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Hammer of Witches

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  115 ratings  ·  38 reviews
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 Maleficaru
Hardcover, 394 pages
Published 2013 by Tu Books
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
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- ...more
Rich in Color
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, fantasy
“My uncle Diego always said there was magic in a story. Of course, I never really believed him when he said it.” So begins this tale filled to the brim with stories. They are most often magical and overflowing with mystical creatures, adventure, and hidden, but simple truths.

Baltasar has grown up with amazing stories swirling around him. Fortunately, the stories continue throughout his adventures. They are the jewels that bring sparkle and life to this book. The plot line runs in a relatively st
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first book I ever got to read that was written by a friend! And (Shana if you're reading this I can totally gush more in person), I'm happy to say that I loved it. It is a great piece of YA historically based fantasy fiction, very much in the vein of Harry Potter... but with actual history so you can learn something too. I don't read much kid lit these days, but everything here seemed on point - the characters and the way they spoke to each other, the pacing, the exciting climax and addition ...more
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My review is biased because the author is a friend of mine. However, I finished this book in two sittings, both of which stretched into the wee hours of the morning because I just had to know what happened next!

Shana's invented world is an engaging mix of fantasy (wizards and witches with a literary bent) and history (I learned so much about 15th century Spain!), all wrapped up in a suspenseful adventure story. There's a hero's quest, bloodshed and warfare, magical beasts and mythical creatures,
Tessa Joy
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
Baltasar Infante is unaware he has the gift of storytelling: the ability to physically conjure up the characters and creatures from tales. Living in 1490s Spain with this talent is dangerous because 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. Baltasar has never met al-Katib but the Malleus slip that Baltasar is al-Katib’s son. Escaping the Malleus, Baltasar goes on a ...more
shrug city
Dec 21, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shana Mlawski does not have the range.

I figured that out in the first few chapters, when the protagonist spews an anti-Semitic tale in order to keep his bullies happy, and then it's barely ever addressed again. I don't blame Mlawski for grappling with the prejudice against her own heritage omnipresent in the time period, but I do blame her for not treating the issue with responsibility or delicacy. That same carelessness is present throughout the entire novel, where you find that Mlawski has som
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was an enjoyable read. I was really in love with the concept--the world and the story were quite intriguing to me. I was also interested in the characters, but found them a little underdeveloped. The writing also seemed stilted at times, and I found it difficult to engage with the characters' emotions. I can't say I loved it for those reasons, but I did enjoy myself.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Moorish heroes? Spanish inquisition? THE MALLEUS MALEFICARUM??? DJINNI??? AMERICAN INDIANS???? KIDS WHO GET IN TROUBLE?????the whole kit and caboodle, right here.
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
So when I picked up this book, I hadn't read the summary or knew anything at all about it, I just really liked the cover.

The story follows a boy named Baltasar who finds out that he's a Storyteller and that he's being hunted by a secret organization. He hears of a prophecy that speaks about this dangerous force that's moving West from Spain and so Baltasar thinks that it's Amir al-Katib, his father. He sets off with his friend Jinniyah, who's half genie half human, on the voyage that the Nina, t
Fangs for the Fantasy
May 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Baltasar Infante is a story teller in Spain at a time when Spain has finally united and actively seeking to purge it's borders of anyone who has not converted to Christianity. Being a Jew puts him and his family in a precarious position but when his father, the legendary Moor sorcerer pays him a visit one night, it brings Baltasar and his aunt and uncle to the attention of the Malleus Maleficarum. Baltasar is forced to flee the only home he has ever known and when he gets a prophecy from the Bab ...more
***Originally posted here on my blog. Actual rating 3.8 stars. Review may contain spoilers******

Shana Mlawski's Hammer Of Witches will definitely leave its readers in aw of the her impressive ability to creatively craft and intertwine mythical and biblical creatures, fairy tales and lessons on life and how no two people will interpret the same story the same way. Coupled with several relative themes of morality, truth, war and power.

I was also impressed with the author's method of layering the c
Sara Latta
May 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Magic, Monsters, and Christopher Columbus

“My uncle Diego always said there was magic in a story.”
In Shana Mlawski’s debut novel, “Hammer of Witches” (Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books, 2013), stories are magic—quite literally. Fourteen year-old Baltasar Infante has grown up listening to his bookmaker uncle’s stories—tales about imps who ruin the work of scribes, giant clay creatures that can be summoned with a word, and most of all, Amir al-Katib, the legendary Moorish sorcerer who turned
Kristi Bernard
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: multicultural
Baltasar Infante worked with his uncle, a bookmaker, in his shop and at night listened to his many stories of mystical and magical creatures. Often times, he would dream of yellow eyes watching him through his window. He would put those stories aside, unable to determine if they were real and continued to worship his favorite hero, Amir al-Katib, the moorish hero of Spain, that is until he learned that he was a traitor.

One rainy night Baltasar was captured and taken by the Malleus Maleficanum, a
Ms. Yingling
Baltasar is having a difficult time in Palos de la Fronterra, Spain in 1492. His parents were killed by the Inquisition, and he lives with his aunt and uncle, who make books. The local children bully him because of his Jewish heritage, but that's not as bad as it gets. One night, he is attacked by a hameh, and things get worse from there. He finds out secrets about his family, including the fact that his real father is the Moorish warrior Amir al-Katib. This fact brings the organization Maleus M ...more
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ya, women
I should preface this review by saying that I know the author and was very excited for this book to come out. :)

I thought this book was great! The rules of magic in the book's world are simple, but interesting. The backdrop - early Renaissance Europe and the New World - will be familiar to anyone who's had geography or world history in a U.S. classroom, but quickly moves into uncharted territory (no pun intended!). It's heavily plot-driven and fast-paced (even at sea), and I was pleasantly surpr
Steve Lao
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even without the disclaimer that the author's a friend (Hi Shana!), this was a wonderful, engrossing read. It takes a very familiar narrative - the time of Columbus' voyage and the Spanish Renaissance - and not only adds a unique element to it (magic!), but cleverly ties it's usage into the historical context of the era. In regards to the overall tone of the book, I enjoyed Mlawski's non-child-gloves handling of the time period. As a result, I appreciated the author's assumption that you knew al ...more
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

With Hammer of Witches, Shana Mlawski has spun a gorgeous historical fantasy that will be sure to captivate readers. By the end of the first chapter, I was completely hooked and continued on to read straight through the book.

