The Iron Trial is the first book in the Magisterium series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. The series currently has four books with the fifth coming in September of this year. The Iron Trial follows the story of 12 year old Callum Hunt (goes by Call), who has been dealt bad cards early in his life. His mother was killed in a war he knows nothing about, an injury from when he was a baby has messed up his left leg and according to his father he is, unfortunately, a magician. His father, Alastair Hunt has warned him of the dangers of magic all his life and he has stressed his distrust of those who teach the magical arts; the Mages of the Magisterium.
To make sure he never has to go to the Magisterium, Call's father has instructed him to fail the Iron Trial; the series of tests that assess aspiring young mages and their magical prowess. He's grown up hearing all of his father's stories of how the school is, so he intends to fail them all. But he fails at failing and is selected to attend the Magisterium, much to his father's despair. With no intention to go the school, Call is whisked away with only the clothes on his back to a place that has terrified him all his young life.
Much to his surprise however, it isn't all that bad. He makes some friends, explores the wonders of magic and even gets a pet or two. He also learns of the Enemy of Death, a powerful mage bent on defying death (as his name would suggest) and the natural order of the world. Call also finds himself in entangled in a devious plot involving his father, late mother and with young Callum Hunt at the center of it all.
This book weaves a rich and imaginative world, with creatures and characters equal to it. The authors fill their world with characters with their own depth that isn't dependent on Call, making them their own people and not just props for the main character. Callum himself is written very well with the frustration of wanting to do things like other kids but understanding he can't because of his leg. This is one of the conflicts within him as he tries to make it through his first year at the Magisterium.
The book reads simply, but that doesn't make it a dull tale. Though not exceptionally action heavy, it's still fairly interesting just to discover magic with Call and his friends. But as their control of magic grows; the danger the trio seems to get themselves into. And with this being only the first book, I can imagine the action and adventure escalates even further. What's most impressive about the book is the challenge it sort of faces and how it deals with it.
When something is the top dog, so to speak, of a niche (in this case Harry Potter is the top dog of magical school stories) there's a natural reaction that writers have to make their story distinctly different. In doing so they either lose coherency by throwing in so many different concepts to stand apart from the thing they'll be compared to, or they'll end up creating a carbon copy of it. While this does have certain parallels to Harry Potter, this book stands on its own feet as a magical work.
All in all, it's a wonderful read for teenagers and kids, adults who demand a bit more action from books may be a little bored with the kid-friendly nature of The Iron Trial, but make no mistake; this book remains grounded and portrays realistic young people without dumbing it down. The Iron Trial and the other four books can be found on Amazon and probably anywhere else books are sold. Hope you give it a read!