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 Iron Trial is the first 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. It doesn't get very violent until near the climax with the death of one 12-year-old boy by magical means. Other injuries are mild; the main character, Callum, breaks his ankle, and mages suffer magical burns. However, there are many mentions of a massacre that killed women and children, including Callum's mother, and that left infant Callum with a painful, lifelong leg injury. Callum is a character who's loyal to his friends but makes a lot of mistakes; often his need for acceptance wins out over doing the right thing.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
It's test day for magically inclined 12-year-olds at the Magisterium, and Callum's Dad is desperate for him to fail. Despite getting the lowest possible score in every trial, he's still selected by the school's top mage, Master Rufus. So off to school he goes, while his father begs him to run away before he learns too much. He thinks magic is dangerous and the school puts kids in even greater danger. Call's father gave up magic years ago after his wife died in a massacre and infant Call permanently and painfully injured his leg. Call's severe limp has always made him an outsider, but at the school he finally feels as if he belongs. He's more torn about running away as the days go by and even more so when he intercepts a letter from his father to Master Rufus begging him to bind his magic before the end of the year, taking away all Call's magic abilities and ostracizing him from his new friends forever.
Is it any good?
With fantastic fantasy authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare working together, readers' eyes will light up with excitement as they think, "This is gonna be good!" Yes, of course the ideas are there. Magic school gets a darker makeover with some Eastern philosophy mixed in, and the main character is not who he seems -- or is he? And the labyrinthine cave setting is pretty cool.
So the idea meetings went really well. But the careful execution isn't there. This magical world is hastily explained and confusing, and the plots aren't carefully laid out -- often readers stumble upon what's supposed to be a nail-biting scene without any building of tension beforehand. For writers this good, this doesn't feel like the final draft. Here's hoping Book 2 gets the spit and polish it needs to keep loyal readers engaged.
Talk to your kids about ...
What made you pick up this series? Was it the big-name fantasy authors? Will you keep reading the other books?
What do you think will happen to Callum? Would you have made the same big decision he did at the end of the book? If not, do you understand why he chose the way he did?
- Authors: Holly Black, Cassandra Clare
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: September 9, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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