Title: Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy #1)
Author: Sally Green
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Wanted by no one.
Hunted by everyone.
Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?
Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.
This book was a little bit more disturbing than I expecting. Coming from me, someone who loves horror movies and gritty books, that’s saying something. I think I just went into this book with the wrong idea. Besides Harry Potter, all of the other books I’ve read about witches have been things like Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins… Pretty girls, silly powers, fun, lighthearted things. I was not expecting a book that actually made me upset and a little disgusted.
The book starts of with Nathan, a half blood witch, being imprisoned by a white witch, forced to sleep shackled in a cage and to do chores all day. We then learn how it is that Nathan comes to be in this cage, and it is not a happy story.
To start with, this book had some skewed ideas of justice and basic human rights. We have the super elitist White Witches, who rule over the witch community with an iron fist, condemning anyone they see fit. Then we have the half bloods, children with either a mix of White and Black Witch, or human and witch blood, who are forced to follow all sorts of awful rules to oppress them. They have to have permission to go anywhere, have to record any meetings with other witches and get tattooed. Nathan, whose father Marcus is the worst Black Witch alive, is forced to live in a cage and be a slave, gets nearly killed by White Witch boys when he is young, and is tortured and abused through a good chunk of this book, simply because of how he was born. It was despicable. The worst part though was that Nathan had a sister who, when he was little, told him all about how everyone hated him and their mother killed herself because he was born, all sort of wretched awful things that should never be said to a child. It literally made me sick.
While I did find their system interesting, the way that different witches were treated and how the White Witches ran the council, there was one thing that really disappointed me. The lack of actual magic. Now these aren’t like Harry Potter witches where you have a wand and can do a whole hodge podge of spells. In this book, witches are given three gifts on their seventeenth birthday, drink the blood of a relative, and they find out what their gift is. It could be potion making, turning invisible, controlling the weather, just about anything. This book is all before Nathan turns seventeen so the only magic we ever see him do is heal himself, but I would have liked to see more magic from other characters. I feel like though we won’t be seeing much magic usage in the next books, due to witches only having one gift. And I find that a little disappointing.
Nathan as a character was interesting. At first I hated how he thought all these great things about his father, but after seeing all the things he goes through, you can’t help but sympathize. If he doesn’t cling onto the hope that his father loves him, he will have nothing left. And I liked seeing how much of a survivor he was. He never lost his will to survive, not once, and you could always feel his desire to be free. He was angry and a little crazy sometimes, but when you look at all the child abuse and shit that he had to put up with, I’m surprised that he isn’t worse. I liked that he had a strong voice through the whole book, that his character and personality seemed very well developed.
The romance aspect with Annalise wasn’t a huge part of the book and I’m glad about that because it didn’t really work for me. She was sweet and everything, and I understand that Nathan probably latched onto the first person that was ever kind to him, but their time together wasn’t detailed enough for me to form any sort of feelings or attachment to her. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing more of her in the next book, and seeing them actually interact together so I can form an opinion about them and their relationship. To be honest, I felt more love and warmth in the relationship between Nathan and his half brother Arran, who really supported him and loved him as they grew up together. I really enjoyed their relationship in the earlier years of Nathan’s life.
While I did enjoy the writing style, I found the pacing to be really fast in general, but then certain parts felt so slow and boring. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in this book I found it a little overwhelming. I felt like everything was moving at a rabid pace, then it would just slam on the breaks and go into slow motion. Although I did like how we start with Nathan in the cage, jumped back to his past, everything leading up to him ending up in the cage, then continuing with the story of him trying to escape. That was very effective and engaging to me. The writing in the book was very blunt and Nathan’s voice was strong, but the speed of the story-line threw me off.
So even though I did love Sally Green addressing this issue of awful prejudice in the witch community, traumatic as it was to read about, the book itself wasn’t the most interesting for me. Some ideas I’m really intrigued by, such as how his father kills other witches then eats their hearts to gain their Gift, or really anything about a witches gift in general, those weren’t elaborated on very much in this book. I feel like I’d read the second book just to learn more about it because I am very interested to see a bit more world building and hopefully more of Nathan’s father, who I’m very fascinated by.