It’s the finale to a series that my son and I have been following since it started in 2014 with The Iron Trial. Reader be warned – spoilers are unavoidable.
The Silver Mask. Magisterium Book 4 by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Narrated by Paul Boehmer. Listening Library, 2017.
Call is in prison in the Panopticon, frequently questioned by mages who are pushing him to give the answers they want: he can really feel Constantine Madden’s soul, the soul of the Enemy of Death, inside him – right? Call won’t lie, but he’s still wracked with guilt over the death of his best friend Aaron. So when he’s broken out of the Panopticon (this happens quite early on, so not much of a spoiler) and taken to Master Joseph, leader of the followers of the Enemy of Death and ordered to try to bring Aaron back to life, he’s faced with some very tough choices – what is the correct thing to do ethically? Even if he wanted to bring Aaron back, could he figure out how to do it? As usual for these stories, the mortal danger is rounded out with character moments as Call is in the house with Constantine Madden’s mother Anastasia, who thinks of Call as her son; Alex Strike, the ambitious and self-absorbed follower who killed Aaron; Call’s other best friend, Tamara, for whom he’s having growing not-best-friend feelings, and extremely annoying, but probably not an actual bad guy classmate Jasper. Can Call find a path that will save his life, the world, and still stay somewhat ethical?
The Golden Tower. Magisterium Book 5 by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. Narrated by Paul Boehmer. Listening Library, 2018.
Call is headed back to the Magisterium for his Gold Year, despite many misgivings on his part, and, as he rightly suspects, also on the part of many of his fellow students, who are still convinced that he really is the Enemy of Death. Especially painfully for him, this includes his former close friend Celia. Unknown to anyone else is that Aaron’s consciousness is now hanging out in Call’s head, able to look out, as it were, and also read Call’s thoughts and talk about them. This is sometimes helpful, like when the more people-smart Aaron can tell Call the right thing to say in tricky situations. It’s also extremely awkward for Aaron to be able to witness things like Call’s complete brain freeze on seeing Tamara, or learning about Call’s ongoing Evil Overlord point system, where he tries to make sure he’s staying mostly good.
But if Call thinks these problems are the worst coming, he’ll have to think again – as Warren the elemental fire lizard warns him, more dangers are coming. Though Call doesn’t believe him at first, the warnings are proved to be correct, as it turns out that Alex Strike has come back as a Devoured of Chaos – super dangerous, and full of demands, including that the Mage Council build him a golden tower. As the only mage left who can wield chaos magic, Call is the only one with a chance of stopping him…
I remember when I read the first book that it seemed way too much like Harry Potter, with the secret world of magic, the boy who barely survived a long-ago battle and grew up not knowing about magic, the triad of friends set against the world of danger…. Those similarities are still there, but the characters and situations have evolved enough past there that it’s no longer something I think about. Happily, too, while there are still deaths and plenty of dangerous situations, the extremely gruesome scenarios of some of the earlier books are missing. I appreciate the diverse world view – Call’s injured leg often affects his actions; there are many important people of color in the community, including triad member Tamara Rajavi and her family and Jasper, who is is half Japanese. While Call gives Master Rufus a hard time about his personal relationships, it’s because Master Rufus hasn’t told his husband that he’s a mage, not because he has a husband. Everything is narrated through Call’s self-deprecating and extremely snarky point of view, so that though the end of world is usually imminent, it’s balanced out with plenty of warmth and humor. This is a solid fantasy series, especially for upper middle grade and younger teen readers.