Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy’s struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
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.
I am a big fan of fantasy and love witches, and magic, so Half Bad by Sally Green just said read me. I found the opening chapters of Half Bad really gripping, and Sally Green did a great job of drawing me into the story.
The main protagonist Nathan is the son of the Blackest of black witches. Nathan is unwanted, a baby that is hidden away in a drawer. His birth is not a cause for celebration, a card at his birth, says “Kill it.” His early life is horrendous, he is kept in a cage and subjected to a rigorous routine of exercise and torture which would make most mere mortals buckle, but Nathan has the blood of his father, Marcus in his veins, and his father has just a bit of a reputation. Nathan is an outsider, who is not accepted into white witch culture and is not a fully fledged black witch either. Sally Green does a great job of exploring alienation and prejudice in witch culture and serving it up as a thoughtful reflection for modern-day issues. Also Sally Green’s questioning whether White witches are just as bad as Black witches is an interesting, and thoughtful theme in the book. Will the most evil Black witch of all time have a soft side?
The story takes us on Nathan’s journey to find his father and find his place in this society. So in a sense it is about growing up, and the choices we make, some decisions can and do have disastrous consequences. Along the way he is constantly questioning, and debating issues of morality, and struggling with his conscience. If he sides with his father, and becomes a fully fledged Black witch will he sell his soul to the devil?
Unfortunately I felt that the promise of the opening chapters did not quite deliver what I was expecting in the latter part of the book. I did feel for Nathan, but his journey to find his father just didn’t quite capture my attention in the way I would have hoped. I found it difficult to connect with some of the supporting characters, apart from Gabriel, Mercury, and Nathan’s brother Arran, and I ended up feeling a tad disappointed when I finally met super black witch, Nathan’s dad, he just didn’t quite match up to my expectations. The build up was so good, “I know it was him. Only he can make time stop, ” but the dialogue in the final chapter just didn’t quite hit the spot for me. He just didn’t come across in the way I expected. I couldn’t quite picture him.
Though, in Half Bad’s favour I found Sally Green’s use of second person narration developing into Nathan’s first person, point of view an interesting and different way to approach the novel, and I really liked this. I really enjoyed the detail about the witch’s eyes. “Oh well, like nothing else, really. The nearest I can say is that they are thin slices of silver and they move around, twistin’ and turnin’, like bits in one o’them snow-shaker toys. That’s what it’s like.” I also think Sally Green did a grand job of creating a sense of Nathan’s separateness and uncertainty, and his shocking ill-treatment when he picks a white witch for a girlfriend. Again elements of prejudice keep creeping their way into this novel, and are handled really well. Also Nathan’s branding at the hands of the council, his tattooed fingers, is an excellent, and imaginative idea. I won’t say any more on that one, as I don’t want to spoil the book for you! So for a thoughtful read about witches that is a bit different from what you have read before this has to score points most definitely.
Would I recommend Half Bad? It was pretty good, but there is so much more to come. I sense that the second and third books in this trilogy will be so much better, after all this is Sally Green’s debut, and writers tend to progress and improve with future books, so yes I would say read Half Bad, and follow the progress of this author. Also I believe the Half Bad is going to be a film, so that can’t be Half Bad at all! Sally Green really has done remarkably well. She was at YALC at Earl’s court in London this weekend and I was amused by her background, she only started writing four years ago, previously she was an accountant who didn’t consider herself particularly creative, well she certainly discovered her creativity, and good luck to her.
Recommended for readers of Fantasy, Young Adult, Paranormal, Witches. Magic.
This was a difficult one for me to rate. I was quite torn, it felt that it wasn’t quite a four star for me, and yet it was above a three star, so I settled for giving it 3.75 stars!
For more details of Sally Green and Half Bad: www.halfbadworld.com
Have you read Half Bad? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica x