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Book #145 – The Iron Trial

20578940 A couple of months ago, I discovered the magisterium website while I was bored in college one day, and started playing the games on it. It was through this that I realised that Cassandra Clare was co-authoring a new series of books with Holly Black. Now I’ve read all the Shadowhunter books so far (TMI/TID) and Holly Black is probably most famous for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which I haven’t read, but I’ve read Tithe. I didn’t really enjoy Tithe, but I guess that’s beside the point, really. In any case, I thought the Iron Trial was probably an interesting enough bet. First in a series of five books, incidentally, the rest due to be released over the next few years.

The Iron Trial – Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

I have a big issue with this book – how do you pronounce Call? It is pronounced like the first syllable of Callum, or is it pronounced like phone call? This hurt my head the whole way through the book.
If you check the goodreads reviews for this book, it’s full of people calling it a copy-cat Harry Potter, and insulting Cassandra Clare’s lack of originality.
While The Iron Trial is set in a magical school, and the main trio is two boys and a girl, there was a lot to like about this book, and a lot of originality in it. The style of magic was inventive and the story engaging, with a lot of story-building behind it.
Magisterium, from the look of the first book, is written for a younger age group than I’d normally read (straight children’s as opposed to YA), but nonetheless I quite enjoyed the book.
The ending was very much a set-up for further books, which I always find frustrating, but I’ll probably pick them up when they come out.

Three and a half stars, but goodreads only gives whole stars, so it got docked down to three.
***

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Books #86-88 and #134-136 – The Mortal Instruments

PWMAGNUSThe Mortal Instruments, as you will see from the image on the right here, taken from Cassandra Clare’s website, is a collection of six books which are set in modern-day New York, chronicling the adventures of Clary Fray, a flame-haired teenager who grew up in a totally normal one-parent household. Only to realise, at the age of fifteen that she’s part of the secret world of Shadowhunters, demon slayers from another dimension, and the world she grew up in is not what is seems.

City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire

The synopsis of the first book follows. Including the next five would generally spoil the preceding books, so I won’t include them. They’re easily found on GoodReads anyways.

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

The Mortal Instruments has gotten a lot of flak, from the very beginning, for being derivative, trite, for coasting on the author’s beginnings as a writer of fanfiction, for all kinds of things. I didn’t actually find any of this out until after I’d read the first three books, though, so I won’t give it much consideration other than to mention that, without having read Clare’s fanfiction, I didn’t recognise that the main trio were meant to be Harry, Ginny, and Draco. If they’re written the same way as her fanfic versions of those characters, then that’s a weakness she has (and certainly it would back up my main complaint about The Infernal Devices, that the three main characters were the same as in The Mortal Instruments) but, not having read her fanfic, I don’t know. They’re not instantly recognisable copies of Rowling’s versions of the characters, in any case.

So. I did enjoy the first three books of this series – I thought they were a solidly enjoyable trilogy with some good action, a dastardly villain, a love triangle (puke), incest (urggh) and, generally, nothing terribly offensive. The story was well wrapped up, with one dangling thread left open for a follow-up series.
My issue came with the fact that it wasn’t a trilogy – it’s a hexalogy. Somehow the author managed to squeeze three more books out of these characters, who had resolved all their issues and were well on their way to happily ever after. She did this through a combination of weird and convoluted contrivances and annoyances which really set my teeth on edge. There’s not a new villain, but an old one re-hashed, and many of the same problems resurface as were resolved in the first three books of the series.
There are some interesting and entertaining circumstances, and I’ve read all six books, and given them all a reasonable score, but I was just disappointed that the next set of three books covered the same characters again.

While it’s nice to go back to familiar characters, I really think that after three books these characters’ arcs could have been closed off (with the exception of maybe Simon) and the action could have moved elsewhere. Clare is clearly capable of doing that, as the Infernal Devices stand as three books which close those characters’ arcs, and the upcoming sets of books are all in threes. It seems somewhat forced that these six linger on the same set of New York Shadowhunters for so long.

I don’t have a whole lot of complaints about TMI, though. The acronym is unfortunate, as it’s already widely in use as too much information, but I guess context will explain which I’m referring to.
The sixth book, City of Heavenly Fire, spends a lot of time setting up future book projects in an attempt to hook readers in – The Dark Artifices, especially, but there are also The Last Hours, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, The Wicked Powers… Lots of series forthcoming. Also a graphic novel about the Circle, the organisation from which Valentine, the villain of the first three books, arises.

