So I fudged a little on this one. It doesn’t take place in high school per say… the students start when they are twelve, which is a little before high school, and they are at an underground academy where they learn magic. So it’s sort of like Harry Potter in that regard. Either way, though, I felt it was close enough for me to fit it into the category without feeling too guilty about it.
Call has been told all his life that magic is dangerous and evil. And with the approach of the Iron Trial many kids would be excited for the chance to attend the Magisterium, but Call wants to fail and would do anything to fail, but life has a funny way of not giving us what we want and unfortunately for Call he fails at failing. Now he must attend the Magisterium with the other students chosen to learn the magic to control the elements. But the test of the Iron Trial is only the first and there are more dangerous events that are yet to come; tests that will change Call’s perspective of magic and of himself.
If you look at the reviews of this book you will find many who consider it a knock-off of Harry Potter. After reading it I find that I disagree; it does have many similarities to the Harry Potter series, but any book that has a school of magic will always carry similarities to Harry Potter. There are other similarities as well but I find that they are not so much copies of things found in Harry Potter, but rather foundational characteristics that have existed in similar fantasy adventures for years. Though you will have to read it for yourself to decide whether you agree or disagree with my opinion.
I enjoyed the magic as well as both the external and internal conflict of the characters, but I was intrigued by the idea that the main character wouldn’t want to learn magic. This is something that goes against the dreams of fantasy readers around the globe. Magic is the dream that so many wish they could achieve but probably never will. Yet here is a boy who is forced to learn magic. It reminded me, in a way, of the main character in The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson: the protagonist desperately wanted to learn the magic to create chalkings (chalk drawings that could come to life) but couldn’t. It also provided an interesting perspective as everyone usually likes to read about someone who can perform the supernatural ability highlighted in the story. The comparison, though it may not seem apparent, is that both characters are in a world of magic but have a unique situation in relation to it; situation that is unfortunate or incomprehensible. It provides a new twist to fantasy stories that is not as common, or at least not as frequently observed by me.
A particular aspect that disappointed me was the lack of character development. There was some but not a lot. I suppose I am slightly skewed in my perspective due to the type of books I’ve been reading lately, but I wish I had been able to get a little more info on the characters. That, and I wish they’d had a little more of a dynamic nature to them. There were some changes, but for the most part I felt they were a little static. I suppose this is a frequent characteristic of young adult and children’s literature, though I think it would enhance the story to put forth the extra work to make the characters more fleshed out and malleable.
With all that being said, I do think it’s a good book, but I think I would give it a 3.5 to 4 star rating. Not because there was anything I found to be bad or poorly written, but because I think there could have been more. I must say that for the children’s literature genre this is a great specimen to give to young teenage boys and girls. The similarities to Harry Potter are a turn off for some, but I hope anyone who reads this book will enjoy it as much as I did.