Woohoo, welcome back to another review! Finally. I feel like it's been eons since I've sat down and typed one of these babies up, and for that I apologize. But to make up for it, today I'm reviewing a book that a lot of you guys have been fangirling over--drumroll please....The Iron Trial! *tosses confetti into the air*
I'll be the first to admit that I've never read a Holly Black novel, and that I picked this up mostly because of Cassandra Clare, ye of Shadowhunter fame. She's been talking about this book for quite some time, and all of us fans have been twiddling our thumbs just waiting for it to come out. I was a bit surprised and a bit put off by the fact that it was a middle-grade book, because I was hoping for a nice chunky YA novel. While reading it, however, I grew to love the fact that it was a book for younger readers. It was nice to read a novel devoid of love triangles and pubescent angst. It was a nice, easy, refreshing read.
With its magical-school plot, The Iron Trial is reminscent of the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books. I've always said that I would love to remember what it was like reading the Harry Potter books--I was seven when I first started them, so the books have just always been there. Reading The Iron Trial is somewhat how I imagine reading the Potter books for the first time as an adult. I loved how Clare & Black tried to set themselves apart from Potter by making The Iron Trial's magic very natural and connected to the earth. There are no broomsticks or wands involved. The school is located under a mountain, in a bunch of caves.
For all their efforts to distance themselves from other famous wizarding schools, though, their characters smack of Potter & Co. Apparently, young male protagonists with magical descent can't have anything but black hair. Yes, Callum Hunt, the hero of The Iron Trial, joins the Black-Haired Heroes Club, population: Percy Jackson & Harry Potter. Couldn't he have been a redhead or a blond? Like PJ and HP, he's also wildly impulsive and stubborn, to the point where I was just rolling my eyes at him going "Really, Call? You think that's the smartest thing you could've done? Silly rabbit." Call's female sidekick, Tamara is also--surprise, surprise--an overachieving braniac. In stark contrast to Hermione, though, she is The Iron Trial's version of a pureblood. Tamara's known all her life that she had powers, and that the Magisterium was where she would ultimately end up. Finishing up the trio is Aaron, who Call compares to being like Captain America.
Now, I start with the spoilers. Walk away if you haven't read the book. One of the main plot points in the novel is the search for a Makar. A Makar, or chaos-mage, would be the only hope the good guys have of defeating the bad guy, aptly named The Enemy. Now, I went into this thinking it'd be a predictable plot, that Call would end up being the Makar and savior of his people. I was pleasantly surprised when, gasp! it turned out to be Aaron! Yes indeed, ladies & gentlemen, the best friend has finally been given the spotlight. I can totally imagine Cassie & Holly venting about how Ron always felt like he played second fiddle to the Chosen One, and them going, "OMG WE SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE OUR CHOSEN ONE BE THE BEST FRIEND YAAAS #JUSTICEFORSIDEKICKS". Aaron did grow to be my favorite kid out of the three: he's easygoing, friendly, but also acts like a lost little puppy sometimes, which just makes me want to hug the lil' guy.
The ending was a classic Clare ending: epic. I was going with the theory of Call being a descendant of the Enemy, but nope. He turned out to be the Enemy himself. WHAT. YES. WHAT. It's like if we found out in the first book that Harry was a Horcrux. That would've just blown my teeny little seven-year-old mind. The Enemy's followers have been following Call, waiting for him to remember his past life as a power-hungry mage. This ending builds up the plot for the second novel: Will Call be able to resist his dark side? How is it going to work if your best friend is meant to destroy you? Will Tamara be forced to choose one of them? Questions, questions!
My rating: 9/10