Callum Hunt has been warned by his father to stay away from magic, but on his 12th birthday, Callum has no choice but to take the entrance exam for the Magisterium, as his family is known for their magical powers. Callum tries valiantly to fail the test, but still he is chosen to attend the magical school. Now, cut off from his father, Callum tries to learn to use his powers and make friends. He studies under Master Rufus, the most esteemed mage at the school, along with two other promising students, Tamara and Aaron. While Callum learns such exciting things as how to move grains of sand with the power of his magic, he learns more about the school, the students, and ongoing magical war that killed his mother. Soon, Callum will learn enough about himself and his powers to be pulled deep into the heart of the magical war. The stakes continue rise as Callum, Master Rufus, Tamara, and Aaron face off against their enemy in the war: The Enemy of Death!

While the magical school setting may cause readers to compare this to the Harry Potter series, The Iron Trial has its magical merits and would be the perfect book to offer an eight-year old. The maze-like underground setting of the magic school is cool, and Callum is a likeable kid. The mages of the school know more than they are saying about the magical war, and the mystery of that knowledge keeps the pages flying as readers try to figure out what is going on. The world building suffers a little in comparison to books like Harry Potter, but overall, the fast pace and sympathetic characters make for an enjoyable read. Book 2, the The Copper Gauntlet, is out now.

Annette G.