Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

15944406Doll Bones by Holly Black
Genre: Magical-Realism, Middle-Grade
Published by: Corgi Children’s
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★

Okay, so I’ve sampled Holly Black’s YA books and her MG that’s co-written, so this is actually the first middle grade book of hers where there isn’t a secondary contributor. I feel like her writing is a bit hit-and-miss in general, and I’m sad to say that Doll Bones was a bit of a miss for me. It was an engaging story but completely over the top and I think I would’ve needed more elements of realism to properly enjoy it.

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Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

20958632The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Genre: Magical Realism, Faerie
Published by: Indigo
Pages: 352
Format: Hardback
Rating: ★★★★★

I have previously disliked Holly Black’s work. I haven’t been impressed by the Magisterium series she’s been co-writing with Cassandra Clare, and Maddie didn’t enjoy The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I read Tithe in 2012 and absolutely hated it, but not after reading Black’s latest faerie story, I think it’s about time I gave it a second chance. The Darkest Part of the Forest is almost like a gender-bend faerie version of Snow White. It starts with a horned boy in a glass coffin that no one’s been able to open. The coffins sits in the middle of the forest where teens regularly go to party. Hazel and her  brother Ben are inextricably linked with the faerie world, and in their youth were obsessed with their prince in the coffin; they adored playing knights and hunting evil faeries. From the first page I was hooked.

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Review: The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

13612962The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Published by: Scholastic Press
Pages: 300
Format: e-book
Series: The Iron Trial (#1)
Rating: ★★
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

You see, I can’t help but be slightly disappointed with this series. At first the Harry Potter parallels were obvious, and it’s going to be hard to separate the two considering it’s 2 boys, 1 girl at a magical school hidden from the regular world. I mean, we all see what’s going on here. And I seriously hoped that by book two they would have moved away from HP and I hate to admit that the plot line is still basically the same with the characters roles switched up a bit.

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Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

12813630The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Genre: Supernatural, Horror
Published by: Little Brown Books
Pages: 419
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

On the cover of this book, there is a little sticker that says ‘Not Suitable for Younger Readers: Dark, Decadent and Seductive.’ If I was going to use any three words to describe this book, it would be those, and I definitely agree with the ‘you-wouldn’t-want-to-give-this-to-a-twelve-year-old.’

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Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
Published by:
Scholastic
Pages:
295
Format: ebook
Rating:
★★★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

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?