Series: Half Life Trilogy #1
Genre: Paranormal, YA
Publication date: March 4th 2014
A stunning, magical debut. An international sensation.
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?
In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.
Half Blood started as a 5-star read for me. This lasted ’til about three quarters which is when I realized we really hadn’t gotten anywhere in the story. Boredom quickly followed, until I was unfortunately underwhelmed by the anticlimactic ending. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly well written book that has a lot to offer if you have a bit of patience, although it’s unique in a way that may not adhere to all tastes.
When we meet our protagonist, Nathan, he’s naught but a young lad. Young and unfortunate to have been born the son of a notorious Black Witch; a fact that makes him a leper, someone to be hunted down and caged. We learn that, even though he’s highly intelligent in many ways, he’s not exactly book smart. He can hardly read and write. To reflect his age and intellect, the writing is very simple, even childlike at times, which I found brilliant. In addition, Green adopts an informal narration lightly peppered with slang that really brings him to life. Then as he ages, so does the writing. To make the story itself just as genuine, it begins with second person tense. It’s unusual, but highly gripping and surprisingly perfect. This is a child who has been controlled, tortured, and beaten both by his peers and by the system his whole life. Introducing the story with that choice of narration not only brings the horror of his situation to the limelight, but it makes you a part of it; it’s haunting and unsettling. While it’s definitely not for the younger crowd, the scenes of torture and suffering manage to be vivid without being overly graphic. The power of imagination is used well!
For the most part, however, the book is told through first person present, where Nathan narrates his own gruesome story. We follow him from childhood to his 17th birthday, from his hateful step sister, to his first love. We see how he learns to cope, to separate himself from the pain, to harbor strength not many would have. And, in spite of everything, he still manages to have a sarcastic sense of humor that had me chuckling.
The world building comes with no complaints. The witch lore is original, highly interesting, and doused with an old-school feel. There’s a complex system in place involving White witches, Black witches, Hunters, Gifts, traditions and myths, with details delivered in a way that wonderfully balances our curiosity and fascination. I was engrossed for a good while, but sadly, my interest did start to dwindle close to 3/4 through, when I started to get restless from all the waiting around. His long days of torture turn to long days of nothing: detour after detour, jumping through loops to find this witch who’s supposedly the answer to everything. I found myself getting increasingly bored. The plot was just not progressing at all. Then after all the waiting, the ending ended up being frustratingly anticlimactic. All this time, and it’s like a balloon that pops and quickly fizzles. It’s as if this was more or less an introduction for the real deal yet to come.
I would still very much recommend this one for all I liked about it. It’s as much a book about witches, as it is a moving story about a young boy learning to survive in a cruel world.