Half Bad - Sally Green

Genre: YA/Fantasy
Synopsis: 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?


Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, so while it might deserve a little over 3.5 stars, I don't feel I can give them. It started out brilliantly - I love most of the writing style (although starting a sentence with something other than 'the' once in a while wouldn't go amiss) and I got relatively invested in a good few of the characters. I feel like there was a lot of potential here and as a result my impression kept changing throughout - I'd feel the potential and get psyched up and then feel let down by poor pacing or generally scattered aim.

There isn't a whole pile of plot. It starts out very character-centric, introducing us to Nathan, his family, and slowly uncovering the persecution he faces. It is easy to like him, despite his flaws, because he didn't ask for any of the awful things he is put through. It is even easier to like his loving half-brother Arran, and the steadfast determination of his gran to protect him through all his assessments, in the lead-up to his designation as, essentially, good or bad. With very little magic in the book, it's easy to draw parallels between Nathan and any kid who has ever been discriminated against for something beyond his or her control, and I think that's what a lot of people are latching onto about this book.

About halfway through the book, however, things start meandering and I genuinely found it very hard to care about any of the intermediary characters. Bob. Bob was cool. But he was only there for a minute. Gabriel is also cool, but I'm more interested in his affection for Nathan than for any role he plays in the story. Mercury was not frightening, Marcus was not charismatic or appealing, and the drive in Nathan to be either good or bad did not come much to the forefront - it seemed largely a by-product of whoever he had to involve himself with in order to become a witch, and by the end of the book, very little seems to have actually happened. I think the best way to express my view of the book is that I like the collection of small details Green illustrates - she does not shy away from describing pain and cruelty, and that certainly sets this book apart - but the details are incohesive and do not pull together into a grand larger picture.

All the same, I like Gabriel enough to want to read the second book, so I guess that's something.

Rating: 3/5

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