Science fiction and fantasy


Magisterium: The Copper Gauntlet

by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The first book in the Magisterium series, The Iron Trial, has very overt similarities with the Harry Potter series. The Copper Gauntlet, the second in the series, may still be a story about a boy at magic school, but it goes beyond its initial influences.

Callum Hunt is afraid he's destined for evil, and he believes his father hates him. So things are decidedly frosty between him and his dad when he returns from the Magisterium for the summer with a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc, as a pet. Call keeps trying to convince himself that he isn't evil, but he's full of doubts.

Then Call checks the basement, and finds something that convinces him that his own father wants to destroy him and Havoc. At the Magisterium he doesn't exactly feel safe amongst his friends either, because he's hiding a terrible secret from them. The situation intensifies when someone tries to steal a copper gauntlet with strong magical properties, known as the Alkahest. Call thinks he knows who is responsible and why, and he sets out to stop the worst from happening. But he doesn't trust the mages at the Magisterium enough to let them in on his plans.

The story has a lot of cute humour, with Call wondering what an Evil Overlord would do whilst he navigates the social hazards and embarrassments of school and early adolescence. His cynical outlook and voice are a joy to read. His jealous friendship with Aaron, the Makar, is interesting because of its ambivalence. Aaron is a kind of chosen one who everyone else treats with reverence, whereas Call is his counterweight. That means Call puts himself in danger so that Aaron can use his special magic without getting consumed by it. It's a one-sided relationship, requiring self-sacrifice from Call, who seems to be the worst qualified for such a task.

Call is also an outsider when it comes to his friend Tamara, whose family's wealth and status make him feel very uncomfortable. Then there's Jasper, who tags along even though Call is convinced he's a jerk. The main relationships in this novel are sparky and conflicted, and lots of fun.

The first half of the novel is somewhat tame as the authors take some time to set up the mystery and get Call back to school. Happily the story doesn't encompass a whole school year, which gives it a less predictable ending and pace. This is good, because it twists and turns once it gets going, and there's a lot of action. It's not exactly a gory book and it's still firmly in the realm of Young Adult, but the later chapters do have a touch of horror. Call's world is not one where magic is necessarily sparkly and nice; the children can do amazing things, but there's a dark side to what they do.

Magisterium: The Copper Gauntlet is a quick read, and pretty enjoyable fluff. It's no longer riffing off Harry Potter, and the story is far better for it. It was never really predictable in the first novel, but now the training wheels are off and the story could go just about anywhere. Call is the perfect sort of smart, flawed, funny protagonist who could take readers whatever crazy place he decides to go next.

27th December 2015

4 star rating

Review ©

Source: review copy

Book Details

Year of release: 2015

Categories: Books
Cheerful Male Protagonist

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