The Bronze Key: Magisterium, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Bronze Key: Magisterium, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Uneven magic-school threequel ends with jarring surprises.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Since this is a school of magic, readers can make obvious comparisons with other books about magic. Here there are no wands, and the mages work to control the elements: earth, water, fire, and air. 

Positive Messages

For the series so far, the underlying struggle is good vs. evil, in the world and within individuals. Loyalty and bravery, acceptance, and friendship all are important themes. Book 3 explores how people who want power can be dangerous and keeping big secrets just leads to having to keep even more secrets.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The three main characters, Callum, Tamara, and Aaron, decide to trust each other and work together, despite some signs that one of them may be conspiring against the others. Almost universally in kid books the adults say they'll handle problems and the kids always think they know better. Callum and friends thwart authority and decide to handle dangerous situations themselves, repeatedly, without real punishment from adults, which leads to tragedy.


Spoiler alert: a major character dies. Plus, a girl is found murdered, dagger in her back, floating in the water. A corpse is brought back to life. A chandelier nearly crushes students, an air elemental with teeth attacks, a student falls and breaks a leg, crazed animals attack -- including bears that maul and get sliced with a dagger, and people are knocked out magically with a "soul touch." Talk of the severed head Call brought back to the Magisterium the year before and murder committed by mages a generation ago, one of whom may have his soul residing in Callum and may be influencing his magic and decisions.


A teen couple "sucks face" often. The main character is both jealous and thinks it's gross.


A few quick mentions of fancy car brands and Brooks Brothers suits.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Bronze Key is the third book in the Magisterium series by accomplished fantasy writers Holly Black (Doll Bones) and Cassandra Clare (City of Bones). Both often write for a teen audience, but this series about a magic school is aimed at tweens. After the main character delivered a severed head to the mages at his magic school in Book 2, readers may be expecting more jarring violence. They get it here with -- spoiler alert -- an unexpected death. Also, the students reanimate a corpse enough to talk to it after it shows up floating in water with a dagger in its back. A chandelier nearly crushes students, an air elemental with teeth attacks, a student falls and breaks a leg, crazed animals attack -- including bears that maul and get sliced with a dagger -- and people are knocked out magically with a "soul touch." While Callum and friends work to find out who's trying to hurt Callum, they put themselves in danger repeatedly, usually against the wishes of their teachers, and pay a serious price for it in the end.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byporkchopexpress March 12, 2021

Parents beware

This series is enjoyable, if somewhat predictable.

Everything was fine until this book. Parents need to know that the authors include a character who inexplic... Continue reading
Adult Written bygeorge355 November 9, 2018

This book is amazing

this book is the best one so far in the series and it has a lot to it. It has death and a main character dies after an intense scene. Also, a character is stabb... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThalia Grace October 28, 2020


Not a good feel it had this weird mood it gave me that was eerie and creepy. What with all the death it was strange that the thing says 9 and up. So Aaron dying... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byPuppydogsarecute May 2, 2017


[Warning Spoiler Alert]

I really loved this book at the beginning. But it went so downhill with Aaron DYING. And Call getting locked up. I hope that the a... Continue reading

What's the story?

In The Bronze Key, Callum, Aaron, and Tamara are about to return to the Magisterium for their third year of magical training, but first they've been invited to an awards banquet in their honor. They convene at the impressive underwater Collegium with the usual fancy clothes and long speeches. Then, a chandelier in the trophy room falls, nearly impaling Callum, and a girl turns up dead in the water -- the same girl who delivered Callum a note moments before, supposedly from his sometimes-crush Celia, telling him to meet her alone in the trophy room. When they all get back to the Magisterium, the threats to Callum's life continue; someone is clearly trying to kill him, and Aaron and Tamara are determined to stop whoever it is. But trying to find the spy introduces more danger.

Is it any good?

The third in this team-written series continues to suffer from the same lack of cohesion and flow -- but, just like the others, it delivers a powerful finish. The Bronze Key meanders like the underground halls of the Magisterium, not quite developing secondary characters or a sense of rhythm of the life of the school; readers see one test, a few trips to the cafeteria, and two or three scenes of magical training, making it feel like less than a real school experience.

Despite that: Wow! What a surprising finish. Even readers who may have felt cheated along the way will be picking up Book 4, because they won't believe what they just read. Authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have delivered their A game before in other series, so here's hoping the new, shocking developments will breathe life into future installments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the jarring moments in The Bronze Key. A fancy party ends with a girl floating in the water with a knife in her back, and Book 2 featured a severed head. Is it OK for books for tweens to address serious subjects, including violence?

  • Callum, Aaron, and Tamara are always running off to find danger. What do you think about taking risks that adults have advised you not to take?

  • Will you keep reading the series after the shocker at the end of this book? Why, or why not?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love magical thrillers

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