Hammer of Witches by Shana Milawski is a YA fantasy set in Spain, 1492. Turns out, Columbus’s voyage is heavily involved (though this isn’t mentioned in the jacket blurb.) Presumably there are some witches in there as well.
WHY I PICKED IT UP
I read an author interview on a blog (which I would link to except I can’t remember it [so if it was yours, leave a comment and I’ll link there!]) and it sounded like a very promising idea.
WHERE/WHY I STOPPED
I finished the sample and I intend to buy this one. Ms. Milawski starts very strongly with a story told by an old man, which clearly sets up the precipitating incident. This opening is deftly done–the author promises action by telling us about a magical creature, piques our interest by having another character chastise the one who told, then both delivers on the promise and teases us with a brief appearance by this creature in the opening pages of the first chapter.
The action is subtle, but the narrator’s voice and our gentle exposition into this colorful world keep us going to find out what’s happening.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER, IF ANYTHING
The Columbus thing came out of the blue for me and almost seemed arbitrary–an opinion not helped by the fact Columbus’s ships were shown at the very end of the sample, before it could be more cohesively tied to the narrative.
It’s just not clear–is this a setting device? An easter egg? Does the main character intend to join Columbus’s voyage? If so, why? He’s given no indication he’d like to spend several years away from his home and family. What’s his motivation for even considering this? It just blindsided me.
If I was asked to fix it, I would have extended the sample a bit, just until the reason Columbus is in the story is made clear.
All in all, my constructive criticisms are minor and this is definitely a read for anyone into period fantasy. It is written in such a way that adults could enjoy it just as well as a YA audience. Milawski gets bonus points for introducing Columbus as “Admiral Colon.”