For years, every time someone has come into the bookstore saying their child/grandchild/niece or nephew loved Harry Potter and was there anything like it, I've come up short. Sure, there are other fantastic middle grade fantasies out there, but nothing like Harry Potter.
Twelve-year-old Callum has grown up believing that magic is bad. His father -- who was once a mage but is passing in the real world -- has emphasized over and over again that the mages at the Magisterium -- the school for training mages -- put their interests -- defeating the Enemy -- before the safety of their students. So, when Call is summoned for the Iron Trial -- the entry "exam" for the Magisterium -- his father requests that Call throw
the test. Call does, but gets in anyway. And once there, he not only is exposed to the magic he grew up believing is bad, he learns that not everything his father told him was true.
Yes, there are a ton of similarities to Harry Potter. So many, I'm not going to even attempt to list them all. However, even though there are similarities, it's also its own entity. Black and Clare are superb writers in their own right. Call is a sympathetic character, an EveryKid who is destined for great things, but isn't sure of living up to them. It's a fascinating world, with elemental-based magic, and adults the reader isn't sure they can trust. And the pacing is spot-on: Black and Clare keep the pages turning, from the ominous prologue to the twist ending.