The Iron Trial is the first book in series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I’m a fan of Holly Black, but I’ve kind of avoided everything by Cassandra Clare because I used to read Fandom Wank back in the day and she just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. However, this book was on sale a while back, and it looked interesting so I picked it up (also, I think Holly Black was listed first and I didn’t see Cassandra Clare’s name at all until after I started reading it). It’s fun, and I’ll be continuing with the series. It’s not particularly original, but it hits the sweet spot – in part because it isn’t very original.
So young Callum Hunt grew up knowing about magic, but was also raised to hate it by his father. So when the trials for magic school happen, Call goes into the test knowing that he wants to fail. And he does, quite spectacularly (though here’s where my logic gets in the way. His failures are so spectacular in ways that indicate he has a lot, a LOT, of magical ability so I found the fact that he was given negative points for some of his tests to be a wee bit unbelievable). Anyway, he fails. But he gets into the school anyway because he’s selected as an apprentice by the bestest teacher, the one everyone wants. The rest of the book is his adventures in magic school, and the slow unveiling of the main plot against the Enemy of Death (and if you heard BUMbumBUM after that, you wouldn’t be alone).
So, in case you haven’t picked up on it, this book is very Harry Potter adjacent. It’s not that I think every book about a boy who goes to magic school is a Harry Potter rip-off, but there are a lot of things about the book that are pretty clear responses to things in Harry Potter. There’s Jasper, the Draco-lite bully type for example. He’s clearly based on Draco, but he’s given a bit more backstory for his behavior then Draco ever was. There are a few other things scattered about the book that feel like the authors are trying to answer some of the issues that they had with the Harry Potter books, similar to the way that Veronica Roth was with her Divergent books. However, there are also places where you can see how much the authors liked Harry Potter, and wanted to emulate it. Plus, it’s very hard to separate Cassandra Clare out from Harry Potter, especially when she’s writing a book about a boy who goes to magic school.
Like I said, it’s fun. It’s decent and I think if you’ve been craving something like Harry Potter, this isn’t too bad.