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Iron Trial (Magisterium, Book 1)

Book 1 in the five-book fantasy series introduces the Magisterium, a training school for young mages that is located in underground caverns in Virginia. Admittance is by invitational tryouts. Twelve-year-old Callum Hunt has mage potential, but his father, Alastair--a mage and a graduate of the Magisterium--tells his son to deliberately fail. He has brought Callum up to believe that the Magisterium is evil and he must never attend. But Callum, small, skinny and partially lame from a serious leg injury incurred when he was an infant, is picked anyway, and this kickoff entry details Callum's first year of training under Master Rufus. Harry Potter similarities pop up repeatedly, from the magic-training-school premise to Callum's fellow apprentices and soon-to-be best friends, Tamara and Aaron, and these similarities are distracting at first. But then the twist occurs, and it is a doozy. By the book's end, readers will be chomping at the bit to get into the sequel. Collaborators Black and Clare describe an intoxicating underground setting and give their mostly male characters refreshingly nuanced friendships. The third-person narration, filtered through Callum's delightfully insecure-and-overcompensating-with-snarky-bravado perspective, carries a tone that will likely have readers chortling in recognition. A promising beginning to a complex exploration of good and evil, as well as friendship's loyalty. (Fantasy. 9-13) - Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2014)

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