Half Bad follows the story of Nathan Byrn, a half White, half Black witch. White witches are good. Black witches are bad. That’s what he’s been told anyways. He’s always been discriminated against for his entire life, by his classmates and even his half-sister, Jessica. Nathan is the son of the most powerful and most feared Black witch of all time – Marcus – and because of this, the Council, made up of White Witches, have been keeping a very close eye on him for his entire life. As time goes on, people become more and more suspicious of Black witches and Nathan knows that before long he’ll have to leave home and find his father. There are so many things that Nathan is kept in the dark about and he’s desperate to find out about his past and his family before he turns 17 – when the Giving ceremony is performed (by a family member) and he officially becomes a witch. Nobody will give him the answers he is looking for so only one solution remains – find his father. The most powerful and dangerous Black witch of all time.
I must admit that Half Bad was nowhere near as good as I was expecting it to be. Although I found it to be an interesting read, I wouldn’t describe it as particularly exciting. The plot isn’t chronological and the book begins in the middle of the story. The first 50 pages are very exciting and are full of suspense so at the beginning stages, this book was un-put-down-able; however, after this point, the plot moved back to the present and slowed down considerably. A lot of the middle section describes Nathan’s home life and how he grew up which is great for setting the scene and you get a really good sense of what it’s like to be someone like Nathan in the world that Sally Green has created, however, I wouldn’t say that all that much happens in these parts. The last fifty pages are also really exciting as things really start moving for Nathan so the book ends with enough of a cliffhanger that leaves you want to read more. It’s a shame that the middle passage is so slow as the beginning and the ending are really superb.
I think one of the main reasons that I didn’t enjoy this book all that much is because although you empathise with the protagonist, Nathan is not a particularly likeable character. You certainly feel sorry for him as he is treated incredibly badly and you’re willing him on because you want him to find out more about himself, mostly so you can understand what’s going on, but you don’t really end up ‘liking’ him. He is not a happy character, understandably given his circumstances, however, this makes for a rather somber read. I suppose it was refreshing to read a young adult novel, featuring a male protagonist who wasn’t a vampire, or incredibly hot, that the reader doesn’t end up falling head over heels for so I’ll give the novel brownie points for being different and refreshing.
I’d say that one of the best aspects of this book is the character development, both that of Nathan, and all the other characters. We see Nathan as he ages through his teenage years which are the most interesting years and the discrimination he faces as a half-black, half-white witch is comparable to modern day racism which is fascinating. Nathan is the only sibling in the family who is the son of Marcus so his relationship with his siblings is really interesting to read about. Whilst he gets along really well with Arran, his half brother, his half sister Jessica despises him, despite their blood ties. You’re never really sure which characters Nathan can trust and which witches are working for the Council which means that the reader is kept in suspense for a large part of the novel. Even when you think you can finally trust someone, don’t, because something will happen soon after to make you doubt everything you know.
There is a slight romance aspect to this novel but it very much takes a backseat compared to the theme of discrimination. This is not your typical young adult novel in the slightest, it is a lot darker and some quite deep themes are discussed. There are some unpleasant scenes in which Nathan is treated very badly and basically tortured, so this is definitely an upper young adult novel and I’m sure adults will be able to enjoy this story too. There seems to be a dark cloud covering this entire novel and there aren’t really any happy moments. You will definitely find your mood subdued when reading this, so I would recommend reading this on a rainy day.
All in all, I think Half Bad did a really good job of introducing the protagonist of the Half Life trilogy, Nathan, and setting the scene for the rest of the books. Although I wasn’t completely taken with Half Bad, I think that there is the potential for the next two books to be really great so I’m still really looking forward to reading Half Wild.