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Hammer of Witches

Hammer of Witches

4.6 5
by Shana Mlawski

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Baltasar Infante, a bookmaker’s apprentice living in 1492 Spain, can weasel out of any problem with a good story. But when he awakes one night to find a monster straight out of the stories peering at him through his window, he’s in trouble that even he can’t talk his way out of. Soon Baltasar is captured by a mysterious arm of the Spanish Inquisition


Baltasar Infante, a bookmaker’s apprentice living in 1492 Spain, can weasel out of any problem with a good story. But when he awakes one night to find a monster straight out of the stories peering at him through his window, he’s in trouble that even he can’t talk his way out of. Soon Baltasar is captured by a mysterious arm of the Spanish Inquisition, the Malleus Maleficarum, that demands he reveal the whereabouts of Amir al-Katib, a legendary Moorish sorcerer who can bring myths and the creatures within them to life. Baltasar doesn’t know where the man is—or that he himself has the power to summon genies and golems. Baltasar must escape, find al-Katib, and defeat a dreadful power that may destroy the world. As Baltasar’s journey takes him into uncharted lands on Columbus’s voyage westward, he learns that stories are more powerful than he once believed them to be—and much more dangerous.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Stories come alive in this rousing historical fantasy, which is set against the backdrop of 15th-century Europe and Columbus’s famous first voyage to the New World. Baltasar Infante has grown up listening to the stories of his Uncle Diego, including those of the legendary Moorish hero, Amir al-Katib. However, the 14-year-old boy is still unprepared to learn that not only is he al-Katib’s son, but he’s also a Storyteller—a sorcerer capable of working magic through the old tales. With the sinister witch-hunting order of the Malleus Malificarum after him, Baltasar’s only recourse is to run, joining the crew of the Santa María as it heads west, while hoping to find his long-missing father. As Baltasar explores his abilities, he gets caught up in a conflict between the Old World and the New. Newcomer Mlawski delivers a fast-paced coming-of-age adventure, respectfully evoking the complexities and cultural landscape of the period. She draws from a variety of sources, including Jewish and Biblical myth, offering an accessible, attention-grabbing story that seamlessly inserts its magical elements into historical fact. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging, magical adventure set against the historical backdrop of Columbus' westward voyage. Young Baltasar, a converso (a Spanish Jew converted to Catholicism), relies on his wits to distract the village bully by telling an amusing tale. Soon after, Bal discovers his storytelling has magical properties when he summons a monster to ward off the Malleus Maleficarum, witch-hunting Inquisitors after Bal's father. Intent on escaping and finding the father he thought dead, Bal is hired as translator on none other than the Santa Maria, captained by Columbus himself. The voyage takes Bal on the uncharted seas of Columbus' famous voyage and into adventures that include sea beasts and secrets from Bal's own past. Though keeping track of all the Spanish-named seamen can be a challenge, Mlawski's central characters--Jinniyah, a genie Bal summons, and Catalina, a fellow storyteller, in addition to Bal himself--are imaginative and well-developed, and her swashbuckling pace and intriguing plotting keep readers at seat's edge. This story is told entirely from Bal's perspective, but by placing him on the Santa Maria and inside the Caribbean villages the expedition visits, Mlawski invites young readers to see the familiar Columbus story from another perspective--and to consider the power of stories to shape perception in everyday life. Backmatter includes a helpful author's note and pronunciation guide. Though set in the 1490s, this provocative blend of fantasy and history offers loads of contemporary appeal. (Historical fantasy. 11-15)

Product Details

Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

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Hammer of Witches 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrific, exciting and original!! Great read.
Davnew More than 1 year ago
Religious texts, history, myth - they all tell the story of the mess that is the human family. Shana Mlawski puts these all together in a fast moving mystical fantasy for young adults that is at once informative and thought provoking. For, if we should ever pioneer into the round world of enlightenment we must understand the raw flatland of intolerance, greed and ignorance from which we come.
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
To be honest with you, this book was the slightest bit confusing. From what I figured out, Baltasar Infante is an apprentice bookbinder who can always tell good stories. But the monsters from the stories aren't always made up in Baltasar's world. When a monster from one of Baltasar's stories is seen one night, Baltasar is in for trouble he can't smooth talk out of for the very first time. A witch hunting army called the Malleus Malificarum has captured him, and put him to question about Amir al-Katib, the infamous Moorish sorcerer who can take monsters from stories and make them appear in real life. Baltasar takes a dangerous journey to uncharted lands with Columbus, and learns some stories aren't just stories.  I couldn't connect to any characters, but I'm sure somebody can connect with them. I thought of this book as a historical-fantasy book that was more fantastical than historical. The book wasn't annoying, but I didn't adore reading it. It was an ok read. It was interesting in the beginning, but as I went on I got slightly bored. Maybe it's just me, because I get bored of historical fiction easily.  It ended with a story, and it was a good way to wrap up a book about Storytellers. I liked the ending. I might read other books from this author, maybe as an over the summer read. Hammer of Witches is written in first person, which I like, but the way it's written can be confusing at some points in the book. The flow was ok, but slightly confusing at some points in time. I might reread this when I'm a bit older, so I recommend this book to 7-9 graders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shana Mlawski's "Hammer of Witches" is a nicely conceived and well executed fantasy set in an historical context. With the Spanish Inquisition and Columbus's first voyage to the New World serving as the backdrop, we join young Baltasar Infante on his quest for his father and his destiny. Ms. Mlawski does a superb job of maintaining the dramatic tension throughout the entire story. You really do want to know what happens next. I particularly liked the end note inserted by the author informing the reader of what we know, as well as what we don't know, about the historical persons appearing in the book. This is Young Adult fiction at its best - both entertaining and informative.