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 was really excited when I started reading Half Bad, mainly because I had heard so many good things about it, but also because some people just hadn't got it at all. Books that receive mixed reviews often make me really cautious about picking up such a book, but there was just something about the cover and the description that just forced me to read it. And I'm so glad that I did. Half Bad isn't a perfect book but it definitely keeps you interested the whole time and gives rather new perspective to the whole witch theme.
I really loved witches when I was a teenager (thanks to Harry Potter, obviously), but since then I haven't read a single book about witches that has made me crave for more. Half Bad managed to do this! In the world of the book, all witches obtain their own unique Gift when they turn 17 in their receiving ceremony (they receive three gifts and blood from their ancestor in this Giving). The witch's ability reflects his/her personality - if you are a compulsive liar, you may get the gift of disguising yourself. However, even though all this was really interesting, I liked the fact that witchery wasn't in your face all the time. It was a very subtle element throughout the whole book, so those who are expecting a lot of hocus pocus have to disappoint. I really liked that the book focused more on Nathan and his story, and how he ended up in the position where he is now.
Half Bad isn't a happy book. It can be rather brutal from time to time, and the readers get a part of Nathan's angst for sure. He can be very brooding and glum, but I don't think the readers can expect anything else when taking into consideration what his origins are and what he has gone through during his short life. That's why the constant, almost depressing mood, might not be for everyone but I think that the pressing atmosphere well illustrated the despair and anxiety Nathan felt, even though he didn't always express it with his words or gestures.
The best parts of the book were definitely the beginning and the end. The middle part was really interesting as well and I was never bored while reading, but there was just something so ghastly in the beginning and the very ending on the other was so magical, almost eerie. The middle part of the story was gripping and there was so much to learn about Nathan's life, his problems, and where he was headed, but I'm just still mesmerised by the ending. It was just a really perfect ending for the first book (I think I need to reread the ending again after I've finished writing this review). I hope I haven't build up too high expectations for the ending, but I just can't emphasise that it was so well planned and executed.
I don't read that many novels that have a teenager boy as the protagonist, so I was a bit worried how well I could relate to him and share his experiences emotionally. Well, I can't say that there's anything common between me and Nathan, but I did like him very much. The outside world see him either as dangerous or as very stupid, but he is so much more than that, and he really well endures all the sadness and obstacles that he needs to overcome. He is both good and evil, and not the readers or himself are sure even in the end of the book that to which team he belongs to. But then again, nothing in Half Bad is purely black or white which creates some really intriguing situations in the book, especially when it comes to the Council of White Witches which is first portrayed as the ultimate good.
The only negative thing that comes to my mind is that there were some similarities between Half Bad and the Harry Potter series. First of all, I've already mentioned the Council of White Witches, which is a very easily comparable to the Ministry of Magic. Secondly, the witches are divided into "good" and "bad" ones, and some of the good White Witches are trained to be Hunters that catch the bad Black Witches. Almost like Aurors and Death Eaters, maybe? The witch community also is integrated into the fain population (muggles) and try to live their lives quietly and as peacefully as possible. Hmm. Not sure what to think about this, but I do know that somethings are bound to overlap, especially if the story is about witchery and good vs. evil.
I did enjoy Half Bad a lot more than I expected and I was entertained throughout the whole book. The mood was very dark and even gloomy most of the time, but I didn't mind it all, it suited well the whole concept. If you're interested in reading the book even the slightest, I really recommend the book. Even though there were some similarities to this very well known book series, there are also original ideas which eventually makes Half Bad very different.