The Iron Trial – Review

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Book 1 in the Magisterium series
Genre: MG fantasy
Pages: 299


Cassandra Clare is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I went into The Iron Trial with fairly high expectations. Unfortunately, they weren’t all met.

the plot

The premise was interesting, but the execution wasn’t. It was slow and kind of plain, and easy to predict. I think this is part of why it took three and a half days for me to read, because I had a fair amount of time since I was on break.

the characters

Callum, or Call, was a unique narrator. I’ll give him that much. He had a crippled leg that prevented him from just about all physical activity, and he was surprisingly bitter for a twelve year old. He was hidden from magic for his whole life until he went to the Magisterium but adjusted really well – better than I thought he would, honestly. That was impressive to me. Tamara and Aaron were his two closest friends and also apprentices under the same master as Call. They were both great friends to him eventually. Tamara came from a wealthy mage family and knew a lot about the Magisterium already. She was very smart and loyal, and so was Aaron, though he had no family. He was a bit of a goody-two shoes (or however it’s worded haha) at first but that lessened as the story progressed. The other characters were interesting too, but not quite as fleshed out or original. The only other thing I want to touch on is Master Rufus. He seemed bitter at first but lightened up later on. My only problem was his name. How can I take someone named Rufus seriously? It doesn’t help his “powerful mage and Magisterium Master” personality. It was amusing to me. XD Also, I just want to mention that I think “Enemy of Death” is a really cliché name for a villain. I don’t know about Holly since I’ve yet to read anything of hers, but I know at least Cassandra has enough of an imagination to come up with something better. (I’m not saying Holly doesn’t, just that I don’t know if she does.)

the setting

I believe this took place in modern Virginia, but it was only mentioned twice so I’m not positive. 95% of the book happened in the Magisterium, which was a complex but modern series of tunnels and rooms underground near a forest full of monsters. It was a very interesting place for a magic school, but I can understand why it was there. It was described really well and I could imagine it fairly easily, but it was a bit hard because I’ve never been underground. XD

the relationships

There was no romance in this book, but there was a really strong friendship that developed between Call, Tamara, and Aaron. I liked the bond they formed and their loyalty to each other. They covered for one another a lot, and that’s true friendship right there haha. But seriously. I really liked the three of them; they were great friends. 🙂 It was also nice that they didn’t become friends immediately after meeting each other. It took time, which I appreciated since insta-friendship is very uncommon (but not impossible).

the twists

There were two big twists in this book; one about halfway through and the other at the very end. I was surprised when the first one was revealed because I thought that position would go to Call. I predicted fairly early on that Call would either be that or related to the villain. I wasn’t right, but I wasn’t surprised by the twist either. Honestly, I thought it was kind of dumb. I’m not trying to be rude or hateful, but I feel like Cassandra could’ve come up with something better after writing TMI and TID. (Again, nothing against Holly, but I don’t know what her work is like.) Also, can I just mention that the traitor was really unrealistic?


I wouldn’t call it a ripoff, but I could definitely see why people compared this to Harry Potter. Call and Aaron had qualities similar to both Harry and Ron, and Tamara was like Hermione except from a magic family. Jasper was Draco, Master Rufus was Dumbledore, Masters Rockmaple and Lemuel were both like Snape, and Master (well, technically Mistress) Milagros was McGonagall. They were unique in their own ways, but the similarities were kind of obvious. Also, in the first couple of chapters, Call is tested for magic to go to a school neither him nor his father Alastair want him to attend. Then he’s chosen to go and is taken there against his and his father’s will. Alastair was dragged out trying to protect his son. What even?! Also, the non-magic parents were told this was a test for their kids to go to pristine schools for their dream careers, like medical, ballet, or (literally) pony school. They lied outright to the parents (never mind that a bit of truth was sort of revealed before the choosing) and then the kids were taken away for an entire year. Plus, they can’t contact their families! The Magisterium is underground, which means absolutely no contact. That’s just messed up.


The Iron Trial was a decent book with an intriguing premise, but I have to admit it wasn’t executed well and I had a lot of issues with it. I wish I enjoyed it more, especially since Cassandra Clare had a hand in writing it, but it had problems that couldn’t be overlooked. 😦

But don’t let my opinions keep you from reading this! You might like it. 🙂

my rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

I’ll be starting Origin tomorrow! I seriously hope I can write a raving review for that one, haha.

Have you read this? Is it on your TBR? If you have read it, what did you think? 🙂

Until next time- Olivia ❤

3 thoughts on “The Iron Trial – Review

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