Mid-series book falls short

As a college student and avid bookworm, it is typical for me to read books that fall into the category of young adult or new adult. However, once in a while, I pick up a middle grade novel to get a taste of the colorful and rich worlds of fiction that younger readers are exploring these days. But that is only one of the reasons I picked up the Magisterium series by young adult authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare; the other reason being that these authors are two of my all-time favorite writers.

So of course when I found out they were collaborating on a story for middle grade readers, I had to give the series a try. The series follows a young boy named Callum Hunt who attends a magic school by the name of the Magisterium. While attending this school, Call makes lifelong friends, learns how to harness elemental magic, goes on adventures that get him and his friends into trouble and learns shocking secrets about his true identity. The first two installments to this series, The Iron Trial and The Copper Gauntlet, did a great job getting readers into the story and introducing what potential the rest of the series had.

However, after recently finishing the third installment, “The Bronze Key,” I have to say that things have gone a bit . . . flat. It took me quite a bit of time to finish this book, and I’m not sure if that is due to my busy flow of class work or simply the fact that this book wasn’t thrilling to me, though it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. The story just felt lacking in this installment. It felt as though not enough action and adventure took place. On top of that, I realized this book lacked character development.

Since one of my favorite things about both of the authors is their talent for creating influential characters and using those characters to build strong relationships and epic storylines, I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a very strong depiction of the relationships between the main characters. While the characters themselves have great qualities and chemistry, there are hardly scenes where that chemistry is shown and developed. The development of relationships between characters is one of the most important aspects of a story. So when one of the main characters died at the conclusion of the book, I was shocked and disappointed to find that the death didn’t upset me as much as it should have.

Despite my disappointment with this installment, I still think that the remainder of the books have potential due to the nice groundwork the authors have laid out. This series has good elements going for it, even if the third book a bit lacking in substance. The main character has a disability with his leg but refuses to let it bring him down and keeps on living life with determination and courage. His best friend displays qualities of kindness despite having a tough childhood, and his female friend exhibits great characteristics of strength and intelligence.

Along with this trio, the books hold magical adventures that would entice many young readers. Perhaps this book simply suffers from middle-book-syndrome and is just meant to carry the story on toward the climax of the remaining two books. Whatever the cause for “The Bronze Key’s” shortcomings, I am still looking forward to seeing what the authors will do with the rest of the series.