“I thought having a Makar around was supposed to make us safer,” said the nervous voice. “If we’re busy guarding him, who’s guarding us?”
I reviewed ‘The Iron Trial’ yesterday: I can’t imagine you would have missed it, but if you did you can find that review here.
At the start of ‘The Copper Gauntlet’, we rejoin Call at home in the summer holidays, where he’s begrudgingly spending time with his father Alastair. Alastair is still peeved that Call succeeded in the Magisterium’s entrance exams, and his frustration grows when he learns Call plans to return to school to participate in his Copper year. It’s only when Havoc, Call’s Chaos-ridden wolf, disappears that the action truly begins – Call finds handcuffs attached to the wall in their basement, where his father has kidnapped Havoc and intends to hold Call captive. There are sketches of a mysterious gauntlet spread all over his desk, and after Call reads some of his notes he realises his father is planning to burn the Chaos out of his soul.
Because – oh yeah – at the end of ‘The Iron Trial’, Call discovered he wasn’t Callum Hunt at all. Call’s mother died in a battle with the Enemy of Death, but the Enemy grew so weakened that he swapped his soul out of his body and into the only survivor at the scene: Call. The Enemy that the Magisterium are determined to destroy? He’s a thirteen year old student living and learning in their establishment.
Of course, when Call finds out what his father’s intentions, he runs. He travels across state lines to Tamara’s house, where he’s reunited with her and Aaron, and he spends the rest of summer happily hanging out with his two best friends before they return to school.
When they get back to the Magisterium they learn that the Alkahest, an artefact capable of destroying the Makar, has been stolen, and Call knows his father must have had something to do with it. Aaron is the Makar, the chosen one that they’ve been waiting years to find, and everyone assumes he’s in danger, but Call knows the truth. He confides in his two friends, trying to reassure Aaron that he isn’t in danger, but because he can’t tell them he’s the Enemy of Death Tamara goes straight to a teacher. Call is hurt by this betrayal and feels even worse when he discovers his father is being hunted and will be killed by the mages who find him.
Call knows he must go and warn his father, and when Aaron and Tamara learn his plan they don’t hesitate to join him. Jasper DeWitt – Call’s arch-nemesis – discovers them trying to sneak out, so they kidnap him and force him to join them on the road. With four students and a Chaos-ridden wolf, they’re in for a long and difficult journey.
It took me a little while to get into ‘The Iron Trial’, but because I was already familiar with the characters I sped through ‘The Copper Gauntlet’. I was glad that it wasn’t set in the school because the constant repetitions of stalactites/stalagmites was very draining in the first book (I didn’t count the recurrences, but the number must have been up in the 20s/30s), but it did mean that there wasn’t much learning about magic, just the gang trying it out in the world.
The group of them on their adventure was actually the best part about the book – I didn’t really care about the deceptions or the action sequences, but the interactions between the characters were very realistic and fun, taking me back to my childhood. Even Jasper grew as a character, and based on the fact that he’s started helping Call out I can see that he’s going to become even more of a focal point in the future novels. He works well with the group, so I actually hope he can get transferred into Master Rufus’s apprentice group – there is some tension between the four of them, but it makes for an interesting dynamic.
I was a bit confused by the sudden appearance of metal and metal elementals. In the first book we had fire, water, air, earth and chaos, but suddenly people with an affinity for metal are appearing… It’s not explained, and it seems like a bit of a strange addition to the line-up. I’m hoping there aren’t other types brought in in the future, because it will get convoluted and confusing – the thing that’s really selling the Magisterium for me at the moment is the simple way the magic works.
Overall, I much preferred this installment to the previous one. ‘The Iron Trial’ was a solid start, but if the rest of the series continues on with this level of adventuring and mystery I’ll definitely be sold on it. The third installment in the series, ‘The Bronze Key’ should be out towards the end of the year, and I’ll definitely be picking it up. I would appreciate less uses of the word ‘coruscating’ though…
If you haven’t started the Magisterium series yet, I would recommend it – because it’s middle grade, it’s a bit of a lighter read compared to most YA books, but it still features lots of death and fighting so it’s still very exciting!