Doubleday, out now
Callum Hunt is determined not to be accepted into the Magisterium – he’s been told all his life not to trust anything to do with it – but still finds himself chosen for the magicians’ training school…
Both Cassandra Clare and Holly Black have large followings for their previous series of fantasy stories, and they bring their wealth of experience to bear on this enjoyable, fast-moving kick-off to their five-book series. Inevitably there are going to be comparisons with the Harry Potter series (training school for magicians, backstory involving a terrible evil, a central trio of youngsters with contrasting strengths), but there are numerous key differences in the characters and the setting which mean that any attempt to write this off as “trying to fill the Potter gap” isn’t valid.
Clare and Black balance the needs of setting up the quite complicated world they have created with telling a fulfilling first story – not something that is as common as it should be in this kind of literature – and although there are a large number of queries left hanging at the end of this first book, you don’t put the volume down feeling cheated. Callum and his friends are well-drawn, and the authors make sure that the reader understands that they’re part of a world, and that there are things going on which impinge on their lives, but which they’re not yet aware of.
Verdict: From the creepy prologue to an ending which adds a new shade of grey to the proceedings, this is a terrific, occasionally scary, tale for young teens – but which will be enjoyed by those much older too. 8/10