Title: Hammer of the Witch (Repeating History#2)
Author: Dakota Chase
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Genre(s): YA Historical Fiction
Page Count: 156 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 2 stars out of 5
History isn’t dead when you’re living it.
Ash and Grant are about to learn why it was called the Dark Ages, when Merlin, in the guise of their teacher, once again sends them time traveling to reclaim one of the antiquities their prank destroyed: a book called the Malleus Maleficarum, or Hammer of the Witches, which was used to persecute and kill innocent people throughout medieval Europe.
They’ll need to keep their heads down and their wits about them in a Germany ruled by the iron fist of the Inquisition, where anyone who is different is dragged off to horrifying prisons, tortured to confession, and ultimately killed in the worst way imaginable. But it won’t be easy to navigate a frightening and brutal time, secure Merlin’s book, and make it home without attracting attention.
As this is the second in the series of historical fantasies there was less need to set the scene with the central characters and more time for plot development. Based on the character’s ages (17), this is clearly aimed at high school youth. The language used is in keeping with this although there is a mix of maturity here, from childlike to near adult, this could be indicative of such an age group based on their experiences but it doesn’t make for a consistent feel. The storyline is simple and easy to follow but has a tendency to use the context as an opportunity to dispel any picturesque notions the reader might have about the era. This tends to make the environment that much less attractive than might otherwise be the case.
The situations in which the characters find themselves offer the potential for very mild tension and risk. Certainly the characters they meet are either very helpful or downright nasty. Such simplistic stylisations are common to books aimed at young readers. It is noticeable that there is a lot of positive luck on their side, which ensures their ultimate success. Similarly adults accept these unknown youths without any real challenge and seem happy to follow their ideas without question, it is never made clear why this might be the case.
The two boys share a friendship that is young teen banter including references about each other’s arses with kissing thrown in, both actual and aspirational. This is all very innocuous as young for their ages. Perhaps it is a common feature of youngsters these days, but there are no doubts at all about their feelings. Of course there are also few doubts about their abilities to cope with even the most threatening of situations. It is this blasé confidence in their abilities in all things in conjunction with the quite didactic scene setting that is the most frustrating part of these stories. Despite the laudable aim of presenting realism in history as well the naturalness of the boy’s feelings, it just doesn’t sit well given the context of the story.
The tension that drives the story along with the clear goal means that the reader has a very clear structure to guide them. The downside of this is that the stories become quite formulaic. Once again, this is indicative of books aimed at the younger end of the age range.
The big action scene a the end of the book added a little tension, but really every time there was a risk it was strategically dissipated. With the tying up of loose ends there is another moral story to be offered before the book comes to a close. Clearly there will be another in the series, but for this reader, two books are more than enough.