A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
- Authors: Holly Black, Cassandra Clare
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Press
- Publication date: August 30, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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