Book Review: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare was my second read of Bout of Books 12, and I quite enjoyed it.

The Iron TrialAuthor:  Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Genre: Middle grade/young adult, fantasy

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: September 9, 2014

299 pages, hardcover

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

Call’s father has always told him to stay away from magic, that magic is what killed his mother, and so unlike the other kids at the Iron Trial, he wants to fail. Unfortunately, one of the teachers at the Magisterium, Master Rufus, sees something in him, and suddenly Callum Hunt is somewhere he’s been warned will kill him.

If you want to see how I would describe The Iron Trial in pictures, check out my challenge post from Bout of Books.

I think my favorite part of this book was Call. He’s not your average protagonist. He’s kind of a jerk (seems like I like jerk main characters. Remember my review of Firecracker?). He’s abrasive, insubordinate, says the wrong things, and pushes people away when they try to befriend him. It takes a little while to understand him and why he does this, but once you do, you can’t help but care for him.

A lot of people have compared (or criticized) this book to Harry Potter – there’s a young boy who goes to magic school, befriends another boy and girl, and has to fight an evil wizard. Okay, yes, those are indeed very similar to HP, BUT The Iron Trial is also unique. The magic is probably the main way it’s different – mages use the elements to create and change and destroy. The focus is on nature and the elements, which is really cool. There are creatures called elementals who’ve been consumed by their element, and chaos-ridden animals and people who have a piece of the void inside them. I’m not going into the whole Clare debate blah blah blah. I liked the magic, characters, and ideas, and that’s what matters.

I felt that Call’s friends – Tamara and Aaron – as well as the other characters were well-developed and full. On the other hand, I think there were a few too many minor characters and I would constantly be confused which character was doing what.

One last thing: No one, and I mean NO ONE, will see that twist coming at the end. It was wholly unexpected, a crazy twist that was both awesome and strange. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book.

The bottom line: The Iron Trial is a fun, unique take on magic school and child wizards. I had a few issues (too many minor characters; middle that was a little drawn out), but I enjoyed it overall. I loved the main character and the world that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare have created.

Rating: 8 – freaking fantastic

Have you read The Iron Trial? What did you think?

Waiting on Wednesday – Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine in which we share a book that we are eagerly anticipating!Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures

Publisher: Scholastic

Author:  Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce

Release date: May 2015

Synopsis from GoodreadsFrom bestselling authors Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce comes an exciting new series full of magical creatures, whimsical adventures, and quirky illustrations.

Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town.

Why I’m excited: As soon as I saw that Maggie Stiefvater had illustrated a book, I knew I wanted it. But then I read the description and I definitely wish I had this book RIGHT NOW. You’ve got a girl named Pip – great name – and magical creatures and a last name like Higgleston and adventure and things that burst into flame and this sounds SO. GOOD. And again, Maggie Stiefvater illustrated it. She’s such an amazing artist, whether she’s creating with words or colored pencil. I want this now. I hate that I have to wait half a year until I can read it. 😦

it's not okay gif watson

Audiobook Review: Doll Bones by Holly Black

I am reading several books for the Magnolia Book Awards. When I saw that Doll Bones was on the list, I volunteered to read it for my library as it’s been on my TBR for a while. I checked out the audiobook to listen to, and I am glad I did.Doll Bones

Author: Holly Black

Narrators: Nick Podehl

Audiobook length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, adventure

Publisher: Listening Library (audiobook), Margaret K. McElderry Books (physical book)

When I’ve reviewed audiobooks in the past, I’ve kind of just done a general review, mixing both the story and the review of the narration into one review. I think I want to start breaking them down into Story and Audiobook as a way to better clarify my reviews and make them easier to read. How’s that sound to you guys?

STORY

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are best friends who’ve been playing a continuous game of adventure – with mermaids, pirates, and thieves – for a long time. Ruling over their land of make-believe is the Great Queen, a special, bone-china doll locked up in a cabinet and trapped there. When Zach’s there-again father pushed Zach to give up make-believe, Zach quits the game. But Poppy begins having dreams of a ghost girl who won’t rest until the Great Queen is laid to rest, the threesome must go off on an adventure to bury her. Is there really a ghost? Will she curse them if their quest isn’t completed? Bum. Bum. Bum.

This is a perfect coming-of-age story full of fun, adventure, spookiness, and a sense of is-this-real-or-not? Holly Black wonderfully captures that age just before adolescence that us adults tend to forget. Growing up tends to mean putting away our toys and entering a new and scary world of adulthood, and Holly Black is able to weave a story that brings you back to that age of first crushes, awkwardness, and confusion.

There’s also a ghost story here. I think it was just creepy enough, but not too creepy to scare young children into nightmares. The best part is that Black leaves it up to the reader to decide whether or not the story is real.

NARRATION

I’d heard Nick Podehl’s narration once before in the audiobook for Wonder. I enjoyed him then, but I really liked him in Doll Bones. He was able to use his obvious talent for creating voices and narrated the entire book himself. He perfectly captures the voices of Poppy, a somewhat sassy, confident young girl, Zach, a sad, strong, intelligent young boy, and Alice, a shy, reserved girl, as well as the variety of other cast members – including a creepy old man on a bus and a firm but kind librarian. Nick Podehl is very, very good, and I will look up some of his other narrated books to try.

OVERALL, I quite liked the audiobook for Doll Bones, and I will definitely be checking out some of Holly Black’s other books to read. Recommended for those who have middle-school aged children or for those who just enjoy a good ghost story.

Book Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will love Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, a book about a young girl with Asperger’s who loses her dog during a hurricane.

Rain ReignAuthor: Ann M. Martin

Genre: Middle grade, contemporary, realistic fiction

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication Date: October 7, 2014

240 pages

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Feiwel & Friends for letting me read this.

Rose is a young girl with a homonym for a name (Rose, rows). She’s obsessed with homonyms and prime numbers, both of which stem from her mild Asperger’s Syndrome. She lives at home with her father who doesn’t understand her, but one (won) day he brings home a dog that he found wandering outside. Rose names the dog Rain, which is also a homonym (rain, reign, rein) – a name that allows Rose to (two, too) connect with her dog on another level. When Hurricane Susan hits, Rain is lost and Rose makes a plan to find her.

This a very straightforward story (and character) with not many surprises. However, the characters and relationships between them makes this story stand out and be (bee) absolutely beautiful. Rose has relationships with several adults in (inn) the novel that are what move the story along: her father, who doesn’t understand her rules and gets easily frustrated with her and her peculiar obsessions, her teacher and the teaching aide that’s been assigned to her, who just try to help her, and her uncle, whose relationship with Rose develops even more throughout the story. The relationship between Rose and her uncle is the backbone to this novel and it is beautiful. Her uncle has the utmost patience and love for Rose, and their mutual warmth and understanding for each other will make your (you’re) heart melt.

I flew (flu) through this book in two days (and I had to work all day both days!). Ann M. Martin has created an absolutely powerful story that I (eye) will be thinking about for a long time (just like I still think about Curious Incident). The novel had a bit of an abrupt ending, but it leaves you (yew) with a passionate hope for Rose’s future.

(Rose includes homonyms after words like I did throughout this review when she gets upset. I really enjoyed this part of the book.)