Before I even got this book, I already heard about the apparent numerous comparisons to Harry Potter. Granted, every time a powerful and evil sorcerer or a magic school appears in a book for young (er) readers, people will start crying rip-off. Whilst that is not fair to any post-Rowling writer, the similarities in the The Iron Trial are pretty much in your face.There were certain scenes that could have been copy-pasted from The Philosopher’s Stone with only name changed – I’m talking about the ending, in the infirmary. Other times it was less blatant, but you could still notice it easily enough. If that doesn’t bother you too much, though, you can find quite a fun middle grade story here. The plot has a nice flow to it and if you’re not good enough at guessing twists – as I am – then you’re in for a nice surprise.
Black and Clare also came up with their own magic system, which is pretty understandable without being boring. Whilst out protagonists don’t pull of great magical feats, the expanse of the magical possibilities is hinted at in the margins. Take for example the movie being displayed in the gaming hall. That’s where this book find its greatest merit in the details. As you wander the different caves of the Magisterium, you can paint a vivid and colourful picture of the surroundings, of the food, the animals. Also the stuff with the gates and all is a nice find, though I wish it had some punch to it. When things finally get out of the sand, stuff starts happening. It might not be all believable, especially when the whole school goes out to look for a student gone AWOL, and our little band of heroes is out there alone in the dark. Cus everyone responsible for 12-year-olds taken them on a mission with imminent danger. But oh well, if everyone behaved according to what they should be, the plot would not move an inch, would it? This book might not have gotten the greatest last chapters in book history, and if you take out the big reveal there’s not much left to be excited about, but it does set up nicely for the next books in the series. As long as you take it for what it is, a first book in a series. then this is quite enjoyable.
The characters are unfortunately, a tad bland. I vaguely remember Callum, the protagonist, to be whiny little kid and the girl – whose name I had to look up back for the purpose of this review – Tamara resembled Hermione pre-troll attack way too much not to call her Hindu Hermione instead of Tamara. The guy-friend Aaron, well I don’t remember him too well with the exception of that thing that happened. The other characters were kind of watered down versions of Malfoy, Dumbledore, and that’s about it when it comes to important characters. Even the baddies don’t feel all that threatening. The plot twist does some explaining o this front I guess, so we’ll see how this goes along.
When reading a novel written by two or more authors, you risk that they each wrote some chapters and the difference in writing is apparent. Not so here. I can’t tell what Clare has written and which parts were done by Black, if they wrote separate chapters to begin with. So that is a good thing. It’s quite a fluent read with language that fits our time period. No fancy magical language, no nifty or clever things. In that aspect, it’s not the most exciting read and whilst you can’t tell that this was a co-write, the prose is not all that memorable.
That is perhaps what defines my reading experience with this book. It’s not all that memorable. I wouldn’t dare say that this is a bad book, cus it’s not. But it’s not terribly good either. It’s very safe and very middle-of-the-road, whilst it won’t rub alot of people the wrong way, I don’t see this gaining a cult following and fandom anytime soon. The biggest thing are the author’s name on the cover and whilst I continue on, this won’t be top of the list anytime soon.