Note: This post was used as a homework assignment and contains spoilers.
The theme in this book that I think children will most relate to is internal conflict. Initially, Call feels conflicted over the Magisterium. Even though his dad warned him against it, Call starts to feel at home and is enjoying his time at school. “He imagined being a mage and playing in bubbling springs and conjuring movies out of thin air. He imagined being good at this stuff, one of the Masters, even. But then he thought of his dad sitting at the kitchen table all by himself, worrying over Call, and felt awful” (107-8).
Another example is when Call finds out that he is really the Enemy of Death. He has a hard time deciding whether or not to tell anyone what he’s found out. He doesn’t want the others to hate him or to take away his magic. He justifies his actions to himself, “Even if he had been Constantine Madden once, it wasn’t like he remembered any of it. He was still Callum, wasn’t he? Still the same person. He hadn’t become evil. He didn’t wish harm to the Magisterium. And what was a soul, anyway? It didn’t tell you what to do. He could make his own decisions” (286). In this quote, Call also expresses conflict over his identity. He thought he was one person, but then finds out that he may have a darker side to him. I think this is another aspect of the story that children will be able to relate to. For the most part, kids try to be good, but they may have a dark side. Something within that tells them to say something hurtful to someone or steal a candy bar from the store. As the series progresses, I think that Call will be able to confront the bad side of himself and will be a good example to children who want to do the same thing. A similar example of this is Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. He’s told at the beginning of his journey that he could equally belong to both Gryffindor (good) and Slytherin (evil). Harry has an internal Gryffindor versus Slytherin battle throughout the entire series. Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla’s review of The Iron Trial on School Library Journal also compares the book to Harry Potter. She says that Clare and Black have created “…a cast of characters that’s both recognizable and excitingly new.”
Lastly, it’s refreshing to me that this book isn’t focused on the “golden-child, chosen one, savior of us all” character (Aaron). I think a lot of kids feel overshadowed by one or more of their friends or siblings, and I think they will be able to relate to Call in that way as well. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen is another book that includes the theme of feeling overshadowed. In this case, Sydney feels overshadowed by her older brother Peyton, first because of his personality and then because of a drunk driving accident that he caused.