Book Review: “The Copper Gauntlet” by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The sequel to The Iron Trial is finally here! The second book in the Harry Potter-esque Magisterium series, The Copper Gauntlet picks up toward the end of the summer after Call’s first year at the Magisterium. Although he hasn’t yet told anyone that he’s housing the soul of the most evil wizard of all time – Call has spent all summer asking himself if he’s been showing any signs of being an Evil Overlord – he’s afraid that his father may suspect the truth. When a magical artifact, the Alkahest, is stolen from Magisterium custody, Call is almost certain that his father is the culprit – because only the Alkahest has the potential to separate Constantine’s soul from Call’s body… but it also might just kill him.

I liked this installment even better than the first, probably because I spent a lot of The Iron Trial wondering if it was just going to be an alt-world Harry Potter before it veered off in an entirely different direction in the middle of the book. With The Copper Gauntlet, I was on board from the beginning. Still, I have to admit that part of the fun of this book (written by two authors who also just happen to be Potter fans) is in spotting the myriad ways in which the Magisterium differs from the most famous school for wizards of them all. Instead of sumptuously described feasts, the students eat lichens and mushrooms that *taste* like other kinds of food. Call’s pompous frenemy Jasper is sort of like Draco… but nicer. Indeed, the two series are perhaps most different structurally, with the Potter books replicating almost to a T the structure of classic mystery stories and the Magisterium following a much more action-packed route. I’m sure Holly Black and Cassandra Clare are tired of hearing comparisons to Harry Potter at this point, and the series does deserve to be considered as its own entity, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that for me, as a huge Rowling fan, I really enjoyed thinking about the differences between the two series as I was reading!

My favorite part of this book is the way that it manages to be light and humorous despite the fact that its young protagonist houses the soul of the world’s most wicked magician. That’s pretty heavy stuff, but I love the way it introduces the conflict of self into the story. Most MG/YA heroes aren’t worried that they’re the bad guy, and it’s fascinating the way that Call’s relationship to his own identity – fearing his own choices and actions and suspicious of himself – shapes the way the story is told. The interactions between Call, Tamara, Aaron, and Jasper are all really fun, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

The only thing I was a little disappointed by was the fact that we don’t get to see very much of the second-year curriculum in The Copper Gauntlet – but as it ends with Call and co. only partway through the school year, I’d imagine the third installment will rectify that some. There are a lot of exciting twists and turns in this book, and if you enjoyed the The Iron Trial, you won’t want to miss its sequel.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.