Half Bad by Sally Green

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan's only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it's too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

First things first. You should never judge a book by its cover.

I always judge a book by its cover. Half Bad is beautiful.

When a whet (adolescent witch) turns 17 they receive three gifts from one of their parents, they must also drink their parent’s blood to fully become a witch. Sounds very different from my 17th but I’m not here to judge. Nathan’s mother (a White Witch) is dead and his father (a Black Witch) is absent the most bad-ass and most wanted Black Witch this side of Voldemort. If Black Witches don’t receive three gifts on their 17th birthday, legend has it, they die. But Nathan is only Half Black, and time is running out. He must find his father, or the elusive and powerful Mercury (an old Black Witch who has stolen blood samples from the council in order to help orphaned whets transform into witches.)

Sally Green’s characters, particularly the main character Nathan and Gabriel, his friend and guardian are both cool and intriguing enough to make you want to hang out with them. And possibly move to Geneva to swim in the lake and go for a run around.

Half Bad is just about one of the best magical YA novels I have read in a very long time. Similar to the world of buff demon hunters created by Cassandra Clare, Sally Green’s world exists alongside our own, with cultural references and nods to mortal/mundane situations like have a hot chocolate in a café or catching a train to somewhere random because you just have to find out if the tattoos the witch council has drilled into your skin are actually tracking devices.

The plot is fast-paced, weirdly authentic for a magical book (including government legislation and physical assessments to boot). Without spoiling anything, the sequel is out this year and I personally cannot wait. There are such strong themes of female empowerment (the most powerful witches are women), loyalty, identity and love that even if you’re not a fan of magic realism or even a fan of YA, I’m sure you’ll find something in this fictional world to keep you wanting more.

I’ll wager that you never look at an alleyway the same way.

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