By: Sally Green
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Source: Borrowed from a friend. Thank you Kelly!
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?
Half Bad started off very well with a well written and fascinating story which included impressive witch-lore and world building. I felt that Green created a familiar yet unique take on good (White) and bad (Black) witches. I loved how she represented the internal division and hatred the sides felt towards one another and could see myself being continually interested in this plot line. I felt that the world building was solid and can tell there are many more details to be revealed in later novels.
The writing was strong and the story tightly woven in the beginning, sadly the threads seemed to loosen and the writing muddled as I neared the end. I felt that some of this was explained by Nathan’s mental state but it didn’t create the best or most absorbing reading experience. I felt inclined to skim over entire sections and found myself yearning for the book’s resolution. Never a good thing when you’re feeling like that with a third of the book left to go.
It was easy for me to empathize with Nathan and feel for him as a boy and as he aged through the story. I felt that Green did a great job of creating a well rounded character that was not wholesome nor evil but perfectly in the grey. I was never sure which path Nathan would take and I enjoyed the unpredictability of his actions. I think it was also a nice touch to show some of Nathan’s earliest memories. It helped me sympathize with him even deeper thinking of him as an unloved little boy. Having a son myself I found I wanted to wrap him in a hug.
The secondary cast was less clarified but I still feel that they played their roles well (for the most part). I feel that we’ll be seeing more of them in the next novels and I look forward to seeing some of their story lines materialize. There is a semblance of a romance in Half Bad but I felt it wasn’t fully developed. It never went beyond a school boy crush and yearning for a fantasy to me. The love interest was as flat as could be and really had zero personality. I felt to some degree this fit the story just because as Nathan we aren’t privy to who she was really, just what he saw and wanted her to be. I hope that in the next book some page time is focused on developing her beyond the pretty girl.
Even given the uneven pacing and lackluster ending I still felt that the world and characters have vast potential and I’ll be curious to see where Green takes her story.