulled into the magical world and expected to fight an enemy, whilst also making a bunch of friends and befriending some animals, but we all know that’s a winning formula, so why can’t it be successful again?
One of my favourite things about this book is how misleading the cover is. On the cover we have the trio; Call, Aaron and Tamara – Aaron being in the middle – but he’s not the protagonist! How great is that? I won’t draw on Harry Potter too much for comparisons – only a few more I promise – but it’s like reading HP from Ron’s perspective. Don’t get me wrong Callum is still super important to the plot line too, he’s the one that knows nothing, so we need to follow his journey specifically so that we can learn about the Magisterium as he does. Also, there is quite a twist at the end that I was not expecting at all, but I suppose if I’d been putting two and two together from the beginning I might have been able to figure it out. However, that’s why it’s so impressive, because you’re too distracted by all this new magic and a new school to learn the rules of, that you forget to read between the lines.
Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the fact that Call is hindered by his mangled leg. This book dealt with prejudice extremely well, and I really enjoyed having a character that wasn’t emotionally scarred, but physically scarred. (A bit of emotional scarring was thrown in for good measure) He has to deal with the idea of holding his friends back because he can’t do everything as well as they can. Obviously he can do that and much more, and I’m seriously interested to see how he deals with his leg as the series continues and the adventure becomes more strenuous. The trio isn’t you’re average rag-tag group of three, they are apprentices of the Magisterium and they are awesome.
At some points it seemed as though the authors were really trying to differentiate The Iron Trial from Harry Potter by making the school system so very different. Even going as far as to say that instead of being called first years they are Iron Years and the prefix to the ‘years’ will change to other precious metals as they progress through the school. The whole idea of the bracelets to indicate which year the pupils are in was ingenious. I can totally see future The Iron Trial cosplayers brandishing their cool bracelets. You’ve got a wand? Well look at my bracelet. I would like one, please.
I loved how different the school system was, the ‘classes’ are really small, so I feel that we’ll get to know every secondary character equally. My favourite character is probably Celia, because although she was part of the secondary group she was still adorable, and I’m really looking forward to her developing relationship with a certain someone. On that note, I thought that everything was perfect for a twelve year old perspective, Cal still made some silly mistakes, and the characters didn’t really have strong romantic relationships with each other yet, and that’s possibly the most exciting aspect to this series. We’re going to get to watch a whole new set of characters grow up and see how their relationships change.
Some parts of the plot were slow, but as seems to be the way with Cassandra Clare’s writing especially, the last ten per cent was a rapid adventure of shock and mystery. I’m not too disappointed by the pacing, on the other hand, because we needed that world building, especially considering our characters live underground. The description of the underground caves was so beautiful, and enchanting. I’m looking forward to more areas of the caves as the characters progress.
I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the series will continue, because I feel like we’ve already been given the biggest plot twist and surprise. Yet, this does make me even more excited to get my hands on the next book, because what could possibly come next after a wonderful first book?