BLACK, Holly & Cassandra Clarke Magisterium: The Iron Trial Doubleday, 2014 295pp $22.99 pbk ISBN 9780857532497 SCIS 1668421
Faintly echoing the preliminary scenario of Harry Potter, a group of students is selected to sit an entrance test for admission to the Magisterium, a labyrinthine underground boarding academy for apprentice mages. 12yo Callum Hunt, a reluctant candidate tries to fail but is nevertheless selected. Moreover, his father, a widowed lapsed mage, tries to dissuade him from fronting up for the test. Once the reader puts aside this apparent anomaly and proceeds with Call into his Iron Year, the first year of his five-year residence at the Magisterium (part one of the projected five-volume series), an intriguing story of magical warfare develops.
There is a history of factional skirmishes and suspicion of evil machinations among the Masters in the Magisterium. Call, who behaves rebelliously within the academy, is a pivotal character in the tense arcane atmosphere of the place and the agendas of its various masters. He has an intriguing history which is laid bare in the prologue: an infant, sole survivor of the Cold Massacre in which malign magic forces slew a cave of old mages, women and children. By the hand of his dead mother a message was found scratched into the ice: ‘Kill the child.’ Now, twelve years later he is among suspects and also with seven enthusiastic novice mages. It is a history that drives the story to exciting episodes and intrigue to satisfy devotees of magical fantasy.
reviewed by Kevin Steinberger