In both violence and fame, your bloodline outdoes mine.
Nathan is a witch. He’s not a White witch or a Black witch. He is unique; he is both.
Nathan’s father is the most notorious and hated Black witch in the country and his mother was so ashamed of her son she killed herself while he was only a child. Having never met his father, Nathan and his half-brother and sisters live in the care of their gran. But living as half bad isn’t easy, and as Nathan grows increasingly sure he’s more bad than good, he struggles to come to terms with himself and his abilities.
HALF BAD is an exciting and thrilling spin on the classic good vs evil story, and drags the reader straight into Nathan’s head as he struggles to survive in a world where he simply doesn’t belong. His story takes us through the journey from boy to adult as he desperately tries to avoid being used as a pawn by the White council and rebels against his very nature.
I was attracted to HALF BAD firstly by the beautiful double cover, and when it passed my ‘First Page Test’ with flying colours I was hooked and had to buy it right away! The second person is used for the first few, confused (in a good way!) chapters and again later in the novel when Nathan revisits that particular situation; the story begins in the middle and then restarts chronologically in the first person. The style of these second person chapters is erratic and really gives the narrative an immediate, desperate and terrified feeling, setting up the rest of the novel absolutely perfectly. All this drew me in massively and it honestly did put me right in the story, in that cage alongside Nathan. There’s definitely a lot to be said for a well executed second person narrative!
The rest of the novel, written in the first person, manages to retain that same sense of immediacy and involvement with punchy simple sentences and a real insight into Nathan’s thoughts. The change worked fantastically well in my opinion, and I felt it served a real purpose to the story rather than just being a way for the author to ‘show off’. I really fell in love with the way Sally Green writes and I think her excellent command of language really is the winning feature of HALF BAD.
I found the plot to be super exciting and, for the most part, surprisingly unpredictable. There were a number of recurring features that I guessed would keep coming, but I was never quite sure what exactly was going to happen next. While the ultimate ending was somewhat obvious, the excitement and the twist and turns of getting there more than made up for it. To me, it was probably the only way that the book could have ended but it did the trick and I’m still highly anticipating the next installment, HALF WILD. Overall, it was lovely and refreshing to read something that kept me guessing and kept my mind ticking over trying to figure out the next steps.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed with the magic system, as nothing is really explained and a lot is left to guess-work. Outside of the Giving Ceremony, which is discussed a number of times, there is very little information given about the magic system at all. I’m not sure if the witches can use general magic as well as the specific talents they receive when they reach adulthood, or even how they cast spells and make potions. I wasn’t massively satisfied with the distinction between Black and White witches either, but I’m sure that further on in the series Nathan will reveal more as he discovers himself.
On the plus side, at least there are no embarrassingly ridiculous Latin-based incantations, broom wielding or wand waving of any sort! Little annoys me more in fantasy, but especially urban fantasy where it just doesn’t fit.
In terms of characterisation some of the characters do fall a little flat and only a small core cast have the rounded personalities and development arcs I like to see. Jessica and much of the Council are pure and simple evil without much in the way of complexity so far, although I do expect to see more from these characters in the rest of the trilogy. The key players such as Nathan, Arran and Celia are a little more dynamic and I really enjoyed reading about them from Nathan’s perspective.
I thought Celia was a particularly interesting character, we encounter her (although namelessly) in those initial, frantic second person chapters, and she is presented as an evil captor. However, by the time we catch up to her in the chronological timeline our feelings shift a little as we see her own internal struggles and how she really does care for Nathan. Subverting first impressions is difficult to do and I ended up really sympathising with Celia, despite her awful role in Nathan’s life. Maybe it was just me, but I liked her by the end!
I love a good urban fantasy and HALF BAD definitely doesn’t disappoint. Sally has a wonderful and unusual style that creates the perfect atmosphere and the story is classic but exciting; good and evil battling it out within our protagonist. I definitely can’t wait to read the rest of the series and only hope we get to learn much more about the history of witches in Nathan’s world and how they practice their magic.
All in all, HALF BAD wasn’t half bad. Groan. I know, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist.