Release: 3rd March 2014
Genre: Witchcraft, Paranormal, UKYA
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
"You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.
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?"
I’ve been trying to decide how much I want to say about Half Bad and how much I want to hold back on. On the one hand I don’t want to set impossible standards in reader’s heads but on the other I want to be honest about how much I enjoyed this book. And so after a lot of thought I have a little secret to tell you…Half Bad gave me the Potter feels.
I imagine at this point you’re either getting terribly excited or rolling your eyes at the idea of a Harry Potter copycat and that’s where I want to come in and say that you couldn’t be more wrong. Half Bad is completely unique in its own right. With not a magical beast or wand in sight Half Bad surprisingly feels less fantasy and more realism as Nathan has to deal with many contemporary issues.
Half Bad is very much a coming of age novel only with powers and a civil war between witch kind. You have the white witches who are good, the black witches who are bad and Nathan a one of a kind Half Code who is both and so has never really fit in anywhere. With a white witch mother and a father who is the most powerful and hated black witch of all time Nathan is feared and shunned by the white witches who keep him locked up in a cage and run experiments on him.
One of my favourite things about Half Bad was how Sally Green blurred the lines between good and evil. The characters in this book are much more dimensional than their labels with some of the white witches being cruel and insatiable and some of the black witches showing kindness and loyalty to Nathan. There’s also the theme of Nature vs Nurture are we destined to become a certain way? Or do people who push labels on to us make it so?
The world building in this book was spot on. All the information we need is revealed as and when needed which is so much better than a massive information dump at the beginning of the story. The hidden world of the witches is a simple and believable one and the lonely Welsh countryside created the perfect atmosphere for Nathan’s story.
Overall Half Bad was a book that ticked all of the right boxes for me and I can’t find fault with it. Unique and compelling I closed the book with the feeling that I’d just read something truly special.