A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hammer of Witches isn't about witches at all. Fourteen-year-old Baltasar conjures and battles magical creatures to save the world. The story is heavily punctuated with fantasy violence that draws a fair amount of blood. Zombie-like creatures come up from the earth, and desiccated corpses litter the ground after a battle. Some of the imagery is bloody and gory. There are at least three strong female characters, but women are several times depicted as sexual objects. Many of the conjured creatures are epically destructive; some are helpful, and some are zombie-scary. There's some mild salty-sailor swearing ("hell," "damn") and one instance each of "ass" and "whore," and some anti-Semitic epithets directed at the hero.
What's the story?
In 1492, 14-year-old Baltasar finds himself hired as a translator for the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He's in pursuit of the father he never knew, hoping to stop the foretold destruction of the world. His father in turn will try to stop him by any magical means he can. But Baltasar has picked up a little magic along the way himself, and the battle between the two may bring an early end to the famous voyage. Eventually stranded on an island, Baltasar befriends the native population, confronts his father, and learns that the real world he inhabits is worth living in, thanks to the love and support of friends and family.
Is it any good?
Kids will no doubt be enchanted with the idea of conjuring fairy-tale creatures that make all your problems disappear. The hero of HAMMER OF THE WITCHES is easy to relate to: He's been bullied, he wishes his life could just be easy, and he's really, really mad at his father. The action is exciting, the creatures fantastic, and Columbus' famous first voyage west makes for an adventuresome backdrop.
All this may prevent kids from noticing the stilted dialog, the too-regular pacing of exposition and action, the convenient plot devices that make things happen just when they need to, and the shallow extent to which the past is evoked. But it may also prevent them from getting truly swept up in a world that should have so much more to offer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the historical accuracy of Hammer of the Witches. Do the historical characters seem like real people?
Is it OK to make things up about historical figures and timelines, in order to make a more interesting book?
If you could bring anyone or anything from a story to life, would you? Who or what would you conjure, and why?
- Author: Shana Mlawski
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Lee & Low Books
- Publication date: April 9, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 14
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
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