The Iron trial by Cassandra CLare and Holly Black
Doubleday Childrens, 2104. ISBN 9780857532503
Many readers will already know these two authors - Cassandra from her very successful Mortal Instruments series, and Holly from her equally successful Spiderwick Chronicles partnership. Now these two have collaborated on the first in a new series which Harry Potter fans will no doubt eat up. In fact, HP devotees will love to spot the similarities throughout the book I am sure.
Easy to read and a real page-turner, The Iron Trial takes us into the Magisterium, a facility for educating potential mages. Callum Hunt (Call) is the son of mages with no inkling of his own magical ability, although at times strange things have happened around him. As a baby, Call's mother died in an ambush by the Enemy, and Call survived, though with a badly damaged leg. When Call's grieving father Alastair discovers his dead wife, surrounded by their dead comrades and discovered his baby son alive, he was struck by his wife's mysterious last message scratched into the nearby rock - 'Kill the child'.
When the kids of Call's district reach a certain age, they are summoned to a testing day to assess their suitability for entry to the Magisterium. Call, having been warned all his life by this father to avoid magic, desperately wants to fail the tests - already marking him as the odd one out as all the other applicants just as earnestly want to be selected as Mages' apprentices.
Call's botching of the tests is spectacular and gives some indication of his latent powers, but he is not successful in avoiding selection. Master Rufus, most revered Mage, selects Tamara and Aaron the two highest scoring applicants - and Call, the lowest scoring as his new apprentices. Despite initial hostility between the three apprentices, they forge a real bond with an understanding of each other and their strengths and weaknesses.
Amid the usual personality clashes of a new school and the inevitable 'stuck up' kid, the usual nervous ones and as it turns out, the innocuous seeming boy who turns out to be anything but! Call navigates his way through his Iron Year and realises that his father's warnings seem far away as he comes to appreciate what magic can achieve and how being accepted makes him feel.
There are undercurrents of secrecy as Master Rufus and Call's father differ on the way to handle Call's magical ability, with Call knowing less than most of the other kids about the history behind the Mages and their wars with the Enemy.
You can be sure of one thing. Call will turn out to be the 'Chosen One' and will no doubt be aided in whatever challenges lie ahead by his fellow apprentices.
One of our Year 6 students last week picked up the promo postcard from the Circ Desk and said excitedly, 'Oh Miss, this is a GREAT book! I got it for my birthday and I read it straightaway! I can't wait for the second one to come out!'. Not a bad recommendation, I'd say. Again I say, for those who need a HP type fix, this is the book to do it. I find it is darker and edgier with a little more real humour than those but there are definitely many many similarities.