The Iron Trial (book one of the Magesterium) by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black
Scholastic Press (September 9, 2014) Grades 3-7, 304 pgs (hardback)
I was searching for a few new books to recommend to our library when I came across a junior fiction book with an eye catching cover. I honestly did not recognize the authors, it was the cover that made me want to read this. This is a great start to a new middle grade fiction story featuring three characters, two boys and a girl. Our main character is Callum Hunt a young boy who just received his invitation to test for a spot in the Magesterium, or school for magicians.
This is a world filled with magicians and magical creatures, but the magical world and the mundane stay largely out of each others way. Callum Hunt has leg that was broken when he was young and never healed properly. He knows he has magic, as does his Father, but Callum is terrified of this power. His Mother was killed because of it, and his Dad wants to make sure Callum is not dragged to the Magesterium, a school for wizards deep underground, and killed as well. Callum and his father come up with a plan to keep him out of the school, but when everything they try goes wrong it is up to Callum to figure out who he wants to become.
This is a book series worth adding to your collection. The characters are nice but not perfect. Callum is not an all powerful, super athletic genius, and neither are his two friends Tamara and Drew. Call is a boy with a crippled leg and a bad temper, who famously disrupted a town May Day Parade because he wanted to rescue some rats from a pet store. There are prophesies, mushroom food, a water taxi ride that just might kill you, chaos filled enemies, and a school built into a cave.
Yes I know, I know, some of you Potter fans out there are going “But isn’t that Harry Potter’s story? Young magician is invited to school?” Well No. In fact, I can name several classic fantasy novels that used the same basic premise that were written years before Ms. Rowling ever took her young wizard goes to school stories to print. And because I have read a lot of fantasy, especially about young boys who come into their power and end up at a school (good and bad) I can say that this is a great example of that genre.
Please note to parents, this is a violent story, and while no one expressly dies “on scene” a lot of characters are bloodied. There is a lot of risk taking behavior, and bullying without consequences. Some themes are closer to Young Adult than Junior Fiction, so you might reserve this book for older or more mature readers. Do not read this expecting a junior Mortal Instruments. It is closer to Holly Black’s Spiderwick chronicles or Doll Bones (see post on that book ) in tone and scare factor. Not quite steam punk, not quite high fantasy, but a fun start to a new series.