by Sally Green
Published on March 4th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
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A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.
In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?
In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.
Before we start – let me say that although this is a book about modern day England and witches, it is not like Harry Potter. I wanted to get that out there up front. If you read Half Bad expecting a ‘fantasy’ feel, full of magical beings and a tight group of loyal friends, you will be sorely disappointed. However, I loved Half Bad, it is very different and in this case different is a good thing.
Now, on with the review.
What would you do if everyone always expected the worse from you? What if you were never given the chance to prove yourself? What if you were ostracized for just being born?
These are the questions that are constantly asked of Nathan. He is not labeled as “half bad”, but as being completely rotten and guilty, without any proof whatsoever. I mean, it’s not like anyone has any say on what parents they get. Poor Nathan had a very unstable life, but even though he was constantly under watch and restricted by a collection of unfair mandates (called resolutions) by the Council of White Witches, he is also loved by his grandmother, and his half-sister Deborah and half-brother Arran. There is also a romantic interest, Analisse, but their ‘relationship’ is very short, as contact between Nathan (a half-code or half-blood) is prohibited. All in all, Nathan is pragmatic and a realist, he knows who the ‘bad guy’ is, even if they hide themselves behind the Council.
The first part of the book is so full of angst, pain, oppression, discrimination, and abuse. In contrast, the second part of the book is one of discovery, it’s for Nathan to figure what to do with his life, to make difficult choices and discover who he is.
The pace is slow, especially at the beginning. The story was enough to intrigue me, especially since it starts on the part where Nathan is living in the cage and he talks about himself in a very detached way. I’m glad that I kept on reading because the story, the plot and the witches’ lore and politics (can I use the term ‘world building’ here?) was fascinating to me. The writing is very different, it starts in the second person and then settles in the first person.
Half Bad is a book about witches, but curiously lacking in magic. It’s a story about prejudice, judgment, and survival against all odds. It is also about love, from family, friends and even romantic love. I can’t wait to see where the story is going next.
Quotes (from the ARC):
“The trick is not mind. Not to mind about it hurting, not mind about anything.The trick of not minding is key; it’s the only trick in town. Only this is not a town; it’s a cage beside a cottage, surrounded by a load of hills and trees and sky.It’s a one-trick cage”
“Notification of the Resolution of the Council of White Witches of England, Scotland, and Wales. Any contact between Half Codes … and White Whets and White Witches is to be report to the Council by all concerned….
“Shall I go and lock myself in the cellar now? I ask.”
About the cover: I really like the shiny silver cover and the half face bathed in blood. I also like the font in black and white, intertwined in the middle.