Shortly after I read TMI, I also read The Bane Chronicles, which are a collection of short stories about Magnus Bane, a character who crosses between The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices – these were co-written with other authors. They were actually surprisingly entertaining, with lots of little glimpses of moments passed over in the series.

Overall, I quite enjoyed Clare’s books – there were some moments where I rolled my eyes, and I certainly don’t think there’ll be any great literary prizes in her future, but they’re popular for a reason, and that’s because they’re story-driven and fast-paced, with some good character development and nothing which made me want to throw my kindle against the wall at any point. Very inoffensive and at times genuinely entertaining.

Four Stars for
City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
****

Three Stars for
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire
The Bane Chronicles
***

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Books #93-95 – The Infernal Devices

InfernalDevicesAlthough this was the second trilogy of Cassandra Clare/Shadowhunter books I read, I’m reviewing it first, mostly because The Mortal Instruments is actually a hexalogy, so I’ll review all six books once I’ve read them all (although I’m not sure how you can justify a hexalogy, since everything was resolved in the first trilogy of books. But I’m getting off topic).
The Infernal Devices is a trilogy of books by Cassandra Clare which is set in Victorian London, and is set in her alternate reality where ‘Shadowhunters’, demon hunters blessed by the angels, fight to keep the world safe.
As I’ve said, these were actually the fourth, fifth, and sixth Shadowhunter books that I’ve read, so I was pretty familiar with the lore. Plus, I went through a period of angel/nephilim interest when it was really big in YA fiction, so I’m pretty familiar with angelic lore. I did actually chuckle a little at the fact that the Shadowhunters’ powers came from the angel Raziel, who was the main villain in LA Weatherly’s Angel trilogy. But that, again, is off topic.
So, review proper!

Clockwork Angel
Clockwork Prince
Clockwork Princess – Cassandra Clare

As I’ve mentioned, The Infernal Devices is a Victorian steampunk trilogy with added demon hunting. In that way, it’s a little more interesting than the first three Mortal Instruments – you know, automatons which can’t be killed just tick a box for me. As well as that, I really enjoy books which are set in older English times, in which the characters are far more concerned with propriety than nowadays, so that was a thumbs up for me.
I was looking forward to a fast-moving, action-driven trilogy with some character drama thrown in along the way, and I wasn’t disappointed.

What did disappoint me, though (and I know this doesn’t make sense without having reviewed the Mortal Instruments, but I don’t want to split the six books in case they are all properly interconnected) was that the character archetypes just seemed so… already done.
I understand that most stories need an archetype, but the Infernal Devices set up the exact same three main characters as the Mortal Instruments – the girl who’s new to the world and apparently impossible to ignore, the boy with the tortured past who blows hot and cold, and the gentle, reliable, sweet and surprisingly powerful alternative. And then the love triangle between the three of them. It was just so… already done.

That was the main reason which turned two four-star books into two three-star books, for me. It felt a lot like I was reading another story about the characters from the first three Clare books I had read. And, you know, if I wanted to read three more books about them, I would have gone straight on to read City of Lost Souls. I understand that, as the ancestors of the characters in The Mortal Instruments, it would be expected that they would be somewhat similar, but still, it was disappointing.

For the first two books of the trilogy, while the action of the story really intrigued me, and I was totally caught up in the wonder of who and what Tessa was, how she had gotten her powers, what was going to happen to the automaton army, Tessa’s brother’s situation and all the rest of it, I was just disappointed in the love triangle to the fore of the character drama. I felt it had been done.

By the third book, though, the triangle was resolved in a way which I hadn’t expected, and I was actually really pleased with how it worked out.

On its own, this trilogy would’ve been a solid four stars the whole way through, and I would’ve happily recommended it. But, having read it immediately after I started The Mortal Instruments, it suffered much the way Trudi Canavan did, for me, in that I felt like I was reading a re-hashing of the same story for the most part. Unlike Canavan, though, Clare managed to save the end of the trilogy by coming to a totally different resolution which I thoroughly enjoyed – it even squeezed a few tears out of me – not that that’s hard. So, a solidly enjoyable trilogy, with a surprisingly good third installment which pushed the resolution far ahead of its preceding two books.

Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince
Three Stars
***

Clockwork Princess
Four Stars
****

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