Rating: Significant Shortcomings
Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Shana Mlawski
Publisher: Tu Books
Baltasar Infante is unaware he has the gift of storytelling: the ability to physically conjure up the characters and creatures from tales. Having this talent in 1940s Spain is dangerous as a branch of the Inquisition, the Malleus Maleficarum, are hunting storytellers down. The Malleus kidnap and torture Baltasar for information about the sorcerer Amir al-Katib, who Baltasar learns is his father. Escaping the Malleus, Baltasar goes on a quest to find his father and stop a disastrous prophecy from being fulfilled. He joins Cristόbal Colόn to find the West Indies, but encounters danger he follows the deadly trail of his father. Soon after Colon’s ships arrive in the New World, Colόn’s men and the natives break out into war. Baltasar finds his father, but al-Katib goes off to fight against Colόn’s men. Using his magical skills, Baltasar stops the war and brings an unsteady peace between the two parties.
Hammer of Witches is an inventive story that mixes Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World with magic. But Mlawkshi’s creativity feels clumsily pasted together because she does not flesh out a strong foundation for the magic in her story. Readers might think they have a solid grasp of Mlawski’s world only to have it crumble with inconsistent or random details. This plot weakness unfortunately spreads into Mlawski’s character development. Baltasar’s actions and thinking do not always make sense. And Baltasar’s companion, half-genie Jinniyah, seems flat and irrelevant to the story. These problems may have been avoided if Mlawski spent less time being historically accurate with Columbus’s voyage and more time stabilizing her world building and fleshing out her character’s motives.
*Contains moderate violence.