Hammer of Witches takes my two favorite genres - historical fiction and fantasy - and blends them together, which is even more awesome in my book. It was the perfect vehicle for the story Shana Mlawski had to tell!

The idea of magic in Shana Mlawski's book is so nea
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, netgalley
Fourteen-year-old Baltasar Infante is a simple bookmaker's apprentice in fifteenth century Spain. Or so he once believed. Now he's discovered that his parents aren't who he thought they were, and that his skills as a Storyteller allow him to bring characters and settings from his stories to life, to materialize in the here and now. As exciting as this skill sounds, it unfortunately puts him on the radar of the Malleus Maleficarum, the radical witch-hunting arm of the Spanish Inquisition.

Soon, B
Fourteen-year-old Baltasar Infante has always treasured the stories told to him by his uncle, but when he comes under suspicion from the Malleus Maleficarum, he realizes that many of the stories are based in truth and that he has magical powers. With help from Jinniyah, a half-genie, he boards a ship that belongs to a fleet commanded by Christopher Columbus. Although the ship doesn't land where its passengers expect it to, the islands it reaches are filled with riches of all sort and surprises a ...more
Dawn Moews
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Hmmm. . . I have mixed reactions to this book. I really like historical fiction, and this is the first book I can remember reading about the Spanish Inquisition and the voyage of Christopher Columbus (I also had never connected the time periods for those two before). I did like the historical elements, and I really appreciated Mlawski's afterward in the book in which she discussed the decisions she made as a writer. I thought they would really provide some insight to readers of historical fictio ...more
Sean Kottke
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, professional, ya
This is a terrific blend of historical fiction and fantasy. The adventure of Balthasar Infante, bookmaker's apprentice and target of the Spanish Inquisition, on Columbus' first voyage to the New World is woven together with the legends and folklore of many ancient narrative traditions, in a manner similar to the weaving of Northern European folklore into Harry Potter and of Greco-Roman mythology into Percy Jackson. The novel contains rich meditations on the power and function of storytelling, an ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Eh, just wasn't my style. I like the unusual setting (Spain circa 1492), and found the whole "magic through stories" thing interesting, but the writing left me kind of cold. Plus, I could tell they were headed for a boat. If I'd loved the writing and characters already, I'd have stuck around for the boat, but if I wasn't even in love with the story when it had the Baba Yaga in it, chances that I'd like it once it boarded a boat were slim.
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, youngadult, signed
3 1/2 stars. First- it did not actually take me 3 months to finish this book. I set it aside for a while so I could memorize my lines for Made of Stars and just recently picked it up again to finish it. Historical fantasy isn't usually a genre I go for, but I liked this story. Mlawski clearly did a lot of research into the time period and wrote an interesting take on Columbus's "discovery" of the Americas. And I like the mythology in the book that stories are magic.
An alternate history of Columbus' voyage to the New World involving magic, witches, demons, and the Spanish Inquisition. Mlawski's world where storytelling is a form of magic was captivating, though it didn't always hold together for me. This may appeal to fans of Diana Wynne Jones or possibly Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy--although not as dry as the former nor as snarky as the latter. Plenty of action and adventure, and the characters are interesting and mostly well developed.
Highly complex novel about the life of an apprentice storyteller at the dawn's of Christopher Columbus's epic voyage to the New World. Readers with patience and an appreciation of historical fiction - woven with a good deal of fantasy - will be rewarded with a story rich in discoveries and adventure.
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
Bland. Uninspiring.

I was interested during the first 20-25%. I got confused as Bal started learning more about his past and using sorcery. I got frustrated while he was on the boat. And I just got bored when they reached land. I had no need to find out anymore about his purpose in life, his father, the prophecy, or any of the rest of it.

Historical/fantasy fiction set in 1492.

Karen Sandler
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A unique and very entertaining story by my fellow Tu Books author, Shana Mlawski. A very cool world in which "Storytellers" can create the fantastical by telling a convincing and engrossing story. A tantalizing mix of actual history (Columbus's journey to the Americas) and fantasy what-ifs.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Beautifully written, rich in folklore and fantasy interwoven with history. Teens who are into historical fiction will enjoy it, unfortunately, there aren't many of them, so while I think the author had written an intriguing story, I'm afraid it will be a hard-sell to teens.
Dania Ramos
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An engaging historical fantasy book. Shana Mlawski crafts strong metaphors about identity and power through the main character's (literal) magical storytelling. An excellent read for middle school students.
Nick Sweet
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent debut novel from new author Shana Mlawski. I finished this entertaining book in one evening, and loved it. Magic, adventure, and intriguing characters in one of the most interesting periods in history, I would recommend this book to anyone.
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Shana Mlawski lives in New York and has previously lived in Connecticut and Puerto Rico. You may have read one of her many articles or seen one of her popular infographics on the pop culture website In her other life she writes educational materials and teaches teenagers to read and write. HAMMER OF WITCHES is her first novel. ...more

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