Harry Potter with a twist continues in The Copper Gauntlet, the second book in The Magisterium series from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.
As I mentioned in my review of book one, The Iron Trial, it is impossible to read The Magisterium and not think of Harry Potter. In this case, imagine that Harry has learned about his Horcrux situation right at the beginning of his academic studies and that Neville has been acclaimed as the Chosen One, able to defeat Voldemort. This gives Call a far more nuanced outlook than Harry, especially at an equivalent age (Chamber of Secrets era.) which makes him, to me, a more interesting character. Don’t get me wrong; I love Harry. However, in the early books at least, he sees things very much as black or white, good or evil. Not so Call.
The connections are too numerous to be accidental. This time around they are more subtle, but still present. We have an antagonist whose main objective is to conquer Death itself. His nickname is “The Enemy of Death.” Voldemort, anyone? Fair enough, it is a fairly common trope, but combine it with magic school and you have Harry Potter. Another theme common to both is the idea that we are defined by our choices. Although Clare and Black are using many of the same tropes as Rowling, the way they handle them is very different and this makes The Copper Gauntlet a great read.
With regard to being defined by our choices, it is interesting to note that this is something Call decides for himself through the maintenance of what he calls his “Evil Overlord list”; he mentally tallies each choice he makes and action he takes to decide if it makes him more or less evil. Sometimes, this is played for laughs when he thinks things like “well, an evil overlord wouldn’t fetch sandwiches for his friends,” but it still expresses that same theme. This is something he chooses to do for himself; Harry has to have this explained to him by Dumbledore.
Another trope in common is that of the leaders of the society being in denial about the reality of the situation. The Ministry of Magic denies the reality of the threat posed by Voldemort as the Assembly declares that Madden is dead and gone and that the war is over. Given that there are three more books to come, that seems rather naive, especially as it appears a traitor is working against them.
One theme which hasn’t yet come up explicitly in the Magisterium is that of Love. As any Harry Potter fan knows, it’s the core of the whole series; Lily’s sacrifice of love for Harry and Voldemort’s inability to love are what make them them. This appears to be turned on its head in the Magisterium. Call’s mother’s final act is, apparently, to leave instructions to kill her son, and Constantine Madden was motivated to wage war on Death because of the loss of his beloved younger brother. I believe this is too important not to be a part of the Magisterium, too, and I look forward to seeing where Black and Clare take this.
Despite the comparisons with Rowling, I did enjoy this book; possibly more so because of the Harry Potter parallels. True, we lose a lot of the wonder of Rowling’s worldbuilding and humour, but it is balanced by rich, nuanced characters.
I gave The Copper Gauntlet four stars out of five.